Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Redbud Tree: Chapter Three of Watching And Thinking Of Blueberries

Rick had stepped across the street to talk to the yard man, now stowing the mower into the back of the small black pickup parked in the Cashes' driveway. It rankled me to see him using Tish and Barrington's driveway even though it made sense. That house had been vacant for years, so why clog up Sue Ellen's driveway unnecessarily? But increasingly, people had begun disrespecting the property; at least I thought so. Because there is no parking on the street, Tish's driveway had become a sort of neighborhood parking lot for anyone who had a bridge club, holiday party, barbecue, or needed a place to stow his or her car for a quick getaway when workmen were going to be at their house all day. Her curb lawn became the repository for a few people to place their tree limbs and brush until the city came around to pick it up. Aghast, I watched as the woman next door took her dog out and led it into Tish's front yard to do its business. I stood on my own front porch, impotently furious. Had she glanced over and seen me, I doubt she'd have cared.

At least Sue Ellen had stopped hooking up her hose to Tish's outdoor faucet to do her watering. That had ended years ago, and it probably was because Tish's water was turned off, I'm guessing. There's nothing at Tish's to even pretend to water. Her chubby pots of yellow marigolds and mums have been gone for so long, I almost forget what they looked like. The only thing blooming there now is the huge clutch of brilliant orange tiger lilies surrounding her black locust tree in the back yard. A family of little brown bunnies lives in it again this year, in defiance of the urban hawks and one stray cat that has managed to survive.

Ever since Tish left, the redbud tree in her curb lawn has been slowly dying. It rallied one year, about two years after she disappeared from across the way, but then its decline was steady and inexorable. This spring, it barely showed any pink blossoms at all, just a few on a couple of branches. One limb is entirely dead, and the rest are sparse with leaves that have already begun to yellow, and brown ones litter the ground below. Last week, a green card from the city appeared on Tish's front door. Her redbud tree is going to be removed soon. It's too far gone.

For the past several months, every now and then, I would see a car or truck at Tish's. Once, several lovely pieces of fine furniture--an armoire or china cabinet, a table, and something else--were piled into the back of a pickup truck and it drove away. Another time, a young couple in a bright red jeep went to the house for a while. Recently, three elderly men were there for a while and came out talking. I was watering my plants on the front porch, and it was impossible not to hear them, talking loudly in that Old Man Way. "...And this way, he doesn't have to sell the house," one of them said. "Right!" the other one agreed heartily. Before they left, one stooped low, painfully, and fixed the blue rug on Tish's front porch. I almost burst into tears. I've fixed that rug dozens of times. At least now I'm not the only one.

"That guy wants twenty bucks a week, just to cut and edge our little old front yard!" Rick said when he came back later. "That's ridiculous. I told him I'd get back to him, but obviously I won't. Oh, and he told me that on Saturday, he's doing all the trimming and mowing at Cashes'. The house is either sold or rented. I asked him when he was finally going to shape up Tish's bushes and cut out that tree from the middle of that one that's been bothering you all summer."

I felt a little breathless for a minute. But Rick continued.

"Nance, Tish has Alzheimer's."

What I said next is unimportant. My impression will forever be The yardman knew. The yardman knew. Which I guess is reasonable. As I've said before in my previous posts about Tish,we were merely cordial neighbors. We waved and said hello. She was kind to us and my children. She led her life and we led ours. Why, oh why, am I so invested in her life now? Why am I heartbroken for her? Why am I raging at the unfairness of it all? She is not me; our lives are not parallel.

I will be happy, truly, to see Tish's house come alive again. When the crew arrives to take away the dying redbud tree, I will probably cry just a little. But when the new neighbors arrive, I'll bake a tray of fresh blueberry muffins and step across the street to welcome them.


Monday, July 28, 2014

In Which I Discuss Drinks And Invite You To Join Me Whilst CAUWFing

Bless your heart, there you are! Thanks for coming back and giving me another read. It's a bit of a Mixed Bag today, so get yourself something pleasant to sip and/or snack on, settle into a comfy spot, and let's see what we have here, shall we? Off we go!

~*~Language Police. Is there a single person among you who has ever spoken--in conversation, ever--the word "wriggle"? I've discovered that I have a deep-seated antipathy for this word. I find it not only ugly to look at, but equally ugly to say. And again, who says it? I have read it plenty of times, mostly in old British novels, and I was unpleasantly surprised to come across it today in a comic strip. When I was much younger, I used to think that it was just the British spelling of the word "wiggle" since that word fit just fine contextually. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that no, wriggle was a word all its own. I'll continue my One-Woman Campaign to Avoid Using Wriggle Forever (CAUWF, pronounced "cough"), and you're welcome to join me. Or not.

~*~Name Brand. So, even though I've been travelling quite a bit, I still remain oblivious to so many things. I was completely confused by (and therefore immune to the allure of) Coca Cola's latest marketing ploy called "Share A Coke." Jared and I were at a Walgreen's when I saw a cooler full of Cokes, all labelled with first names like Jeremy, Amy, Nick, and Jenn. He took great pains to explain it to me, and to his credit, agreed with me that the whole thing was, in a word, stupid. The chances of most Coke drinkers finding their name is remote. Instead, the person is left feeling like a doofus drinking someone else's coke. Or, vaguely odd drinking a Coke with a name, like "Hi, er...Holly Coke. I'm Benito Fernandez. I'm thirsty, so...thanks in advance." And what happens when you reach into the cooler in the 7Eleven at the same time as another person, go to grab a Coke, and the other guy says, "Hey! That's my coke. My name's Steve! See, it's right there on the bottle!"?  Or, finally, last one--you're drinking a Coke with some name on the bottle, and someone assumes it's your name. "Hi, Kelly!" people keep saying to you. But your name isn't Kelly. It's Sarah. Or Anisha. Or Rainbow. Or Vladimir. Just saying. I'm really glad I don't drink Coke.

~*~Bloody Mary Lunch. I've written before about my Bloody Mary lunches and the astonishing iterations that simple drink can take. Today, after a quick meeting to go over some documents I worked on for a free-lance job, I met a friend for an impromptu lunch at a nearby restaurant. Yes, it was only 11:30, and yes, I ordered my Bloody Mary immediately upon being seated and with great alacrity, but there was absolutely no excuse for the garnish that was lolling all over the top of my glass. Once I heaved it off and onto a plate, I had to take a picture. Here it is, in all its glory. Remember, this was on top of a drink:

No, that is not lunch.  That is, in order from left to right on the skewer, my drink garnish: a strip of bacon, a slice of provolone cheese, a third of a stalk of celery, a lemon wedge, a lime wedge, a bleu cheese stuffed olive. Lying on an appetizer plate.  And I am not kidding.

That Bloody Mary cost me ten bucks.  An appetizer of hummus, tzatziki, and tapenade with warm pita and some cucumber slices cost only nine bucks. And Sue and I split that. I'm not even sure what my point is, other than the fact that A) that is just a completely ridiculous garnish, and B) ten dollars is obscene for a Bloody Mary, and maybe C) I could have paid way less for the drink if they would have cut out all that crap in the garnish.  But D) I enjoyed the Bloody Mary and my visit with Sue.

How is it that August is imminent?  Summer is speeding away.  Let me catch up with you in Comments.  

Friday, July 18, 2014

Can You Hear Me Now?

My life is ever Seinfeldian.  Let me prove it to you, and for those of you who have never watched an episode of Seinfeld, ever, I think you may still enjoy the following:

ACT I.  The Speed-Dial. Scene opens with Nance answering her cell phone.  On the other end is her mother, St. Patsy, who is visiting her sister Shirley in Gettysburg.

Nance:  Hi, Mom.  I hear you're ready to come home already.
St.  Patsy:  Hi, Nance.  You're number four on my speed-dial.
Nance:  What?  Okay, but what, now? Number four?  How am I all the way down at number four?
St. Patsy:  Well, Voicemail is number one.  Then Bobby (my brother, with whom she lives) is number two. Coley (Bobby's daughter; Coley is a nickname--don't ask.) is number three, and you're number four.
Nance:  What the heck!  How is Coley ahead of me?  When the heck do you ever call her?  For anything? How does she rate the number three spot?  I don't get this at all.
St. Patsy:  Well, you're ahead of Patti. She's number five, and Susan at number six.  So, it's Bobby, Coley, Nance, Patti, Susan.  Maybe it's alphabetical order.  I don't know.  But you're number four.
Nance:  Oh, brother.  Well, maybe the next time you need a ride to the doctor or to Gettysburg, you should call Good Old Number Three, then.  See if Coley can haul your ass all over the place.  How about that? Why did you call in the first place?  Just to taunt me with your Speed Dial Hierarchy?
St. Patsy:  No.  I wanted to tell you that Shirley and Dick are bringing me home, so you don't have to drive to Gettysburg after all.  Isn't that nice?
Nance:  Yes.  For Coley.


ACT II. The Squirrel. Scene opens with Nance walking outside to take out the trash and recyclables.  She notices a baby squirrel barely moving on her deck.  Upon closer inspection, she sees it is badly wounded, bloody, and intermittently covered in flies.

Nance:  Oh no!  You poor baby!  Damn it.  Those damn hawks.  First my fish and now you.  I don't know what I can do for you.  Damn it. Damn.  Let me go look and see what I can find to help you.

(Leaves to go and look up a wildlife or metroparks rescue number...or something.  Shortly after, Rick comes home.)

Nance:  (greets Rick in garage)  Oh, Rick.  It's terrible.  I need your help with something.
Rick:  What happened?  What's wrong?
Nance:  Rick, it's this poor baby squirrel.  Something got it and it's all chewed up and mangled.  We have to help it. I feel so bad.
Rick:  Nance.  What are you talking about? Like, take it to the vet? I don't want to be on the hook for a huge vet bill and then have to bring home some wild squirrel.  I just got home. Where is it?

(Nance shows him the squirrel, who is now barely breathing.  Its eyes are glazed, and its body is covered in flies.)

Rick:  Nance.  This thing is dead.  Or practically.  There's nothing anyone can do.  Look at it.  I feel bad, too, but it won't even survive a car ride to a vet.  Or anyplace.  You have to let it go.
Nance:  I called the metropark office number and got a machine.  I left a message.  There's no place else to call.  I feel sick.  Rick, you have to do something. We can't let it suffer. (taps out a message to her friend in Maryland, Leanne, who relays it to her husband, Jim; pause)  Jim says to use a flat-edge shovel and break its neck.  Ugh.  That will behead this poor baby!  Rick.  Do something.  I'm not able to.
Rick:  Nance, what would you like me to do?  I don't want to kill it, either!  We just have to let Nature take its course.  It's sad, but there it is.

(An hour later, Nance goes out and finds the squirrel dead.)

Scene 2.  The next morning, Nance's cell phone rings.

Nance:  Hello?
Caller:  (brightly) Hi, Nance? This is Amy from the county metroparks returning your call.  How is the squirrel?
Nance:  Dead.



Summer has been busy.  I promise to get back to posting more often as soon as I can.  And I owe so many people so many emails and blog comments.  Where is my time going?  Fun places mostly.  Be back soon, and I will try to get back on track!


Tuesday, July 08, 2014

“Long Is The Night To Him Who Is Awake; Long Is A Mile To Him Who Is Tired; Long Is Life To The Foolish..."--Gautama Buddha

I'm back from an Idyllic jaunt to Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, where perfect weather and lovely people and a Secret Winery all converged in a Holiday Vortex that left me repeating, "This is so wonderful" overmuch. Our Vacation Friends from New York were staying at the inn; we had a convivial evening in the garden house with the innkeepers and some very good organic wine; we splurged and sat down to a winery chef's dinner of five courses (with wine pairings) where, astonishingly, I enjoyed a raw oyster sprinkled with flying fish roe. Enjoyed! It was a revelation.

With no television in our balcony room, I was blissfully unaware of the World around me. Vacations there are also a vacation from The News and, especially, The Politics. Tim, our innkeeper, keeps a table of newspapers in the breakfast room, but I assiduously avoid them. And I'm not the only one. Most of the American guests do, I've noticed, and the few Canadian guests do a cursory skim of the front pages of each section, then turn their attentions to the excellent homemade bread, yoghurt, or daily sweet, especially if Sharon has made her tempting cranberry coffeecake or lemon poundcake.

(This changes markedly if a Presidential election is News in the United States. Everyone, no matter his or her passport, wants to talk about that at breakfast. We are spared, at least for a bit.)

Still enrobed in my Zen--somewhat--I caught up on The News a little, and I reviewed some of the articles I have been saving. Quite a bit of The News and The Politics is frosting my cupcakes lately. Perhaps, I thought, if I try to address all of it at once and all of it while I am still a bit Warm And Fuzzy, things won't Get Out Of Hand.

Oh, let's do try. Shall we? On, then.

1. Hillary and President Clinton and Who Is "Dead Broke". My admiration and deep love for President Clinton is a Given. My vote for Hillary Clinton in the 2008 Presidential Primaries was, too. But someone has to wrench these people and all politicians out of their extraterrestrial elitist circles and show them how the Real World lives. And, if necessary, show them Some Math. As in, a family has an income of $46K, and the average price of gasoline is $3.50 a gallon, and a loaf of bread is $2.00, and a pound of ground chuck is $3.59, and the average mortgage payment in, say, the Cleveland, Ohio, metro area is $800 monthly, and yada yada yada, do you get my drift? And that is for the people fortunate enough to be employed fully and gainfully. In the United States of America, %15 of our fellow citizens live below the poverty line. Now who is Dead Broke? Consider telling a family of four making ends meet on less than $24,5K a year that you, a former First Lady who spends more on haircuts and wine in a year than they do, are Dead Broke. These D.C. people need to get out and get The Questions. "Do you know how much a gallon of gasoline is in your district, or anyplace?" "How much is a steak at the grocery store?" "How much is a gallon of milk?" And no, it's not "wrong to focus on these small things in light of larger legislation" (paraphrasing here). Why? Because WE LIVE THE SMALL THINGS. I care a hell of a lot about the bullshit that the Supreme Court just shoved down my throat and up my skirt. But some people need to Get Real, too. Why do you think the Supreme Court handed down such tripe? Because they are Out Of Touch with the day to day realities of real people. Look at the vote. Duh. (And that's Real People. Not corporation people. Or people corporations. Or whatever the hell the 5/9 Supreme Beings want to call them/think they are.)

2. Ugly Americans and The New Gladiator Sport. I live, I guess, technically in a border state, but no Canadians come sneaking in across Lake Erie in milk jug barges or packed under fake-bottomed boats. I understand only from reading and watching news reports the concerns and issues that a burgeoning illegal immigrant population brings with it to a true border state community, its economy, and the government's resources. It has to be incredibly stressful in myriad ways. But what happened in Murrieta, California, made me so profoundly sick and ashamed. Three buses loaded with Central American women and children--all illegal immigrants--were met and turned away by protesters there. Over 100 angry, sign-carrying United States citizens swarmed the buses and shouted, among other things, "USA! USA! USA!" As I watched this on television, right before I left for my trip out of the USA, I had a churning mix of emotions. I knew the children inside those buses were already afraid, tired, and probably hungry and thirsty, too. This was not their fault, and it was not fair, as things often never are for children. I was shocked that such anger and hatred could be focused on women and children, and that it could turn so wildly afield: some posters were about Obama, some protesters interviewed rambled on about other political agendas. Finally, I was angry and ashamed. That chant, that cheer! I remembered it being so deafening during the USA/USSR hockey game at Lake Placid. It is supposed to be a cheer of pride, a cheer of support and national spirit. I felt such outrage that it had been co-opted for something so threatening, so ugly, so primitive. All I could think of was Shirley Jackson's short story "The Lottery." I honestly felt sick. How dare they? They do have a right to assemble, to speak freely. But they tarnish us all.

3. Guns, Guns, and More Guns. Unlike the paid politicians in Washington, D.C., who I am loathe now to call Our Representatives, my feelings never stop being wounded by news reports of shootings, bursts of gun violence such as Chicago's bloody Independence Day Weekend, and here in the Cleveland area, the sight of mothers so bowed down by profound grief that they literally cannot walk behind their child's casket. After Newtown failed to move these morons, I got very wide-eyed with the knowledge that those in government saw The American People as disposable or trivial, whereas their own Ideologies and Bank Balances were not. It has been difficult to live with the idea that, and this is not to be immodest or overly simplistic, Stupid and Sometimes Evil Idiots are in charge, and I cannot expect anything from them, ever. Something is terribly wrong when a heap of dead (American) elementary children and their teachers are an insufficient catalyst for change. Show me an unarmed nation, a gun-controlled nation with a high rate of gun violence akin to ours. Show me the graves of their dead schoolchildren. Show me their "good guys with guns." They're like Starbucks, the NRA. Everywhere, yet never enough.

Speaking of Starbucks, they've even infiltrated Niagara-on-the-Lake. So irritating. Can't a nice, independent coffee place open up there? No, apparently not. At least this Starbucks is in a completely closed building, though. No windows at all, and the door is always shut, although as we walk nearby, it opens about eleventy thousand times per half hour. Sigh. People. Many, many times, they get what they ask for, I suppose.

Rick just sent me a text message. Tough re-entry day back at work, he said. Isn't it terrible how Real Life ruins any Vacation, whether it's physical, mental, or spiritual? As I try to maintain my Zen--Post-Canadian Holiday Type--I think I'll ignore The Ugly today. And do my level best not to contribute to it.

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