Sunday, December 31, 2006

Turning words into action

Regarding resolutions. I was sitting in my chair by the fire the other night and looking at my four main bookcases. There are a few shelves for good novels that impressed me and that I intend to read again someday.
Most of the shelves, however, contain non-fiction books related to my varied interests and goals in life. Hundreds and hundreds of books each addressing an intention I have or have had. All of them dusty.
It's almost like looking at a parallel universe in which I'm whole and fulfilled.
The resolution? To start incorporating some of those books into my life and get them off the shelves.

Friday, December 22, 2006

The secret life of cat-ownership

I have a cat who's addicted to all things paper. Junk mail, wrappers, newspapers...if it crinkles, he's on it. Wadding up a piece of paper is almost like a magic trick around here; suddenly a cat appears at your side.
The upside? Free cat toys.
The downside? He's somehow messed up my printer in a unique way. Now everytime I print a document, the printer immediately follows up with a diagnostics page. Which uses an incredible amount of ink. I can't figure out how to fix this. So now when I print something, I have to turn the printer off as soon as the document finishes. If I want to print a second thing, I turn it back on, then turn it off again when it's done.
It's bizarre and annoying.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Basic necessities

I mentioned recently that I buy as much as I can from secondhand shops. It just makes good sense and saves me a bundle of money. Or rather helps me hang onto more of my money for other things.

I came across this article today:

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/16259064/

I'm really surprised at the backlash to which they're being subjected. "Un-American"?
As if to say that what defines us as Americans is our love of spending?

The article also briefly makes reference to Judith Levine, author of "Not Buying It: My Year Without Shopping". She and her husband went an entire year without spending money on anything they didn't absolutely need. They made a pre-agreed list of must-haves and don't-really-needs. No restaurants, no movies...I think they did allow wine on their list, but only if they made it themselves. They said it was really hard, but incredibly rewarding, both emotionally and financially. Judith claims she was able to pay off an $8,000 credit card bill and put money in savings.

I wouldn't want to go that far, but I do think spending less money on impulses is a great idea.
On another note, I wonder how many of today's marriages could survive a year with no distractions?

Sunday, December 17, 2006

In which I try to score something for nothing

My mortgage company sponsored a contest this year in which participants could win either a month's mortgage payment or $250,000 toward a new home. All you had to do was write a 350 word essay on one of three topics: A) Why you want to become a homeowner, B) What obstacles did you overcome to becoming a homeowner or C) How homeownership has built your own personal wealth or security.

Limiting it to 350 words proved to be a lot harder than I thought. It's not easy to make your points, throw in a dash of humor and stay concise.

I've known about the contest since probably July, and just now got my entry in. Given the number they assigned my entry, it looks like maybe 84,000 people gave it a shot.

I have no idea how to gauge my entry. It didn't suck, but I'm not sure there was anything about it that would cause it to stand out. I chose the "overcoming obstacles" category. I really didn't have any significant obstacles to overcome, but I didn't fit into the other two categories.

The judges give out 80 free mortgage payment prizes a month, so I'm hoping I'll score one of those. I'm sure someone out there with cancer working three jobs and putting herself through school at the same time will get the grand prize. And I'm guessing she'd deserve it.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

She done ended up where we can't find her



Is this grammatically correct?
You see "_____ went missing" in the news all the time, but it sounds wrong to me.
Missing isn't somewhere you can go.
Would 'became' work better, as in "the climbers became missing" ?
I could see "the climbers became tingly" or the "climbers went up", but "missing" just sounds weird.

Whenever a person posts about grammar, their own post is inevitably subject to scrutiny.
Those poor commas never saw me coming.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Good news/ Bad news


The good news is that the scary pecan tree has been turned into non-threatening yard art. And the price was very reasonable. Less than half of my first quote.

The bad news. I wasn't home to supervise and because my husband was feeling magnanimous, he allowed the guys to A) leave the remaining tree taller than I wanted, B) told the guys we'd clean up the scattering of debris in the yard, and C) let them off the hook for denting a part of the chain link fence.

None of it is a big deal, but just more stuff we have to take care of now.

I wanted the tree shorter, because in the past when I've had trees taken down to stumps, they keep sprouting stuff, trying to become a tree again and I have to keep them trimmed down. I can't really work with a 20 foot tall trunk. Maybe if I whitewash it? My husband thinks copper nails might work. Is that true? Kind of like an IUD for a tree?

It's foggy out there, so the photo is not that great. That's actually a pine tree behind the trunk, making it look like one tree. The pecan is the silhouette.

Hurdles

Ok, so I talked to my doctorin' friend again, and she said that no, doctors will not grant "interviews".
It will basically depend on friend/family recommendations and trial and error.
Kind of what I thought.
But I do have a couple of names to start with. I just have to make sure they are included in my/my husband's health insurance booklet.
Sigh.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Rites of Passage

It's time for me to find a primary care doctor. I've gone 39 years without one; using walk-in clinics, Planned Parenthood, and Knoxville Breast Center to take care of the basics. I don't really get sick much.

I went 12 years without missing a day of work before I put a stick through my foot and had to have surgery two years ago.
But with the new panic attack development, I need to get on board and find someone who can help advise me on medications and treatment. And obviously I'm at an age where things need to be looked at more closely and more often.

But here's my dumb question; how do you go about this? Do you go around and "interview" doctors? Will they just sit down with you for a half an hour and let you kind of preview them? And if so, what kind of questions would you ask to determine whether he/she was the right doctor for you?

My husband is in the same boat, so we'd like for it to be someone we both like and who can address problems that each of us might have.
Any advice? Recommendations? Am I making too much of this?

Friday, December 08, 2006

Not as serious as a....

Well, so...I had my first panic attack yesterday and ended up checking myself into the emergency room. I really thought it was possibly a heart attack. I have no idea what brought it on or why. I lead a very routine uneventful life. And while I'm a nervous type of person generally, I've never been overwhelmed like that. The doctor prescribed me a combination antihistimine (for the hyperventilating) and anti-anxiety drug. I'm supposed to take it for the next couple of days and then as needed.
I came home, took a pill, and slept for 12 hours.

I can still feel the panic potential down inside like a glowing ember this morning. Like if I blew on it, it would rage up again. I feel so freaking delicate.
Is this something I'm going to be at risk for the rest of my life?
Because let me tell you, it sucked big time.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Cheers

Last night I went out drinking with some friends. So apparently there are these things called laws that can really screw your night up when enforced.
My friend's driver's license was expired. He's 31. It clearly states that on the license. But a bartender can't serve a person with an expired license.
So another friend at the table orders a beer and gives it to him. He hadn't even taken a sip, when the waitress comes over and takes his beer away. So not only can't you purchase the alcohol, but you're not allowed to drink it either. Despite being old enough and being able to prove it.
My friend doesn't own a car and doesn't need his license to drive these days, but he has to keep it current so that he can drink a beer?
I've given it some thought and I guess basically it boils down to blackmail by the state. You don't pay your fees and they whittle away your privileges. I can see that the state would want an updated photo every 10 years or so, but that's about it.
I still can't believe the waitress took the beer out of his hand.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Stopping to smell the bacon

I mentioned I had a bottle of Zyban, but chickened out of taking them. After talking to a friend of mine who knows doctorin', I plucked up my courage and started the regimen. I honestly don't feel a whit different, (it's only been four days), but there have been some changes in my behavior with which I'm happy.
This stuff makes it hard to sleep all through the night, so I've been getting up at 7:00 the last two mornings instead of my usual 8:30. All of my morning chores are done by 7:30, so I have this big block of extra time.
And I've been using it to make honest-to-god breakfast. I normally never eat breakfast. Yesterday I made BLT's and today scrambled eggs and toast. I like the routine. I'm going to try to stick with it.

Monday, December 04, 2006

In which "Hello Rock" pays for new threads

I'm sure I've said this before at some point, but I love thrift shops. I get about 70% of my clothes second-hand as well as most of my textiles (blankets, curtains etc..). My strategy is to hit the book section first. If I find some good books to resell, then I give myself permission to look around and pick out a few things for myself. Almost every time, I can come out with books that surpass the cost of any clothes or household items that I bought.

Today I went to an antique shop and a thrift shop, spent 25.00 on 160.00 worth of books and spent 30.00 on 7 nice shirts for my husband. So 55.00 spent and 105.00 profit potential.

I've been doing this for so long now, that it's really weird and uncomfortable for me to buy new things from department stores. I'm so used to that sense of a built-in rebate on every purchase. Plus, if you don't end up liking the clothes as much as you thought you might, you're only out 2-3.00 per garment.

I'm still smarting from an indulgent new dress purchase from a few months back. I bought the last one they had at the mall; too big. I return it, order my size online and pay way too much for shipping. I get the dress and the first day I wear it, it rips up the back and can't be repaired. It's just not worth it.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Redneck Remedies




We have lots of stuff here around the home that needs fixin' at any given time. We've managed to come up with some pretty creative solutions to save a buck or two.
When the retaining bars in the refrigerator door broke, my husband used some wood scraps and plastic zipper ties to make some new ones. They work great and have a unique rustic look to boot.
When my oven door stopped closing all the way, I came up with the idea to put industrial magnets between the seal and the door. Keeps it shut and only cost $2.00.

Oh man, I dread when it's time to sell this joint.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Turn it down

I sometimes think I'm hyper-sensitive to noise. I experience a lot of sounds almost like a physical assault on my senses. Today was bad. Started out as usual with the dump trucks down the road. They make a sound as if a giant had picked up the truck and was bashing it against the ground repeatedly.
Once I got to work, the used car lot across the street (3 lanes away and on a hill) broadcasted some tinny radio station so loud that I could hear it at the front desk of the store.
Kids pulled up to the music store next door all day long vibrating the windows and pounding on my brain with their absurdly over-amped cars.

My co-worker has been making his way through a stack of vinyl as he packages the mail. This week I've been treated to The Who, Cat Stevens, The entire Woodstock collection, and Bob Seeger. It clashes with whatever music is playing on the main floor and tangles in my head.

My husband came by to take me out to lunch and the restaurant we chose was broadcasting a soft-rock station going way too far with a series of really awful pop-star Christmas remakes. Then an employee starts vacuuming with a really loud whiny vacuum cleaner for nearly the whole meal. When he approached our table, we asked him to wait until we were done, but he just said "Just one minute" and proceeded to vacuum under our feet and all around our table for like five minutes. Who does that?

Nice to be home now with my chosen noises; washing machine, animals puttering around the house, House M.D. with muted commercials.

A weird side note though. I cannot hear people on the phone at work. Our phones have a bit of a whine or buzz, but I seem to be the only person there who can't understand what people are saying on the phone. Especially when my husband calls. I have to ask him to repeat everything and I still wonder how much of the conversation I missed. Is it me or the phones?

Monday, November 20, 2006

Weeelll Doggies!

I've always had pretty unconventional Hollywood crushes. When I was really young it was Soupy Sales. Then later, Mac Davis. There was even an inexplicable brief interest in John Lithgow.
When I was offered a choice between the blonde and the brunette, I'd always pick the brunette; Luke Duke, Ponch, Parker Stevenson, Kate Jackson. I have a trend of rooting for the underdog.
Although most of these crushes burned out in the course of a grade-school year, one has persisted. Buddy Epsen. He's dead now but all it takes is an episode of The Beverly Hillbillies to reignite my affection. I guess it's the character of Jed Clampett that I'm attached to. He's honest, practical, and excercises unfailing common sense. He's laid back, unpretentious and kind. The kind of person I'd enjoy knowing in real life.
I wrote him a fan letter once, asking for a signed photo, but my letter was returned.
Maybe Buddy was an ass in real life, who knows? But I love my Jed.

One dollar, Bob

I'm sitting here this morning (my day off), cataloging books and watching The Price is Right. There's something really comforting about TPIR. It reminds me of being out of school for the summer, eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and drinking milk. My sister and I would watch it every afternoon while my mom puttered around in the kitchen. We marveled that anyone could get excited over a new refrigerator or bbq grill. We were all about the jukeboxes, pool tables and cars. Of course, now I'm all about the refrigerators and living room furniture.
She and I would tear up when an old person got on stage and we'd debate who between us would show more stage excitement. It would be her of course. Every time.
I'd have been the most boring contestant ever. I think I took some kind of stubborn pride in that.
I still don't get some of the prizes. Full-size popcorn vending cart?

Friday, November 17, 2006

Sucking it up

So I mentioned that I have some soffit panels hanging. We have a problem with a herd of raccoons. They're climbing up a little ornamental tree, up on top of the outdoor cat enclosure and peeling off our siding. Jerks.

Ok, so I called the folks that originally put on my new gutters two years ago; Goddard Guttering. I asked for someone to come out and give me an estimate on repairs.
I get a call from one of their guys while I'm at work. He's standing in my yard, yakking all country-boy friendly with me and once he assesses the damage, he tells me that his company has a minimum 250.00 service call fee just for the gutter problem. We're talking about a gutter they put on only two years ago that is pulling away from the house. 250.00 miminum to come out and do some stuff to it.
He then tells me that the soffits will be another visit altogether and will be even more. Five panels that just need popping back in.
I told him no. I'd find another way.

So if I have this right, Goddard just told me that it would cost me around 600.00 just to have some guys come out with some ladders, hammers and nails and put my newish stuff back together again.
That is so screwed up.

I got a newspaper and found a few people in the Service Pages that are going to give me their estimates in a few days. One of the two told me his service charge was 55.00. I can deal with that. I understand the 55.00 will be subtracted from the final repair bill.

I also have to have a pecan tree taken down that's threatening my and my neighbor's house. It's going down next week for 1250.00. Sounds high, but it's cheap compared to having your house smushed. Or your neighbor's house smushed.

I'm presently in the market for a skilled all round handyman. I have a long list of stuff that needs attending to. I tried one guy, and he did a passable job on a few things, but his work was kind of shoddy in my opinion.

My best friend is a highly skilled woodworker and I've been really blessed to have his help on some home improvement projects. He helped me put on a new roof a few years ago, he built me a screened in porch and he built my cat enclosure (the roof of which that fat-ass racoon fell through last week. Jerk.) But he works full time and can't afford to travel to TN everytime I have a request. He spoiled me though. I know things can be done well. And I know how just how little a good job really costs. I just have to suck it up now and get some work done.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Additives or addiction?

I went and got a prescription for Zyban a month ago to help me quit smoking, but I'm too scared to take it. Everytime I read those lists of "Do Not Take If's" and "Possible Side Effects", I get squeamish. I mean come on, siezures?

Monday, November 13, 2006

Viva la Tick!

My husband's going live in the next few days with several computer applications he wrote over the last two months. Pretty big stuff. I am so constantly impressed with his abilities. He is the most patient person I've ever met when it comes to learning something new. Whereas I might throw a book across the room and break out in tears, he pours a cup of coffee and digs in for days on end until he figures it out.
I just adore my man.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Dirt

So this afternoon, I was watching a show called Kitchen Crimes. The premise is good, although they dress the show up with silly crime-fighting schtick. At any rate, they go out to someone's house and look for germ and hazard issues. Most of the houses featured have pets. They test dishrags, food prep areas etc.. for bacteria. Well, needless to say, after watching two episodes, I spent the next few hours scouring the kitchen.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Practical Joke

Here's an easy computer prank:

Go to the victim's computer control panel. Open "Accesibility options".
Under the tab labeled "Keyboard" check the box in the "Filter Keys" portion.

Sit back and laugh your ass off.

Take a load off

Ok, that last post was a little manic. It went fine, although I spent the whole ride to work trying to figure out how to turn off the windshield wipers.

Tonight I noticed for the first time that almost every woman who works at the grocery store near my house (with only two exceptions) has gigantic boobage. The kind of breasts that cause women to seek chiropractors or reduction surgery. Is that a reflection on management's hiring preferences or just a strange coincidence? And why would all these women choose to work on their feet behind a register all day? They have to be miserable.

Reluctance

I had to have my car towed to the mechanic yesterday. It's doing weird stuff. Today I have to drive my husband's new car to work. I've resisted driving it so far. I'm scared of screwing it up. I have to get over this I know. One of the reasons we made sure it was automatic is so that I could drive it too. I should be excited, but I'm filled with dread. I just hate being responsible for stuff that's important to other people. Ok, here goes. Fingers crossed.

Friday, November 10, 2006

No more Newport

Sad news.
My husband and I have been officially banned from his parent's family gatherings.
As if atheism was contagious.
I'm not an atheist, but I am anti organized religion. I'm not at all vocal about it. It's just the way I feel.
My husband is vocal about his beliefs. And there it is and here we are.
His parents are lovely people by the way. I adore his mother and have a good relationship with her. His dad doesn't talk much, but we get along.
It's gonna be weird now.
Guess I'll be halving that recipe for broccoli casserole.

Perils of the past

When I was a kid, it seemed that much of the children's programming on t.v. depicted scenes of ethnically-diverse gritty urban landscapes. Everyone knew spanish, wore hip turtlenecks and played hoops after school.

I was fascinated by their city lives. It was nothing like my own landscape.

I remember one public safety commercial that haunted me back then. It showed some kids playing in a junkyard and finding an abandoned refrigerator. They climb in, become trapped and supposedly die. I didn't understand. How could a refrigerator be so menacing? And where did these kids live that refrigerators were looming in every alley, beckoning to children; "that's it, just a little closer...".

I understand now that it was during the transition from the old latch mechanism to the new magnetic seals. Kids were dying.
Seems weird now to think that that was once a problem.

Of course, it's even weirder that online sexual predators and guns in school are the new threat. And not just in the big city.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Correction

I'm getting sloppy tonight. Forgetting titles, double-posting at other people's blogs.
I just wanted to clarify that I did not pull that exquisite graph out of my *ss. Some super smart folks somewhere created a site that makes it easy for the likes of us to graph our websites.
Go Play
Big Blog Love

This is the bouquet that emerged when I graphed the website of a fellow blogger. It might look like tinkertoys or flowers, but it's actually a representation of the avalanche of love that's been poring into his site since his young wife was hospitalized on October 30th.
Isn't that beautiful?

Go visit and give their family a hug.

Atomic Tumor

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Happy Day

This is gonna be one of those "where were you when" days. Where were you when your faith in our voting system was restored? Where were you when Rumsfeld stepped down? Where were you when you could finally breathe a great sigh of relief?

I'm not saying I have a great deal of faith in the Democratic Party, but I have more faith in them than the present Republican Party. I'm looking forward to answers, accountability, reversals of insane policies.

I'm looking forward to the last gasp of this grasp that fundamentalists have in our political system. I am so sick of the word 'values'.

My husband at this moment is having a heated discussion with his evangelical mother. He tries, bless his heart, to present his parents with alternate perspectives. To educate them about how they're being jerked around. They aren't listening yet.

Many of us are finally listening though. Enough of us so that we can once again protect those that choose not to think for themselves.

I smell just like.....

I enjoy wearing a little perfume, but I've had a hard time finding one that I really really like. Sometimes I catch great scents from some of my customers and I'll ask them what they're wearing, only to find out it's a fragrance I've already tried and dismissed.

One night before bed, I had put on some lotion and when my husband kissed me, he declared, "You smell just like Sunflowers by Elizabeth Arden".

"Sunflowers by Elizabeth Arden". Who says that? Like a commercial.

It was so damned cute. Turns out, it's the only perfume he knows in that full sentence way. I think he bought it as a gift once for a girlfriend in grade school. But he loves it, and now I love it too.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Stay tuned for the next episode of.....




Coming across Megan's note has reminded me that I owe her a chapter. She and I have an arrangement in which one of us begins a story and hands off the next chapter to the other.
She particularly enjoys stories that feature my pets as main characters.
Our latest yarn features my girl dog falling overboard on a routine fishing expedition and my husband's dog (a Merdog in this case) rescues her and takes her to his underwater city.
There's lots of sobbing and confusion from the characters of my husband and me. But bashful sparks are flying between the dogs.

Awww

I was cleaning out the catch-all bowl on my nightstand when I came across this handwritten note from my niece:

Dear Family,

I have ran away to a movie called Heidi.

You will find me at Adolf Kramer's cottage.
17 Street, The Alps.

Love,
Megan

Stepping Up the Game

Today I go and apply for my first business license. My husband and I want to install a credit card processer onto my website, so that customers have more payment options. To make that happen I first need the license so that I can open the DBA account at the bank that the merchant account folks require.
I'm told it's all pretty simple and straightforward.

The downside is that this once again changes the way I pay taxes. Filing my taxes was so easy and consistent for the first 12 years or so of my adult life. Then I started having to account for inventory and cost of goods sold, then I bought a house, then I got married etc...
Everytime I think I have it down, I have to learn something new.
With the business license, I'll be filing quarterly reports. Different reports for the county and city. And I'm not sure how I factor this into my federal return at the end of the year. I'll make sure I get the lowdown.

It boggles my mind to think of how many times a single item is taxed. The materials to produce the item, the employees who make the item, the import or export of the item, the wholesale of the item, the purchase by a retailer, the sale to a customer, and in our case, the same item sold over and over is repeatedly taxed.

Our government takes in a huge huge amount of money. Which is great theoretically. A lot of necessary things can be accomplished with a big budget. But it's so insanely mismanaged. I have a mental image of one of those glass telephone booths filled with wind-blown cash, and all our politicians just grabbing what they can in the limited time they have in the booth. It's not about thoughtful long-term planning for the people; it's about who's the most aggressive.

This overly simplistic assessment of America's tax system has been brought to you by Firstimpressionist.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Crazy Folk

We've all known at least one. Sometimes they can be fun, albeit tiresome, add some spice to your life, let you see the world from a kooky perspective:

"You're kidding. The driveway is radioactive again? Ok, ok, I'll wear the ziploc baggies on my shoes. I don't want you having to drink bleach again."

With others however, you'd do well to stay far far away.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Birth Control

When I met my husband, I wasn't on birth control of any kind. The last time I had been on the pill, I was in my 20's and don't remember having any problems with it. But now as a 30-something smoker, I was really reluctant to subject myself to the long list of dangerous side-effects. (Yeah, don't say it, I know....smoking has a list of its own.)

I asked my doctor what my options were and they suggested an IUD. It's just a tiny T-shaped piece of copper and filament placed in the uterus. It costs only 250.00 and lasts for 10-12 years. No side-effects. Nothing to remember to do. And it can be taken out at any time in the event the woman wants to conceive.

With this option, why on earth do women put themselves at risk with hormone options?
If I hadn't asked my gynecologist, I wouldn't have even known the IUD was an option.
It's the perfect solution and over time, much more cost-effective than the pill or patch. I get the feeling that this safer option isn't being advertised more aggressively because no one is making any serious money from it.

I was reminded again why I'm glad I'm not on the pill when I read this:

Women Sue Over Patch

Company

Something tore three soffit panels off our house last night and crawled into the attic.
Yay.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Short comment on Galludet

I've been loosely following the Galludet protest in which the student body achieved their goal of ousting the new university president. One of the main reasons cited was that she had been raised a lip-reader and didn't actually learn sign language until she was an adult.

I got a small taste of how political and self-protective the deaf community can be when I was in college and dated a deaf person for a couple of years.

There are two types of sign language in America. One is ASL, which is the older and more primary language, and the other is ESL, (signed english). My boyfriend, for reasons I forget now, had been raised to speak ESL and so that's what I learned.

Signed english is much more verbatim than ASL and relies less on exaggerated expressions and context to communicate the thought. Whereas in ASL, one sign might represent 5 similar ideas, in ESL, the "listener" knows exactly which word you intended.

ESL is also much easier for a speaking person to learn than ASL.
But the fact is that most deaf people speak ASL and have very strong views about the culture and tradition it signifies. As my boyfriend hadn't been brought up in the traditional deaf community, I wasn't exposed to much of it.

I do remember attending a few deaf parties though, and found it unexpectedly difficult to communicate, even though I was fluent at that point. Those evenings, I would be subjected to gentle ridicule from the traditional ASL signers. It was their world, and I was not wholly welcome in it. More than one deaf person walked away from me when they realized I used signed english.
So it's interesting to me to see that this "ridicule" even extends to one of their own.
I also read that she's a bitch, so maybe I don't have the whole story.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Gamble

Every year I try to expand my business somehow. This year I have more books and more exposure than ever before, although my sales don't necessarily reflect that the way I would like.
I took a gamble earlier this year and spent a lot of money on an order of non-returnable sidelines including notecards, journals and calendars featuring classic children's books. They're very cute and I kept my order somewhat conservative so that I wouldn't have much left over at the end of the year.
The notecards I'm not worried about because I have no time limit in which they need to be sold. The calendars however are worrisome. I know it's only October, but so far I've sold exactly 2.
My mom just started working part-time at a small vintage-themed shop though, so I'm hoping the owner will let me set up a selection there.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Anxiety

I've been growing increasingly worried in the last year about my family. My dad is 78 and has alzheimers. My mom is 70. My dad still lives at home and my mom takes care of him. They were antique dealers for years and don't have any significant savings or pension. My mom works part time to bring in some extra money.

My dad isn't so bad that his alzheimers would be obvious to a stranger, but he's not capable of taking care of himself.

My worries are many. That my mom might die and my dad wouldn't know what to do or who to call or even realize it for several days. That my mom dies and we (my sister and I) will suddenly have to decide who will assume care of him. That we might have to put him into a nursing home while he's still cognizent enough to realize it and hate it and hate us for doing it.
That because my family has no savings, the nursing home will take my parent's house.
That I will be a great disappointment in handling all of this.
I also worry that I'll get the inevitable call some night when I've had too much to drink and can't immediately jump in the car and be where I'm needed.

My dad went through this with his mother. She hated the nursing home when he put her in. He went through a great deal of guilt and depression over having to make that decision. She lived until the age of 97, the last 13 years of her life spent in a home. It was the right decision as she lived alone two hours away and nearly burned her house down a few times, but you still hate to take that last bit of independence from someone you love.

Selfishly and practically, I hope my father passes away before my mother. My mother is still sharp, resourceful and in relatively good health. It would just be so much easier. Unfortunately, statistically, my father's family is the side with longevity.

Getting out of the house

Yesterday was gorgeous. Probably one of the last nice semi-warmish, bright, fluffed-out, colorful days of fall.

Lately, my husband has re-discovered his love of fishing, so we went driving around looking for potential fishing spots in East Knoxville.

We checked out the spot at the Forks of the River under the railway trestle bridge. The old Lebanon (Lisbon?) Presbyterian Church graveyard is across the road and we spent some time looking at the stones. The Ramsey family is buried there, most notably J.G.M. Ramsey; author of Ramsey's Annals of Tennessee.
After this, we crossed John Sevier Hwy. and ended up driving by the house of J.G.M. Kind of weird to visit the grave and home of a man within 20 minutes, without meaning to.

If you pass the Ramsey House and go down around the bend, there's the creepiest quarry I've ever seen. I swear it looks just like a scene from the game Myst. I'd post a picture, but I didn't have my camera. There are four huge rusted cranes at each corner connected by a skeletal big-top framework of rusted cables. And in the center of the quarry, half-submerged in the water, is a rusted track which leads to a huge rusted wheel.

On the way home, we passed a house I've been meaning to visit on a hill next to the Asheville Hwy. bridge over the Holston River. It's a big rambling mess of stone ruins and walls. I'd like to find a picture of what it used to look like.

When we got home, we retraced our drive with google satellite maps and got a look at what we didn't see from the road. Behind the little Myst quarry is a much larger quarry, but it's roped off. And where we were made to turn around at the railyard, we saw the mile or so of road that leads to the police training facility. Probably a great fishing spot, but it's off limits.

Going on drives like this is heartening somewhat, because you get a look at how much undeveloped land there still is around here. It's easy to forget that when you stay in the city and see parcels gobbled up right and left.

So there ya go; only 15 minutes away are Osprey with fish in their beaks, rolling fields, gravestones from the 1700's, a creepy quarry, a ruin that begs to be waded through, and a few guys gutting deer on the bank of the river.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Family History

I'm curious about the reasons people get into genealogy. Like, really get into genealogy. It's difficult and tedious work, but lots of people choose to spend most of their free time in the pursuit of this obscure information.

So what's the payoff? A feeling of connectness? A surprise celebrity relative? A claim on a patch of Irish farmland?

If I were to form an opinion from the genealogy customers at my store, I would probably go with the celebrity aspect. These folks are all eager to tell me about their relation to Pocahontas, The Kennedys, or Dolly Parton. They all seem to have some Cherokee blood.
The only talk of genealogy in our house growing up were references to Ireland, Andy Williams and Madame DeBerry. As if 150 years of family could be distilled to a couple of bragging rights.

So this morning, I signed up for a free trial to ancestry.com and played around for about half an hour.
The fun stuff: getting to see handwritten census documents from the turn of the century and exploring all the family names. Matilda, Morris, Abner, Range, Clara etc...
But a half hour is all it took to grow bored of the pursuit.
I just don't care about this stuff. I have a hard enough time keeping up with my living relatives much less drawing up trees full of abstractions. Is it because I'm adopted? I dunno. Maybe?

Someday I'll just be a name on a family tree chart and I'm ok with that. The people I know and who actually mean something to me are all that matter.

Friday, October 27, 2006

DIY

I've always had this fantasy of living in a house completely built my myself. Not only that, but everything in the house would be made by me. If I couldn't make it, I wouldn't have it. I'm talking dishware, coat hooks, clothing, linens, artwork, silverware etc...
I said it was a fantasy. I doubt I could even build a pencil box.
But this guy came close....

Wharton Esherick

Riddle

So what do you get when you combine a questionable neighborhood, a feral cat colony, six raccoons, and a bucket containing a can of wasp spray?

If you guessed meth lab paranoia, then you're a winner!


Ok, to be fair, there is still the issue of the three or so grown men behind the house carrying stuff. We still don't know what that was about.

And the fact that the house needed to be condemned anyway.

Still, pretty funny.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Vague update

Well, we're still waiting on word about the house next door. I'm not exactly clear on what's happened so far, but as I understand it, an officer sort of tried to check on things, but wasn't sure which house it was.
My friend came by the bookstore yesterday and as it turns out his retina had spontaneously detached earlier in the day, landing him in emergency surgery. He says he's sending an off-duty guy out today to poke around.
At any rate, we're going to see what we do about getting the house condemned and hopefully torn down. The owner himself admitted that he hasn't been by there in about two years.

Scary note to self: a retina can spontaneously detach.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Meth lab?

Ok, so when I shopped for a house 6 year ago, I was single and earning less. I came up with a list of must-haves and a budget and after a year or so of searching, found my house. On the plus side, I got all of the features on my list, but on the negative, it ain't the greatest house or neighborhood. I can ignore some of the trashiness of the neighborhood because our lot is an acre and actually quite private. I'm rarely bothered by any supposed untoward activities going on, and actually can't think of any that I know of.

When I first moved in, the house next door was rented to a small family who I think moved out after about a year. Since then, the house has been vacant. It hasn't bothered me because as it turns out, the emptiness has actually given my property that much more privacy and quiet.

Tonight though, when my husband came home, he noticed a strong chemical odor when he got out of his car. He didn't think too much of it, but later when he was walking the dogs in the backyard, he noticed a couple of guys carrying things either into or out of the rear of the abandoned house next door.
He calls me at work, asking me if I think we should call the police. I hate trouble, but what other options do we have?

I have a good friend at the police department and we called him to investigate.
He left us a message tonight that he had a crew check it out and he'd stop by the bookstore in the morning to tell me what they know.
We also called the owners of the house and they said that no one has been authorized to enter the house.
At the very least, we know something illegal is/was going on.
I hope this is all resolved without us having to live our lives in a more paranoid fashion.
I've never had any problems around here before and I certainly don't want anything to start now.

Paycheck

I just checked my accounts and it seems I'm just about broke at the moment. And even though I have a nice check coming from the estate sale, I'm suddenly shy about asking for it. I guess I need to get over it and get paid already.
Asking for money, even if I've earned it, is so awkward for me.

I like eblogger and all, but having to create a title for everything is annoying. There I go complaining again.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Balance

I've come to realize that my vocabulary for criticism is far greater than my vocabulary for praise. I can write pages on why I don't like something, but when I encounter something I do like, I only seem to be able to cough up words like "great", "cool" and "wonderful".
I'm going to try to make it a point to find things to praise more often. I guess I just assume that if it's praise-worthy that everyone already realizes it and what's the point? But that's not right.
Just as people need or want to be warned about what's wrong with something, they also enjoy hearing about the positive. Maybe even more so.
So what is the opposite of a rant? Gushing?
I'm gonna try to gush a little more.

Friday, October 20, 2006

My last comment about the sale

Ok, just some final observations about people and 'stuff'.
Folks, if you like it, buy it. Why does it have to be "collectible" or a first edition or "ode"?
You like that doll? You have a kid who you could give it to? Then just do it. Don't put it back down because it isn't marked with some useless manufacturer's mark. It's $2.00, for crying out loud.
I'm not making this hard on you.

I had to share space today with a neighbor of the deceased. I'm sure they had good times. I'm sure she helped in the final months. I'm sure she was fond of the woman.
But all day I had to hear comments such as the following (insert very strong east TN accent here, with very long drawn out flat AAAAAAAAA's.):
It's just so saaaad.
She loved wearing this shuuurt. It's just so saaad.
Ain't there any little girl relatives you could give them dolls too? It's just so saaad.
This stuff was her liiiife.

Simultaneously, this woman had pre-sale, tagged most of the truly valuable furniture, jewelry and accessories for herself and her daughter. She had made a shrewd mental inventory of all the "good stuff" and staked her claim.
She asked me in a whisper several times what I thought the value of such and such was.
I feigned ignorance.

I hate that kind of two-faced sensationalist grabbiness. Wailing about the travesty of the dispersement, but making sure she scored big.

This is why I DREAD DREAD DREAD doing this with my parent's estate. All of their antiquing friends and my family as well are going to be doing this very same thing. Wanting special favors, deals and inside information due to their long friendships.
"It's just so saaad."
I'd almost rather sell it all to total strangers than be subjected to this shitty behavior.

Why are people so hung up on filling their houses with speculative stuff?

I'm a bookdealer. If a book I read means something to me, I like to keep a copy around. I don't care if it's a paperback or hardback, first edition or signed. The writing is the reward. I meet people every day who decline buying a book because it doesn't meet the collectible criteria.
And it makes me ill. Even though I profit from their obsessions, I still hate that people will pay an additional premium for something as arbitrary as a numeric line containing a 1.
It's the same damned book. Same story, same dustjacket. Why do we buy into this?

Will it keep you nourished if the world goes to hell? A palette of bottled water is more valuable in my opinion.

Gold too. I can't for the life of me figure out why we place such a high value on a useless metal. If the world goes to hell and everyone's broke, who are you going to sell it to? And what are they going to do with it? It's soft; you can't make tools from it. I think it may be a good electrical conductor. Ok. But it's basically frivolous adornment. And QVC keeps scores of folks up all night just itching to push that button to make it theirs.

I've heard people say that collecting is a type of psychiatric disorder and on some level I'm inclined to agree.
When you die and you have all this stuff around, the only hope your decendents have is that someone else shared your particular disorder and are willing to pay big to acquire it.

That's not to say I look down on preserving the past. I love history. I love looking at a collection of old things. I love museums. I like seeing a display of the evolution of the light bulb or textiles for example.
So I guess the bottom line is that I'm not going to be one of the "preservers". I'm glad the disorder exists, because at least someone out there is hanging onto stuff for whatever reason so that the rest of us can gaze upon it.

Ok enough ranting.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Estate Sale Part Two

Yay! We did 2150.00 the first day. Two days to go and lots of stuff left.

One thing that going through an experience like this will demonstrate to you is the ridiculousness of 'stuff'. I kind of got over the need to accumulate years ago just from observing my parents. Their house is insanely stuffed with trifles. Nice trifles to be sure, but when you can barely fit a pencil into any drawer in the house, you have a problem.

I've gradually thrown my own excess away with each move and while I still have too much stuff, it's much more manageable.

My stuff these days is mostly comprised of the accessories to unrealized goals. Paints and brushes, jewelry making supplies, bookbinding supplies, gardening accessories, embroidery kits, tools, scrap lumber, etc...

But the woman whose house I'm dispersing did this too. It makes me wonder how many of her creative goals she met while alive. So what am I waiting for? Should I just jettison all this stuff of mine? Will I ever actually carve out the time to sit down and complete a project? Which is more valuable; the extra space or the comfort these things bring me?

One reason to hang on a little longer: being constantly surprised at my spouse's spur of the moment "projects". I came home the other night and he had constructed a bin for our firewood out of some of the scraps I had stored. Another time he might use all the extra cable and electrical thingamajigs to suddenly wire every electrical device in our house to a single switch. Who knows? It's cool. I like having someone around who delves into my stash to make something sudden and wonderful.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Estate Sale

My boss and I went to a home the other day to purchase some books. The step-mother of the man we were buying from had passed away and he and his wife were in the process of getting an estate sale ready for the following Thursday.
An entire house of stuff. NOTHING was priced. It was somewhat organized, but every drawer and closet and cabinet still had untold items spilling forth.
Next thing I know, I'm taking the week off from work and basically running my first estate sale.

Three closets full of clothes, 200+ dolls, six drawers of mismatched tablecloths and napkins, piles of jewelry, tons of gardening accessories, a closet full of linens, a scotty dog collection, a scottish collection (including traditional kilt outfit), a hedgehog collection, a full cupboard of fine china, office supplies, tools, boxes of crafting supplies, a nutcracker collection and much much more.

A full day goes by before I can get back over there, giving me only three days to turn the disorder into a priced, packaged and policed sale. I hired my mother who is a retired antique dealer to help with all of the older items.
Bless her heart, she's busted her ass for two long days now; one with the grandchildren in tow.

We've made a huge dent in the pricing, but still are waiting for tables and clothing racks to be delivered so we can get it all set up.
The people I'm doing this for are THE nicest couple and have been so incredibly sweet and trusting.
I'm bone tired at the end of each day, but it's fun work. I just wish we had a few more days to get it all done.

I'm mostly worried about the first morning of the sale itself. I grew up in the antiquing community and there is nothing more back-stabby, gossipy, whiny, and deceitful than a horde of antique dealers (sorry mom and dad).
I'm concerned about "early birds", thieves, fights over claimed items, bounced checks and broken glassware.

I'll have my mom, the couple and my boss there to help, so we should have it under control. I've educated the couple about going through boxes and shaking out linens to look for hidden stash. We're only having one entrance and exit. We've done all of the jewelry up in box lots, to prevent people from pocketing here and there.
I think it will be fine in the end. At the very least, the people I'm helping are way better off than if I hadn't stepped in. I can't even imagine how they were going to get ready by Thursday on their own.

Tomorrow is crunch day. Then up at five on Thursday to put on the finishing touches.
EEK. Fingers crossed.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Doomed

So with all the crap that's simmering around the world right now, what I want to know is, what should I be stocking up on?
I think it's just our nature as Americans, 60 years removed from a major war, to view the current global political climate somewhat distantly.
But I really think the next world war is just around the bend.
And I have no idea what to do.
How bad is it going to get? Am I going to live to see bombing on American soil? Marshall law? Rationing? Bread lines?
I get so angry when I think about how so much of this could have been prevented.
That even I and my friends were able to predict much of this years ago before it was actually set in motion.
It's pretty sad when the average citizen can make better armchair decisions than our leaders.

More about hair

As I've said before, I love good hair and mine is not. To make it look good takes too much time and too many products. I've been after a low maintenance style that I can depend on to look the same every time I do it.
I think I've found it. It's not the best solution; it's actually kind of goofy looking, but so far it's working for me.
It's part Von Trapp, part Princess Leia, and part stern librarian.
The reactions have been mixed. My sister laughed her ass off and sequed into a discussion of Star Wars. My mom refused to comment.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Booker Books Part Two

Ok, so as of a previous post, I had begun the first of a Man Booker finalist and looked forward to reading the others, hoping to cast my private vote for which book should get the prize.

I got off track due to a road trip, birthday stuff, and various other no good reasons and just finished that first book last night. My feelings about the book, "Carry Me Down", were mixed. I enjoyed the story and the unique voice of the author, but overall, I felt it lacked that special something that would garner an award.

I tried not to be listening to NPR today at five when the winner was announced, thinking that I could still stick to my original goal and try to see if I picked the same winner, but dangit, I was packaging a book by the radio when they made the announcement.

So now I have five other books to read. Not sure who I'm going to pick next. I love Sarah Waters, but I might just delve right into the winning novel "The Inheritance of Loss" by Kiran Desai.
An odd aside, Kiran Desai is the youngest Booker Prize winner at age 35 and her mother has been a three time finalist for the prize.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Heroes

I'm worried that the news is predictably going too far with the brave Amish girl who tried to bargain her life in exchange for her classmates.
It reminds me too much of the Cassie what's-her-name girl from Columbine who refused to denounce her christianity in the face of death.
There was even a hastily put together inspirational biography about Cassie called "Yes I Am" or something like that.
Please don't let there be a book.
That would just be so disrespectful to the Amish.

Hole




When I first bought my house, just down the street was an enormous ravine. I think that's what you call it. Gorge, quarry, big-ass hole in the ground. It was about 60+ feet deep and about the size of a football field.
Over a year ago or so, some company bought that land and since then has dedicated every waking hour to filling up that hole.

Each morning beginning around five, the dumptrucks start rolling in and they dump and they dump and they dump. I get dressed to the growling of earth movers and the grinding of gears. I avoid chunks of debris as I drive down the road. I frequently have to put my car into reverse where the trucks pull onto our street so that they have room to make the turn.

As Tom Waits might ask, "What are they doing down there?"
And when the hole is filled, then what?

Friday, October 06, 2006

Torturous







Something that makes me super-wiggy is licking popsicle sticks.
Even seeing a commercial of someone getting down to the last bit of popsicle where their tongue might touch the wood gives me goosebumps and makes me bite my tongue.
I similarly have a problem with wooden chopsticks.
That whole rough texture thing. The scraping. The dragging of flesh. Nasty stuff.

See, I'm thinking that President Bush has it wrong. We don't need to resort to waterboarding to get information from prisoners. Just find out what their hang-ups are.
You don't need to waste a lot of money setting up a dungeon to torture me; just give me a popsicle.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Barky Barkerson



I've always been a cat person. I've owned cats since I was sixteen and moved away from home. It wasn't until about 5 years ago that I got my first dog. I was at a party and this adorable stray puppy showed up for scraps. She passed out in my lap for the next two hours and after enduring the encouragement of everyone there, I took her home. It was hit or miss for the first three months. We regarded each other as strangers, sharing space but not exactly bonding. There was chewing, peeing, barking, whining and it wasn't until she scared away a couple of guys arguing in my driveway that I felt I had made the right choice.
She's since become my baby. She's absolutely adorable, fairly well-behaved, piggish and cuddly.

When I got married, I adopted my husband's sheltie. He's basically a good dog, gets along with all our other animals and takes it upon himself to alert us to impending danger.
Unfortunately, that danger is constant and includes twigs falling from trees, leaves blowing across the road, cars driving by, cats wandering up the street, the trashmen, and any movements of the neighbors.
He barks furiously when we check the mail, go out into the yard, and down to the basement.
He simply can't shut the hell up.

I can get him to sit, lay, stand, wait, come...but I can't seem to teach him "hush".
My gut feeling is that he does this with the intention of protection. He's by nature a guarder and herder. When we leave the house, we're outside of his protective range and he freaks. When something approaches the house, it's encroaching on his "herd" and he freaks.

It's been two years now and he's as bad as ever. He doesn't seem to understand that some basic routine activities are not bark-worthy.
I know a big part of the problem is just my lack of working on the problem in a focused manner. I need to get out the hotdog treats and spend a month of constant consistent effort.

I hate dog training.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Public Transportation



I've always been a little intimidated by public transportation. I'm bad with directions, bad with maps and the idea of trying to figure out exactly which times and transfers I need to get from point A to point B seems overwhelming.
I know that it's not that mystifying. I just need to do it a few times and I'm sure it'd become more logical.
I know how to get from my house to downtown on the bus system, but that's about it.

Whenever I travel to a larger city though, I'm always impressed with how easy it is to get around without a car. I particularly love rapid transit and trains and I really wish that Knoxville had such a set-up.
Knoxville seems like it would be perfectly suited for a rapid transit system. Even just one main line running east to west would make living here so much easier.
I grew up in West Knoxville and my parents and sister still live west, but I absolutely dread any trip I have to make out there. It's only a 15-20 drive, but the construction, traffic and congestion make me incredibly tense.

There are a lot of places in West Knoxville that I'd like to visit more often, but instead I generally only visit their counterparts here in East and North Knoxville.
There's nothing wrong with that persay, but I don't like the idea of this city becoming so compartmentalized along compass points. I don't think I'm alone in behaving this way. There are lots of West Knoxvillians who love our bookstore, but only visit every few months because they find travelling across town a chore. Throw in football traffic and impending bridge closings, and we might as well be in Virginia.

For now however, instead of complaining about what Knoxville doesn't have, I need to start using more of what it does have. I'm going to try to pick a few places I visit routinely and designate them as bus trips and see where that leads me.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Love Hurts

There are other ways, people.

This is the ring for people who would give someone the Big Mouth Billy Bass as a gift.

You know dude's gonna be in a great mood when it comes time to go out to dinner.

"Honey, you look amazi..OW!"
"Will you pass me that...OW! FUCK!"
"Hard to believe that it's been....SHIT!"


You know what would be funny though? If someone stole this ring, not knowing what it was, and happened to wear it on the anniversary date.
I know I'd probably be reformed pretty fast if the stuff I stole started cooking my flesh.

Don't Fergit, Babe

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Booker Books Part One (In Which I Allude to My Ignorance)


Even though I'm in the book business, I rarely keep up with the assorted national prize winners of various literary competitions. I try to go over the Newbery and Caldecott lists, so that I can make sure to keep some copies in stock, but that's about it.

Being ignorant about "important" books isn't an attractive characteristic in a book clerk, so this year I'm doing a little something about it.
I ordered one each of the Booker Prize finalists (their novels rather), and am going to try to read them all by the October 10th announcement date.

The Booker Prize, as I took the time to learn this year is (from their website):

"The Man Booker Prize for Fiction represents the very best in contemporary fiction. One of the world’s most prestigious awards, and one of incomparable influence, it continues to be the pinnacle of ambition for every fiction writer. It has the power to transform the fortunes of authors, and even publishers. In 2004, not only did Alan Hollinghurst’s The Line of Beauty reach the bestseller lists, but previous winners Life of Pi (2002) and Vernon God Little (2003) were also amongst the bestselling books of the year.


Now in its thirty-eighth year, the prize aims to reward the best novel of the year written by a citizen of the Commonwealth or the Republic of Ireland. The Man Booker judges are selected from the country’s finest critics, writers and academics to maintain the consistent excellence of the prize. The winner of the Man Booker Prize receives £50,000 and both the winner and the shortlisted authors are guaranteed a worldwide readership plus a dramatic increase in book sales."

I made it a point not to read any synopses of any of the books ahead of time, so as not to prejudice myself against something I think I might not like.

I got the first one in the mail yesterday: "Carry Me Down" by M.J. Hyland. I read the flyleaf and the story sounds intriquing. A boy makes a decision early in his life to become the world's most talented lie detector.

I try to be asleep each work night by midnight, but this book kept me awake until one. I'm only on page 37, and not much has happened yet, but something about the writing is completely compelling. I actually had dreams throughout the night that it was the best book ever written. (I also dreamed that my friend's dog was housed in a papier mache oracle that looked like a dragon). I woke up thinking wtf?
Of course it's not the best book ever. But it's pretty darned excellent.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Chit Chat




I'm considering posting a want ad on Craigslist for a deaf-mute hairdresser.

I require only two things from a person who cuts my hair: that they be skilled at cutting hair and that they don't stink.

They don't need to know the following...
(and they especially don't deserve to know the following if they're addressing me as if it's my first day of kindergarten):

Why I spell my name the way I do
What I'm doing after I get my hair cut
Where I went to school
Where I grew up
If I want to have children
My opinion of the weather
Where I went on vacation
Where I work
If I like my job
If I'm married
Where I got my purse
If it's my day off

I'm not being mean, really. It's just that I can't stand the kind of talk generated from obligation. She doesn't care what the answers are to any of those questions beyond whether they'll lead to more conversation.
And I'm not kidding about the kindergarten thing. Her over-dramatic exclamations of astonishment and fascination with each of my one word answers made my ears and brain hurt.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Valhalla


While driving home the other night, I saw a road sign proclaiming simply "Purple Heart Trail". I looked around; there's no obvious trail in sight. No explanation. Just a sign. Which kind of bugged me, because isn't the point of a sign to inform or educate? I mean I know what a Purple Heart is, but what the heck is the trail about?
So I finally looked it up on Google and I found out that The Purple Heart Trail is a nationwide effort at commemorating men and women who have died in combat while serving in the armed forces.
Nice sentiment. I guess. But it still seems useless to me. A person could drive from Mt. Vernon to California on the Purple Heart Trail and never learn the first thing about any of the people killed or any of the wars in which they served. It's a road. It's a trail. It's signage.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Tom Cruise

I absolutely hate Tom Cruise. Have for years. I can't even stand to look at a photo of him. It was a great day of celebrity news reporting recently when I read that Paramount had booted his contract, whatever the reasons. He isn't particularly good looking. He isn't particularly talented. Tom Cruise, ahem Mapother, is a cheesy bland brand of celebrity. He's absolutely one-dimensional. I hope he sinks to the bottom.
The best thing Tom Cruise could do for himself at this point is admit his homosexuality and just live a normal life being true to himself instead of trying to throw his weight around by PR'img himself to death with stupid transparent marriages and pregnancies, the same photos of him in his same ol' stupid two-inches-too-long sleeved leather jackets in various colors, the stupid high-octane publicity stunts, the same stupid interviews in which he condescends to the public on all manner of issues of which he's not an expert.
I just HATE him.
There are SO many hugely talented people in Hollywood that need a good role; let's give them a chance, shall we?

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Hikaru Dorodango

I can't tolerate bric-a-brac. Maybe I developed this attitude from growing up in a family of pack rat antique dealers, or maybe it's because as a pet owner, I can't own anything breakable and expect it to stick around long. As it is, too much stuff makes me edgy.

To ward off "home decor" wedding gifts, I insisted on Home Depot gift cards instead. It worked; I only recieved one scalloped candy dish, which I will never ever use and which now sits in the back of a cupboard.
But today I discovered what might just compel me to hang a shelf lined with useless objects:



Hikaru Dorodango

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Bad Parenting

So I was changing out the laundry the other day like I've done thousands of times before. I pushed the dryer button after loading the wet clothes and my dryer started bucking as if a bowling ball was inside. I let it go for about a minute and then opened the door only to see my youngest cat shoot out.
I've owned cats all my adult life and never imagined I could let something like that happen. Thank god he wasn't a kitten.
He actually seemed to enjoy the ride. For the next 20 minutes he continued racing around the house, highly excited.
My cat:

Monday, August 21, 2006

Friends

It's always sad when a group of friends gradually disband. My husband and I have attended an annual party for three years now; actually he has been going for seven.
The first year I was invited, we hung with a large group of my husband's friends and aquaintances. We set up a small central camp, built a bonfire and spent all day and night eating, laughing, playing volleyball and drinking ourselves silly. The next year was much the same with the same tight group.

This year however, only five of these folks made an appearance and never really seemed to unite. It changed the whole tone of the party. While the setting is unparalled (riverside, woods, gardens, music, camping, interesting people), it seems that what made this such an enjoyable event in the past was simply the company.

The reasons for the diminishing numbers are probably many; a break-up that formed alliances, a competing event that weekend, a change of job or residence etc..., but
I still found it kind of sad.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Hidden potential

Ever have a dream in which you're reading something and you think to yourself, 'Dang, that's clever. I wish I could come up with something like that', and then you wake up and think to yourself, 'Wait a minute....'?

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Heat Wave

This heat wave has gotten me thinking of my dismal year living in Tucson. I lived in an old railroad apartment complex down on 4th and was told my apartment was cooled with a swamp cooler. I had no idea what this was and assumed that when I hit the switch and heard a hum, that it was working as it was supposed to. Night after night, I would sit at my kitchen table, dripping and wilting in the oppressive heat. I'd soak my sheets in water before going to bed to stay cool and wake up with them bone dry.

I soon found out that the only thing my swamp cooler was good for was breeding mosquitos. I'd lay under the wet sheets with only my face exposed, and wake up each morning looking asian. I even bought a mandarin style dress for the days when I appeared particularly Chinese. I don't think any of my co-workers got the joke.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Absence

My husband is leaving tonight with a friend to Chicago for a few days. I'm totally cool with it and hopes he has a blast, but I already miss him.
Like I told him earlier, I'd rather miss him than not.
Sigh, I never thought I'd say the words, but I love being married.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Conquering the world

When I was a kid I was convinced that twist-ties were a magical puzzle that defied logic. When I wanted to make a sandwich I had to factor in an indeterminate amount of time to get the bread bag open because, well, twist-ties were wily unpredictable little buggers. They might let you in on your first try or mess with your head and keep changing directions.

At some point, I got it. I don't remember any big moment when it became clear, but they don't stand in my way of making lunch now.

Today I finally conquered another magical logic-defying foe. The box-cutter. While changing the blade, I found that sometimes it would fit perfectly into its slot on the first try and other times it seemed to have this extra 1/10th of an inch that rode up on the side of the blade slot. Like with the twist ties, I'd just keep trying and trying until it would inexplicably fit.

I got it.

Distraction

Lately I've been feeling the need to get centered. I'm running rings around the outside of myself. I'm pretty sure one thing that's going to have to go, at least for a while, is the computer. It's ridiculous, this magnetic pull to waste time.
Never have I had so much potential to create at my fingertips and done so little with it.
I'm thinking about trying to meditate again. I used to make myself spend about 15-20 minutes each morning with meditation, but it was an antsy enterprise. I think it was helpful though.
And I can't just turn to books. They're my other crack. I still get nothing done, but at least I can say I read a book.
No, it's gotta be something hands-on. And the handle of a beer mug doesn't count.

This little video is oddly inspiring (click on the baby):
IDEAS

Monday, June 26, 2006

The Past

Now that my husband plays baseball on a local amateur league, I now find myself at weekly games cheering from the stands. I share the bleachers with the wives and girlfriends of other teammates and sometimes fall into conversation. Last week, the girlfriend of the center fielder and her friend were giggling and "oh my goshing" over a magazine. I asked them what they were reading and they told me it was the Cosmo equivalent of Post Secret. They were particularly offended by one woman's admission that she didn't shave during the winter. "Can you imagine? How disgusting!"
Both girls, however, were in complete agreement with another submission, in which a woman admitted to finding and destroying all of her boyfriend's pictures of past girlfriends.
Ok, now I ain't the most ethical person around, but to me, personally, this is just me talking, DESTROYING YOUR BOYFRIEND'S PERSONAL BELONGINGS OUT OF A FITFUL RAMPAGE OF INSECURITY IS COMPLETELY WACKED!"

Of course I am the same girl, who when single, didn't shave her legs during the winter, so what do I know?

Morbid Musings

My husband and I, on the drive back from a major league baseball game, wondered aloud what would happen if the members of our favorite team were all killed in an airplane mishap.
Upon getting back to our computers, we did a little research and found that the list of celebrity aviation deaths is vast. For team deaths, see "collective":

ACCIDENTS

Capitalist Poetry

I stumbled onto a blog this morning whose creator has never taken the time to remove spam comments. And I have to say, some of them were really evocative:

lovelies localized involves:barked islets ringingly haunch phentermine

careers metamorphosis leech trilled handkerchiefs,gypsies

crediting macroeconomics,histograms?negotiable.marshmallow unsatisfiable

dales,making petition.unequaled excited nausea debt consolidation

niceness Greenfeld betroth constellation forearms affricates congregated credit card applications

Saturday, June 24, 2006

OCD

Working at a small store in a smallish town, I have the opportunity to see customers on a weekly basis. And being the sort of closet analyist that I am, I like to try my hand at learning something about who these people are. There are some things you can learn from a person's reading preferences. One guy who mainly buys Civil War histories is a reenactor, who's actually an extra on more than one History Channel documentary. Another, who buys mainly Boy Scout manuals, is predictably a Troop Leader. One guy managed to confuse me for over a year. He'd show up like clockwork each week wearing the exact same low-key outfit; his hair was always cut very very close to his head and never seemed to vary in length, and he'd always spend right at 50.00. He never spoke during that year and the books he bought were all over the place. I imagined him a monkish type with a passion for knowledge and a deliberately simple lifestyle. Once we got him talking though, he blew all my assumptions. He was a pastry chef, was trying to teach himself German, and had a really unexpected annoying laugh.

One thing for which I seem to tune into though is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. It's not hard to spot when you know what you're looking for, although the people who have it are quite adept at trying to hide their quirks. They'll usually distract you with corny jokes, an overabundance of small talk, or normal sounding excuses. After having dated a guy with an extreme case of OCD, as well as overcoming some mild symptoms of my own, I feel I'm more attuned to the signs.

There are three main forms that OCD takes, the checkers, the ritualists, and the germophobes. I was a ritualist. My rituals, while annoying, were mainly centered around putting things back in the right place (or bad things would happen). I'd also assign bad luck or good luck to pieces of jewelry or clothing based on my experiences while wearing them. A bad pair of earrings might never again see the light of day.
A checker, on the other hand, can never truly be confident that on is on and off is off. They are compelled to keep flipping switches, setting alarm clocks, and the oil level in their car until some illogical sense of completion or assurance is achieved.

One of my customers falls into the third category; that of the germophobe. Think of the character on Monk. He comes into the store and heads straight for the bathroom to wash his hands. Once he brings the books to the counter, he likes to make sure that I touch them minimally to get the price, and then wraps each book in two plastic bags sealed with tape. This went on for some time under the guise of "humidity and moisture damage", but one night, sensing I was a bit exasperated, he confessed that he had a problem with OCD. My exasperation hadn't been so much with the corrective procedures, but with the farce that he had been keeping up. We now have a good open understanding and I think he feels more comfortable asking for what he needs.

Another customer has trouble leaving the store. I'm not sure how much his movement through the store is dictated by OCD, but it's pretty obvious when he tries to leave.
He goes through a long drawn-out verbal interaction with both our store cats; has to track them both down and talk with and pet them. Then he goes out the door. Only to return and pretend he forgot to check on something. Then he leaves again empty handed. Then he comes back in. Sometimes he lingers just outside the door and fingers the handle for a moment. He usually gets it right after no more than three re-entrys. Once he's set, he's off like a shot to his car. I like to imagine he's trying to escape the evil pull of the store door.

I had one guy go into a hissy tirade when I put a bookmark inside his book and another eccentric always arrives wearing headphones and keeps them on during his entire visit. Yet another customer keeps ten check-books and ten pens under his sweater and chooses which ones to use based on a system only he understands.

So it makes me wonder sometimes; is the person that I just think of as an extensive browser instead actually "trapped" in the store? Did the person who bought a particular book buy it because they wanted it or because they were compelled to buy it? Is the person who's been browsing the outside books for over an hour in 90 degree heat doing so because they love a bargain or because the conditions haven't yet been met under which they can enter the store?

Monday, June 19, 2006

Bad Service

I saw my first major league baseball game this past weekend in Atlanta. Red Sox vs. Braves. My husband is the more passionate knowledgeable fan between us and he arranged the trip as a belated first anniversary gift. Not knowing how to get around in Atlanta, we booked a room within walking distance of the stadium. A hotel that touted itself as "Select", hosting a conference center and an "executive chef". We had high hopes. The hotel was indeed within walking distance, but that was about the only thing it could boast as having above and beyond any other hotel at which I've stayed.

After having been on the road for four hours, we went down to the lobby restaurant to have dinner before the evening game. It was early and there were only two other occupied tables. Nice decor, great overstuffed curved booth, nice menu. Our waitress was friendly and brought us water and asked us what we'd like to drink. We both enjoy a good beer, so we inquired about the beer selection. "Do you have any dark beers?" I asked. "We have Budweiser and Miller on tap", she replied. We asked what else there might be to choose from and she said she'd check with the bar. She comes back, happy to inform me that the restaurant has Bass, which is a "pretty dark beer". It's not. At all. But since we figured that that was the extent of the selection, we ordered two. She takes our food order. I ordered the stuffed flounder and my husband ordered a burger and fries. Cooked medium. She doesn't think the restaurant has any more flounder, but needs to go check. She comes back ten minutes later and tells me that yes, they do have the flounder. Ok. Order in. Ten minutes later, a different server arrives to tell me that no, they do not have any more flounder and hands me a menu to re-examine. As I'm trying to figure out what I'd like, our waitress returns to ask my husband again how he wanted his burger cooked. Our beers still haven't arrived. We decide to leave, rather than endure the entire incompetant overpriced experience. My husband, nice guy that he is, asks a restaurant employee for change for a 20.00, so that we can leave a tip for the waitress, despite the fact that all we consumed was some lemon water and some stale yeast rolls. TEN more minutes later, someone manages to track down change. We leave her a five and take off in search of dinner. Outside the hotel was a makeshift burger stand where most likely the same burger that we had just ordered for 12.00 inside was being cooked and served at record speed at half the price and none of the pretense.

The same night after walking back to the hotel after the game, we stopped in the hotel bar for a couple of beers. Not a large bar, but the room was packed. Three bartenders manned the bar and not one of them seemed to know the first thing about what they were doing. Each order was written first on paper and then the server would confusedly wander up and down the bar, trying to put it together. Once the drinks were poured, the server then consulted with both other employees and the computer for an eternity before the sale could be completed.
We first asked a server who seemed to be working the floor if we could order four Coronas to take up to our room (we still didn't know they had anything darker to drink). He referred us to "that girl on the end, who would take care of us". We sat at the end of the bar for half an hour waiting for that "girl at the end of the bar" to notice us before the same floor server came up and asked us what we wanted to order. We placed the same request and waited a while for him to bring our beers. Once the beers were in front of us, he then told us to "hang on" while he "got a price on that". Ten more minutes of waiting for our bill while he consulted the computer and his co-workers. Rather than endure whatever ridiculous wait there might be for change, we simply gave him our twenty and took off.

Day two. We get up at 8:00, shower and decide to order some room service breakfast. The menu proudly states a "Promise of Quality Service" or some such bullshit on the back. I place the call and our order at around 9:30; bagel and cream cheese, coffee, steak and eggs. The server tells us to expect a 25-30 minute delivery time. At 10:45, our food still hasn't arrived, nor has an explanation. We have a game to get to and we need to eat. My husband by now is furious and calls the restaurant, telling them to cancel the order and calling them inept. We eat hotdogs at the stadium.

Later that afternoon, back at the hotel bar after the game. After ordering yet another disgusting Budweiser, I look over and see that a customer is drinking *GASP* Guiness. I order a Guiness. It's actually cheaper than the Budweisers we've been choking down. The woman they have on duty this day is by herself and it's quickly obvious that she's far more skilled than the three morons from the night before. She's serving a room of 30-40 people and no one is having to wait more than 5 minutes for their beer. When she runs out of Guiness, she points me to a *GASP AGAIN* beer selection that includes my favorite beer, Beck's Dark. I'm finally happy. They had it all along, but no one before could figure it out. How hard was that?

How does a hotel that's trying to act all fancy pants with a stupid long-ass title, NOT prepare themselves properly when it's a HUGE baseball weekend with thousands of guests in from out of town? Why in God's name would you fill the work schedule with people who don't know jack squat about food or drink or how to find the answers to your basic questions? How do you run out of the ingredients for one of your five "specialities"? Why, on a night when your bar could efficiently serve hundreds of people and make a huge profit, would you staff it with imbeciles who only speak Budweiserese and can't work a room or the computer?

I'll probably never know the answer, but I do now know the name of a competing hotel nearby with lower rates, a free breakfast, and a free shuttle to the game.
To the hotel's credit?, they did offer us a free breakfast (which we declined) to make up for our bad experience, but my view on that is what good is it to give me more of your bad product/service to make up for your bad product/service?

Music (the minority report)

I have a dysfunctional relationship with music. I like it for the most part, I own a hefty volume of albums and CDs (which are gathering dust) and I've been to my share of concerts. What I don't get, is what feels to me like a societal obsession with it. Most everyone I know is fanatical about music. And probably most everyone I don't know. A local band can play the same venue every single week and not bore their fan base. Hundreds of new releases can hit the market monthly and music fans keep scrambling to sort the wheat from the chaff; to claim a new artist as their "latest discovery". Americans are kookoo for American Idol.

Most public places pipe in music for atmosphere. I get my hair cut to european techno (cause with this new doo, I'll be able to pull off clubbing with Paris and Lindsay), I buy groceries to Vivaldi (because I'm so damned cultured for choosing 2% milk), and I watch baseball to Trisha Yearwood and Garth Brooks (cause I love freedom dammit). A road trip comes up short without an exhaustively planned mix of tunes. And now with MP3 players, there doesn't seem to be a minute of the day that isn't accompanied by a soundtrack.

My co-worker is one of the aforementioned obsessives. He pulls up to work listening to something new he just burned on CD, walks in the door humming whatever he had just been listening to (the humming and soft-singing continues off an on all day), furtively checks several music related websites on his lunch break, including researching whatever bands are playing that night. At the end of the day, he immediately heads over to the local music store to plug in and sample some new releases and then it's off to see a band at a local club til' 2:00am.
I really just don't get it.

What is it about music that keeps people of all ages so continually enthusiastic and engaged? It seems as if people just can't own enough of it. I'm amazed that there's a huge market for a portable device that will hold 5000 songs. I'd be hard-pressed to put together 100.
My experience of the music scene is like having over 1000 channels of cable television, of which most are over-hyped crap, and the thought of sorting through them all to find one good show is simply exhausting.
I know there are countless bands and albums out there that I would adore, but I just don't have any interest in doing the research. And I probably wouldn't make the time to listen them much if I did own them.

Ok, I know I'm a freak. I like silence actually. A lot. I won't wear jewelry, handbags or shoes that have jangly parts, because I hate to hear the rhythmic noise they create when I walk.
I rarely play music at home. I have a really hard time thinking clearly when too much outside noise interferes. I can't even sleep when any music is playing; my brain just refuses to disengage from it. So maybe it's the way I'm wired.

I appreciate good music, but I just don't necessarily feel the need to own it. I kind of enjoy randomly stumbling upon a song I haven't heard in years, but I'm more like the kind of fisherman who removes the hook and throws it back. Maybe I'll catch it again, maybe I won't.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Judging

I haven't been posting these last few weeks because I've been assigned the role of first-round judge in a literary competition. I've spent my evenings reading through manuscripts of varying literary quality. Some were downright crappy, some were overly-ambitious or pointless, others were just plain dull as dirt. One manuscript has finally emerged however, as a clear favorite to send to the second round of judging.
The experience has been an odd one. I was happy at the start when I could confidently eliminate a novel after reading only one chapter. Then I dug a story out that was beautifully written, but just too similar to a memoir I read last year. At this point, I started dreading equally, on the one hand, having nothing from my batch to send on, and on the other, finding a gem that would require me to write a competent defense of its merits.
The gem was found and the defense is written. I feel really good about my choice and am looking forward to seeing how far it goes toward the prize.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Allen Kurzweil

Some years back came across a wonderful novel by Allen Kurzweil called "A Case of Curiosities". The setting: eighteenth century France. The main character, Claude Page, a young boy with a talent for drawing and a fascination for mechanics. The story: a rollicking adventure through Claude's apprenticeships to several questionable benefactors and tradesmen, including a lascivious abbe and a pornographic bookdealer. I found Kurzweil's own passion for minutiae and intricacy as well as silliness made for a great read. (Warning: if you decide to give Case of Curiosities a read, I would strongly suggest having a dictionary handy. The man loves words.)
So, today as I was pricing the new arrivals for the children's section, I found a young adult novel by Kurzweil called "Leon and the Spitting Image". I was really curious to see how Kurzweil's voice translated into the juvenile market. I'm only into the book about 20 pages, but so far it's pretty good. He got off to a slightly shaky start I thought; maybe dumbing things down a bit as he got comfortable with the genre. But as the main character, Leon Zeisel comes to life, the story is taking off. Present are the characteristic puns and love of word play as well as appropriately weird elements. I have no idea where the story is going, but I trust Kurzweil to take me on an enjoyable adventure.

Update: Finished the book and found it really enjoyable. I've even been inspired to take up embroidery again.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Hair

I believe that good hair is the ultimate accessory. Unfortunately I don't have it. Beautiful hair can transform a bad outfit to an "interesting" outfit, can make an unattractive person "stylish" and can subtract years from an aging face. It's an accessory that money can improve upon, but can't necessarily buy.

Which is why most of us women are rabid when it comes to spending way too much time and money on the appearance of our hair. Appearance being the operative word. Like a well-tailored black shirt that slims, good-looking hair is generally an illusion.

I've only met a few people who actually like and have a good relationship with their hair. Most people, regardless of how silky their locks, are more than willing to share with you the details of their daily styling nightmare.
Take the cute blonde I hung out with the other night; perfectly straight, shiny, bright blonde summery hair. I told her I thought her hair was really beautiful and then I learn that it's been colored, exhaustively ironed and then sprayed down to hide the fly-aways. She, on the other hand, admired my frizzy mop, which to even approach "ok", has to be doused with pricey shampoo/rinse-out conditioner/leave-in conditioner/styling gel and a brief stint with a hair dryer. And that's how it goes.

I blame media and advertising. For years we've all been sold on the idea of a magic formula that can fix whatever ails your hair. And it's all just bullshit. Either you were born with it or you have the time and money to make it look that way. That's the bottom line. No amount of "special brunette curl-enhancing, anti-frizz conditioning, color-boosting, shine-intensive serum" is going to put things right with my hair. I'll never be the adventurous cross-country chick who with one tug of her knotted 6-foot ponytail, can disassemble an entire burger stand, then playfully shake it off as she climbs back into the camper with her exquisitely hirsute companions. "We too, would feel your pain if it weren't for this product" is what the advertising companies want us to believe of thier models. Again, bullshit.

I go to an expensive salon every couple of months to get a cut and color. I foolishly get my hopes up each time. This will finally be the stylist who will scientifically factor in the shape of my face, the curl of my hair, my height, the color of my eyes, and the date of my birth in order to create a spectacular low-maintenance style that suits me perfectly. I want our interaction to be an intensive in-depth discussion as if my hair were an unsolved theorum of Einstein's and this young graduate from Beauty School is just the genius to solve it. Alas, I always leave looking pretty much the way I came in minus the gray and a couple of inches of dead-ends. Sometimes worse, because they don't seem to know what to do with my curls. I can see the sense of failure in their eyes as they pretend to admire the final results. "Don't you look pretty?"

I think a true test for beauty might be the reality show "Survivor". A month in the wilderness without proper sleep, showers and primping quickly shows us what we are all an apocalypse or a paycheck away from.

I envy my husband. My nickname for him is "The Cat" because like a cat, he can wake up and look exactly the way he did when he went to sleep. He shaves his head to a barely-there quarter-inch. He can do this himself without having to spend a ton of money on a stylist. He can make a bottle of .99 cent shampoo last for months. Unfortunately, I don't have the bone structure of a Sinead or Portman to pull this dream off.

I fantasize about wigs. Not the cheap "grandma going to church" wigs, but whole wardrobe of them such as they might have at SNL. Black women don't feel any shame for wearing what is obviously fake hair; it's just another accessory. I can't wait until we white women come to the same conclusion. I want about twenty of them; long, short, straight, curly, blonde, red, brunette. How fun would that be?

I like my hair for the most part. It has its merits. And I'm sure that if some other woman were in charge of it, she could make it look pretty rockin'. I'm just not that patient. And even though I know it's a futile farce, I'll still keep spending too much money on styling products and still let myself occasionally believe that everyone around me just came by it naturally.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Clockwork

I haven't used an alarm clock in years, but every morning, despite whatever activities I indulged in the night before, I'm up by 8:00. Why is that? Let me set the scene. Around 7:15, my four cats begin performing their daily, hunger-fueled passion play. Gosalyn, the aging tabby, jumps onto my wobbly nightstand and proceeds to gently rock it back and forth, all the while monitoring my level of somulance. If she decides I'm not sufficiently engaged in her antics, she'll start batting the metal chain switches on the tableside lamp. This is the cue for Nguyendell, our youngest to begin his clumsy patrol of the headboard. Back and forth, back and forth he saunters, generating the sound of claws scrabbling against wood and balance-correcting maneuvers. Now Nippy hops up onto the foot of the bed to see how he can contribute. He's fat and sweet and contents himself to sniff gently at my face, tickling me with his whiskers. He punctuates this with soft, breathy baby mews, right in my ear. The final participant is Lena. She has no particular routine, but somehow manages to incite a WWF cat throw-down. Suddenly there are cats wrestling all over the bed, popping each other with deft rabbitty kicks. Just this month, they've added a new knock-out move to assure I'll get my ass out of bed. Whichever cat can manage it will climb atop the headboard and then leap off, landing square on my chest. At this point I join in with a loud stream of pre-coffee sailor smack and send them flying in all directions.
I'm amazed at their creativity and persistance. Just this morning, Nguyendell discovered that he can actually climb up into the boxsprings through a hole in the netting. I felt like the character from The Princess and the Pea as I felt his head butting up against the underside of my body.
You got cats? You know what I'm talking about.
As annoying as it is, it's reliable and often cracks me up. I haven't been late for work in years.
You can view my little buggery brood here:
CATS

Friday, May 05, 2006

Valley of the Moon

Ever wonder what you could accomplish if you really set your mind to it and devoted all your spare time to one endeavor? When I lived in Tucson, a friend encouraged me to visit The Valley of the Moon. By day, a flat, relatively non-descript, fenced-in lot dotted with a few handmade "buildings". But by night, it is completely transformed into an incredibly magical and unique environment.
George Phar Legler, the creator of the Valley, was a career mailman who spent all his spare time and money on his vision. The vision? Nothing short of a wonderland. Using crude materials such as concrete, glass bottles, coins, and stone, he single-handedly sculpted and dug his way through the property to create paths, grottos, huts, an ampitheater and underground passages.
I arrived, as instructed, at dusk. The guide coralled our small group to a waiting area as the stage was being set for the evening's performance. The surroundings were bleak and unimpressive. As night fell however, twinkling lights sprung up along vague shadowy paths. We were set to begin our journey. The guide carried a torch and led us to the first character in our Alicesque adventure; I believe it was the white rabbit. Here in the Valley, he had his own perch along a crude handmade wall which sparkled as the light hit on bits of colored glass and old coins. The rabbit told his bit of the story then dashed off and we proceeded along down more mysterious winding paths to encounter a cheshire cat, a hookah smoking worm and various other creatures. The details of the "play" have become fuzzy for me over the years, but what remains clear was the sense of magic that infused the whole experience. You don't find that often as an adult, but the Valley postively dripped with it. About midway through our tour, we were settled into a wondrous man-made hut. The building was round with a thatched roof. A large fishpond took up a third of the room, fed by a rocky waterfall. Small white christmas lights strung overhead bathed the room with an intimate warmth. There were about ten of us that sat inside, and I don't think any of us ever wanted to leave.
Another remarkable feature of the Valley are the underground rooms. Mr. Legler was known for his fascination with burrows and interconnected passageways. We entered a little stone house and were led down a stairwell of worn dirt steps. The guide told us that these passageways covered much of the property, but because George wasn't exactly an engineer, they were too unsafe for us to walk through. This particular one was reinforced and took us a short way where we emerged near the ampitheater for the farewell. At every point along this journey, regardless of the story being performed, there are countless details to hold your attention. A folk artist of the highest order, George Legler carved and decorated every surface with whatever bits and pieces he could scavenge.
For years George lived his dream, hosting magical performances for schoolchildren. His age and health took their toll though, and he quietly faded from public view. Sometime during the late 1980's, a few area students began to reminisce about the Valley and took it upon themselves to find out what had happened to George. They went back to the Valley, which was by now much neglected and overgrown. There, they discovered George living in his underground passages, malnourished from his diet of evaporated milk and vitamins. He was transferred to a nursing home and a group of concerned citizens took it upon themselves to restore the Valley for a new generation of children. And there you have it. I highly recommend a visit if you find yourself in Tucson. It's something you and your family will never ever forget.

Links to more info:
Valley of the Moon Homepage
Volunteer Page
News Article