Friday, August 29, 2008


Yesterday Emily and I lamented over lunch. We were gloomy. We were despondent. We, at the ripe old age of twentysomethings, were jaded with cynicism.

“He belongs on a toothpaste commercial,” I complained, dipping another chip into the homemade salsa from “La Casa de Jose.”

“I know.” She looked melancholy.

“Emily, I’m actually a little jealous.”

“That’s exactly the way I feel!” She looked startled.

We weren’t talking about men, in the “Sex and the City” sense.

We were talking politics.

Mitt Romney was being touted as the likely VP choice of John McCain’s candidacy. Pawlenty, Romney, they all had the same problem: they looked exactly like everyone else in the GOP leadership: white. male.


But both Emily and I stand hard and fast on ethical issues like abortion, so we couldn’t bring ourselves to what felt like the political version of cross-dressers: the opaque descriptors “Reagan democrats” or “Obama republicans” just wasn’t going to do it for us.

I liked a lot of McCain’s stances, especially his moderate position on immigration. What we both were feeling was fatigue with a seemingly oblivious party. “Build your platform!” encourages one GOP website that takes suggestions from anyone willing to invest the time to think up a user name and password. But all the leaders pictured on the bloggy-esque website? Male. Male. Male. White. White. White. Old. Old. Really old.

I like men. I like white men. I like old white men.

But I’m not a man. And the party leadership, in my opinion, didn’t reflect the minorities and genders that actually make up voters.

So there we sat yesterday, and as I sipped my sangria soda from Jose’s, the familiar feeling crept over me.

I was never going to get my Red Ryder B.B. gun.

Ralphie and I would be consigned to the same dark fate. What seemed like a lifetime of “you’ll shoot your eye out!” comments was adding up. Santa wouldn’t bring it. The teacher wouldn’t condone it. The parents wouldn’t risk it. On Christmas morning, we would open the presents under the tree, but the only notable gift would end up being a pink bunny suit too absurd to wear.

What a lousy time to be a Republican. Forget the elephant mascot, I may as well have been wearing a pink bunny suit with no hope in sight of getting to take it off. The other kids would get their B.B. guns. But I would be lucky just to never have to wear the suit again.

It got worse in the evening.

The Democratic National Convention may as well have been “Beijing Olympics: Part II.” They may as well have had Michael Phelps and that cool tae kwon do family. They had sushi. We had fish sticks. They had Michael Phelps. We had the synchronized swimmers. They had Tiger Woods. We had Happy Gilmore.

I went to bed with a tiny corner of my mind hoping the Red Ryder B.B. gun would be waiting for me under the tree. But I was resigned to the pink bunny suit.

Oh, the difference 24 hours can make.

Visiting for the weekend, my father-in-law was the first messenger of hope, announcing that the internet was screaming with speculation about McCain’s VP choice. A woman named Sarah Palin was overthrowing all assumptions about Romney. Her stock was up. And though ABC had announced she was still in Alaska for the State Fair, a few Alaskan bloggers wryly bounced back with the news that the State Fair had been over for several days.

The pink bunny suit began to retreat.

The rest of the morning was spent eating cinnamon rolls and listening to David’s updates as he bounced back and forth between the living room and the computer room.

What’s that way back behind the Christmas tree?

David reported that several major news sources were confirming the story, but through anonymous tipsters.

Then the phone started ringing. Mom reported that it was confirmed online. Then I started calling people.

There’s one more present?

At 11:30 we turned the TV on mute and waited hopefully for the scheduled noon announcement. Blast not having cable! Finally the reports about fires and bank robberies ceased.

McCain was grinning. Not smiling. Grinning. As he began to describe his VP, the supporters behind him on the stage listened. Apparently they’d missed all the hoopla this morning, because as soon as he transitioned to female pronouns – “she” has led this, and “her” parents did that, a woman right over his shoulder in the background swung her head around to her friends, her jaw literally dropped, mouth open. The further he continued his introduction, the more excited she got. It looked like she was going to pee her pants. I hope they feature her on all future campaign commercials.

Red Ryder B.B. gun being unwrapped…

We started clapping when Sarah Palin came forward. My mother-in-law and I immediately decided to buy bumper stickers. I started talking about making McCain-Palin shirts for the dogs.

The networks tried to “shoot our eyes out” when they dropped the coverage when she began speaking and went back to the urgent coverage of the local chemical leak, a bank robbery, and a rerun of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” No matter that they showed all of Biden’s speech. No matter that this was a historical moment. Nothing was going to loosen our grip on the new, shiny, Red Ryder B.B. gun.

My goosebumps and I looked at Joy. “Finally! A VP who wears mascara!” Take that, pink bunny suit.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

This Is a Lemon Pie. This Is Not a Lemon Pie.

It slices! It dices! It makes your life worth living! You, yes you, can make this handy-dandy lemon pie. But right now, folks, not only can you make this pie, your 8-year-old can make this lemon deliciousness!

Alright, that's my life's worth of sounding like an infomercial.

But you really do have to try this pie.

It's from the marvelous "Mitford Cookbook," a collection of recipes that sprang from Jan Karon's marvelous Mitford series. If you haven't read the books, read them. If you haven't made the pie, make it.


Here we go:

Puny's Lemon Pie
1 8-oz. package of soft cream cheese
1 14-oz. can of sweetened condensed milk
1 6-oz. can of thawed frozen lemonade
1/4 c. fresh lemon juice
1 graham cracker crust
1 c. whipping (or heavy) cream
2 T. confectioner's sugar

~Avoid getting pulled over for having expired tags on way to grocery store
~Then combine cream cheese, condensed milk, and stir til smooth.
~Add lemonade & lemon juice, mix well.
~Spoon lemon filling into prepared crust
~Chill until set, about 4 hours
~Whip cream with confectioner's sugar until stiff peaks form
~Serve pie with whipped cream on top
* If you wish, substitute basic meringue for whipped cream

This is the fabled pie, sitting comfortably in my fridge.

This is not a pie. This is the giant remote control that John brought home one day.
Pros: it's so big the dogs don't try to eat it.
Cons: it's so big I have to use both hands to operate it.

This is not a pie, either. It's what made my brother scream one night in the kitchen when he came over to watch the fascinating film-noir-in-high-school flick, "Brick."
Of course, we had to pause it when the screaming began. "What's wrong?" I was worried.
"LOOK. AT. THIS! LOOK AT THIS!I JUST GOT A HUGE CHUNK OF PURE PEANUT BUTTER FLAVOR IN MY CAP'N CRUNCH! I THOUGHT IT WAS CRAP AT FIRST. BUT IT'S PEANUT BUTTER FLAVOR!"Further inspection revealed that it was, in fact, peanut butter flavor chunked up by accident in a box of Cap'n Crunch, and not, as he thought, crap.

This is not a pie. It is a marvelous red lamp I bought at a garage sale for $5, or $2.50, I don't remember. But it had no shade, so it sat, sat, sat, lonely and unused.
Until I bought a shade.
I did not, however, buy this shade.
I bought the shade underneath, a cheap whitish affair.
Then I covered it in some of my favorite fabric.
You see, that pattern used to be part of a sheet set.
A wonderful, glorious sheet set that I bought on clearance at Target.
But then I got married, and the delightful twin sheets would no longer fit on the nuptial bed.
Blast! I thought, what will come of my lovely sheets I got on clearance at Target?
This. This and the lining of a purse, and cheerful, bright shelf lining on my new craft shelves in the old computer room/new guest room that we got ready for my new in-laws who are visiting for the first time this weekend.
The moral of the story is, don't despair if you think you've lost the use of one of your favorite items. Do, however, check online to see how to cover a lampshade before assuming that sewing the fabric on is the best bet, because although it works pragmatically, it took me one and a half Harry Potter movies to get it done, and my finger still bears some marks from trying to get the needle through the lampshade.
Still, not a bad use for some favorite ol' fabric.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Swing Vote: Michael Scott

There's a lot of chatter right now about Pennsylvania.
The other day, someone commented that Obama's VP pick, Joe Biden, is from Delaware, yes - but right next to Philadelphia, which is why he's often called the "third senator from Pennsylvania."

I know this should matter.

But politics is not what I thought of when I addressed an envelope today to someone in Pennsylvania.

I thought of Scranton, and Michael Scott, and I wondered how far Scranton is from the addressee, and whether there will be any more "Office" festivals held there in the next year.

Because my favorite show is set in Scranton, Pennsylvania.

Unbelievably, the show's faux company, Dunder Mifflin, raised really money for charity recently - see, you can join Dunder Mifflin Infinity "offices" online. And by doing so, a bunch of people raised money for lymphoma.

Take that, Michael Scott's Fun Run for the Rabid.

But what if Steve Carell's character, branch manager Michael Scott, was a delegate? Or super-delegate? Or what if he, instead of Kevin Costner, held the swing vote in his hand?

Turns out that's partly how he plays the bumbling, often well-meaning but sometimes a downright jerk boss. Kind of. Carell noted in one interview that the creators encouraged him to think of the character, who leads around a documentary camera crew, as pitching himself and his business to Jennifer Aniston. Much of the humor, then, comes not only from the painfully familiar awkward office moments that occur around cubicles everyday, but from the acute awareness Michael constantly has that he's playing to an audience. The more you watch it, the more clear it becomes that a lot of the brilliance of the show is the implied impact the camera has on the "workers." They act differently because of the camera - like real people would - instead of attempting to ignore its presence, the way actors usually have to, or playing to its presence, the way great actors do.

Much griping has been registered during the last eight years. No, Bush wasn't a great CEO. No, he didn't get good grades.

But it could be worse.

Michael Scott could have the swing vote.

Monday, August 25, 2008

A Thin Sliver

A thin sliver of moments is dedicated to the poignant. The truly sublime, the truly bittersweet, the excellently ephemeral. It seems to me that the poignant is related closely to something indescribably beautiful and temporary. It recognizes the driving necessity of losing the valuable when you're caught in the finite cage of space and time.

Finding beauty right as its expiration date approaches; losing something valuable only after you've discovered its value; even knowing that moments of beauty will pass as time gathers up the cards to be reshuffled.

But losing beauty doesn't mean that it has decayed; rather, it has vanished. Lost beauty does not mean destruction, but rather, perhaps, absence. It is this absence that pangs.

When is the last time you witnessed something beautiful, and felt tears prick your eyes? Was it an event, an act of courage, a piece of art, a rare occasion? Our lives will feel more full, more overflowing, more abundant, the more we choose to treasure the rare moments when beauty reveals itself to us, standing at the threshold of the infinite. A life worth living is a life worth observing. Our lives add to the universal mural depicting mankind's existence. But sometimes it is necessary to stand back and allow ourselves to remember that when it comes to the infinite, we are mere observers; we are limited in what we can evoke in people; we are infinite in what can be evoked in us.

Go, then, to fill your cup in the ever-running stream. Be free to form a castle from the sand. And live a life worth mourning when it passes.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Frightening Friday

Oooooooh. Spooky.
There was no Murder Monday. Murder Monday was murdered by a migraine.
Instead, there is Frightening Friday. Check out previous Murder Mondays to catch up with Elle and the gang.

A small white cat named "Tabby" by an insistent five year old looked both ways before crossing the street. Its purple leopard print collar hung in shreds around Tabby's neck where she had tried to remove the tacky accessory. But five year olds are notoriously insistent.

Tabby had her eye on a house where her friends told her a nice lady lived. A nice lady with a cat, and 57 houseplants. Tabby could not take any more Dum Dums stuck in her hair, any more pudding spilled on her back, anymore My Little Ponies buried in her litter box. Enough was enough. She had better things to do with her nine lives.

Tabby caught sight of a fluttering yellow tape and batted at it for a moment before remembering that it was unseemly to play in public. Recovering her dignity, she went up the steps and began what she hoped was plaintive howling, scratching pathetically on the door in hopes of some Fancy Feast, or even commoners' Purina.

But no one answered. Not to be dissuaded, Tabby curled up on the porch, attempting to look cold and alone. By the time she couldn't stand the chilled concrete anymore, she was thoroughly disgusted. Humans would simply never be trained.

Tabby decided to run to the back of the house, in hopes of a friendly, communal stray cat bowl. Such items were not unheard of. Instead, she was startled by a watchful sentry of fourteen pink flamingoes speared into the ground around a patio with garishly colored planters containing dead marigolds. Tabby hated marigolds. She sniffed around a puddle where the downspout met the mud underneath and eyed the dirtied siding. She was beginning to think she'd been grossly misinformed about the catliness of this lady when a loud purring approached. A warm engine heating the hood of a vehicle lured Tabby towards the shrub where the tiny car had parked. She thought it a nice place to nap if it was going to stay awhile. But the human was not a woman, so she despaired of being let into a toasty home.

To Tabby's surprise, however, the human glanced around, then ducked his head and began to walk across the yard. Tabby found it time to make her presence known.

"Mwaaaaaah," she breathed in her most seductive feline tones.

But the nasty human didn't even look.


She raised an eyebrow stiffly in the direction of the offender and followed behind his footsteps. A moment of confusion met Tabby when she saw the man take his hand from his pocket and do something to the doorknob. Just before the door swung shut, Tabby scooted in behind him, unseen.

Here were welcoming smells: cat hair, cat food, cat litter box. The lady must be housebroken, Tabby determined. As the man walked into the kitchen, he looked around with disgust. True, the human wasn't of tidy habits, Tabby noted, but that gave the cats all the more freedom. She decided to make it her home, and pawed at a banana peel that had fallen out of the garbage. When the human had disappeared into another room, she leapt onto the counter and landed squarely by a coffeemaker with stale Folgers brew sitting in the carafe, beginning to mold on its surface. She stepped gingerly over a stack of last year's coupons, sniffed the crumbs around the toaster, ignored a bag of half-eaten potato chips, and flicked her tail in disdain at an, curling fly swatter. But one item caught her curiosity; just as she began to paw at it, a rough hand caught her around the stomach.

"Found it for me, did you?" a rough voice churned. Tabby's heartbeat quickened. This was not a human who had ever bought cat food, she could tell. In fact, she quickly suspected he only spent his time with foul canines. She hissed and jumped from his chapped hand before he could catch her.

As he stomped from the kitchen and back to the warm engine sitting next to the hedge, Tabby crept from her respite under a kitchen chair and rubbed her back against the refrigerator. Despite the curiosity almost killing the cat, the intruder was gone. She could now make herself at home.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Battle of the Bells

Most people discussing worship wars in the church don't even think about the bells.
Apparently some in Rome are:

Rome’s battle of the bells

When's the last time you heard church bells chiming, ringing, or tolling? In a movie? In a small town? Have you even heard them at a wedding recently?Now that everyone has individualized clocks and alarms, is there a need for the church belfry? Fire brigades have radios and walkie talkies, and if we have to wait til we hear church bells to alarm us of enemy troops invading, well, we're in more trouble than we bargained for.But I contend that we should Bring Back the Bells.

Here are a few reasons.

1.) They are a public announcement of a theological matter. Though bells used to communicate quite specific information based on how they were rung, they can still echo the spiritual truths taking place in a physical situation - at birth, death, or marriage, for instance. One of the most mournful funeral rites I ever witnessed was the tolling of the bells in London the day of Princess Diana's funeral. The insistent, deep, bass tolling echoed around the quiet streets and squares. It alerted the community that deep mourning should be observed. It signaled adults and children alike that a sober occasion was taking place. It allowed the masses to stop and acknowledge communal sorrow.

2.) They are a communal experience. So many personal gadgets buzz, vibrate and alarm that it is comforting to hear a church's bells ring out the hours. In one small town I lived in, I could kneel in the backyard flowerbed and hear the Catholic church's bells chime the hour. I not only knew what time it was - with hands deep in soil, I also pictured the stately church. I didn't have to be Catholic to have my mind drawn to the image of the church, and my soul settled into an eased contentment. The same church alerted the community to the passing of its members, too, when bells tolled at funerals or spun into rhythms of celebration at weddings. Not only did the church doors swing back and forth with activity, the whole town knew that things were happening at that church. What a pleasant, background witness.

3.) They are a link to our ancestors. Many are the stories anchoring our past of bells: the Christmas hymn, "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day," the bells that rung out in the background of an old poem about Paul Revere. Old black and white movies clang with the sound of bells awaking citizens to go fight fires. I completely support gathering churches into whatever structures is available to the community. But if you're going to build a new church, please, consider bells. One of my favorite memories from my wedding, on a cold, January evening, was hearing the bells of the church ring out in clamorous joy. There's something so lively about having access to an instrument that can make so much more noise than you yourself are able to alone.

Next time you hear about worship wars, smile, and innocently ask, "oh, something wrong with your bells"?

John Adams, Master Chief, Carl Brashear

Three men are dominating my time this week:

John Adams.
Master Chief.
Carl Brashear.

Now, technically, Carl Brashear was a Master Chief. In the Navy. But I speak of a different one, oh yes, oh yes.

John Adams: People, HBO has come out with a hum-dinger of a miniseries on this founding father. It makes my toes curl in glee. Yesterday, I rented the first few parts of the series. It's so good I can't wait to go home and watch some more. Paul Giamatti and Laura Linney portray John and Abigail Adams, and I admit to a bit of skepticism: playing iconic founding citizens of the country requires a lot of flexibility as an actor, when it's a period piece, when you're not imitating a person who was alive, to mimic his or her accent, mannerisms or expressions.

It's stunning. The first episode eases you into familiarity with the time period, the characters, and the character of the characters. But then somehow it's several hours later and you look up and blink and it's dark outside. Executive Producer Tom Hanks lends quality to everything he does. So far, here are a few observations:

~"John Adams" succeeds in being strongly biographical; that is to say, it illuminates the historical events going on by portraying the personalities that moved them with keen fascination. It is historically driven, in terms of accuracy, but it is personality driven, so far, in the movement of the plot.

~"John Adams" succeeds in showing both the courage and the frailty of men and women that we're used to hearing either idolized or demonized. Patriots hate hearing anything disparaging about the founding fathers; revisionists leave little room for praise. The key, once again, is that the plot moves along very personal scenes: John Adams was one man who found himself in Boston at a critical juncture.

~"John Adams" succeeds in thereby avoiding an agenda that feels forced on the script. It is not a treatise on weapons of mass destruction, Barack Obama, or John McCain. It tells a story - but it sticks to that story, not forcing sermons on today's events. This, indeed, is one of the elements of quality to it, and this is also something I respect so much about Tom Hanks. He appreciates history for what it is. And whatever his political persuasions, I appreciate that.

~"John Adams" succeeds because no corners were cut. I have no idea the cost of creating a miniseries with top actors, amazing special effects, period costumes, and so on, but this is neither an ego-driven special effects experiment, nor is it a hack-job reminiscent of some 1980's PBS productions. And may I just say how authentic - but unusual - it is to see the lead actress in makeup that looks like she's not wearing a drop. Of course, any woman knows she's at least wearing foundation, but that is it. No mascara on fair-skinned Laura Linney. Many times so-called period dramas fudge on this issue, and one wonders how Nicole Kidman could have access to lipstick in such remote places. No suspiciously ornate hair-do's, either, that a woman could never practically arrange with her own two hands out on a farm. Thank you, authenticity.

Rent, check out, or buy "John Adams". It's not for young children - there are some scary scenes of war violence, a pox epidemic, a war wound at sea, and a rather gruesome tar and feathering - and that's only in the first three parts, or episodes. But they're not extended, so sensitive viewers can easily take a sip of tea (recommended viewing beverage) or study their fingernails for a moment.

Master Chief: If you have ever seen or played the outrageously popular video game "Halo," or any of its sequels, you have seen Master Chief. In fact, in the first installment, he was the only character you could play. It deeply scarred my psyche when I learned you could be an alien in later sequels.

Now I know what you're thinking: she doesn't know what she's talking about, look at her, she likes mysteries and theology and hot chocolate.

But oh, my friend, you would be wrong.

You see, I have a brother. And most of his teenage years, the only way to spend time with him was to play video games.
I played Tekken. I played Gran Turismo. I lost Gran Turismo. I never used the brakes.

And then Halo came out.

Halo was responsible for burning the chicken on the grill one night. Notice I say it was the game, and not me and my brother, who both forgot the chicken while slaying aliens.

Halo was responsible for dry contacts. Intense battle scenes left me staring at the TV screen without blinking for extended periods of time. I wasn't good enough to not get killed a lot of the time, so I really had to concentrate.

Well, my sweet brother's birthday is a-comin', and wouldn't you know it, he's actually in the area for once, so I've decided to throw him a Halo-themed birthday party. And I spent quite a while today trying to find a large cardboard stand-up of Master Chief.

Video game store workers all around central Kentucky are still laughing. "Are you kidding? We didn't even get one when the last game came out, man." Gen Y-ers have an interesting comfortability with calling everyone man.

And eBay's only offer is a whopping $60. My Microsoft-Excel-swamped friend suggested I make one.

A brief vision of a hastily constructed, crappy as all get out cardboard video game figure flitted briefly in my mind. I can't imagine it would be a Good Thing, to paraphrase Martha Stewart.

Carl Brashear: John and I watched "Men of Honor" the other day, a Cuba Gooding, Jr./de Niro film about the struggles of black diver right after desegregation of the Navy. Carl Brashear became the first African-American Master Chief, ever - and the first diver with an amputation, after an accident on board.

The man worked hard to join a formerly all-white Navy diving school, and let me just say, having access to the technology we do today, it is scary realizing what our armed forces used to use. Those diving suits were ridiculous.

While parts of the film are fictionally amplified, most of the main points remained true to life.

John Adams, Master Chief, Carl Brashear. I hope you acquaint yourself with at least one of them over the next few weeks.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Half My Kingdom for a Dyson Printer

Yesterday, the fiery chariot from "The Mummy" that comes to suck your soul out of you took me for a ride through Dante's seven or nine or however many rings of Hades and there was a baby crying in the front seat while country music blared.

That's what a migraine feels like.

So my chum called because I wasn't at work and she and another chum had stopped by to delight me by having lunch with me only I wasn't there because I was on about level five of Hades between "Some Beach" and "Boot Scootin' Boogie," and the hands of the damned were curling around my ankles trying to pull me in, like that scene from "What Dreams May Come." Or maybe I'm thinking of "The Mummy" again.

Here's the probl-ay-mo: I never remember to get migraine medicine from the doctor because they only come once every few months. But then, one comes, and I'm off to Dante's Inferno.

So I called chum Emily to see why she had called, after sleeping off levels four, five and six of Hades in the afternoon.

She had a printer story.

Now, I confess: I. Hate. Printers. Of all office supplies everywhere, printers evoke deep levels of rage that I'm ashamed to admit I even harbor. Spikes of violence come shooting through my blood pressure, and I long for baseball bats, bulldozers, and large plate glass windows through which to heave errant printers.

I didn't used to have such a gut reaction. Then I worked in the office of a car dealership, where one printer was shared by quite a few users. If a slight breeze eased through an open door, it wouldn't work right. If more than one job was sent at the same time, it didn't work right. If a kangaroo in the outback sneezed on a full moon, it didn't work. It was after spending time fantasizing about throwing it through the showroom windows that I saw "Office Space" for the first time. Then I knew.

I knew I wasn't alone.

Back to Emily's new office printer. Her office purchased a new printer, and sprang for an extra hundred bucks, because this would bump them up to the next level of printer: one with memory and a double-sided printing feature.

Want to know what the double-sided printing feature was?

Well, do you?

You know already, don't you?

It was instructions - instructions - on how to re-feed the paper back into the printer to copy on the other side. You know, the way you do when you don't have a DOUBLE-SIDED PRINTING FEATURE.

Now, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I propose that printers need drastically retooled. Now. They are the bane of my computer-user existence.

And then I think of Dyson: those lovely commercials with the calm British man explaining that vacuum design has remained largely unchanged for decades, with one terrible flaw: the longer you use the vacuum, the more suction is reduced because of the bag filling. So he and his team of engineers addressed the problem by totally revamping the idea of how vacuum cleaners work. Result? Wind-tunnel Dyson vacuums. He completely re-approached the situation and revolutionized Vacuuming As We Know It.

Half my kingdom for a Dyson Printer!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Monologue & Memoirs

Well, in a classic twist of fate, Murder Monday was murdered by a migraine. It will be transformed into Tales of Trauma Tuesday this week. You can meet Murder Monday next Monday because no murderous migraines better mess with my melon meanwhile.

Instead of our regularly scheduled murder, we'll have a monologue and memoirs. The memoirs were written at least six years ago. The monologue happened like this:

Angie: aaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhh I'm so busy with classes and I need a monologue to memorize for class tomorrow and I haven't even found one yet aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhh write me a monologue. I need it in twenty minutes. Call it "Darn It All."

Me: OK.

And then I did. It was wonderful to see her reaction to this. Moreover, she loved it.

Without further ado, we'll roll the tape of the memoirs and monologue. The memoirs move in a vignette-fashion.

I learned to drive in Flint, Michigan. My first time on the freeway, the instructor made me exit and reenter. “You need to go a lot faster” he warned. A drivers ed instructor telling a student to go faster? Fine, I thought, punching the gas. “That’s more like it!” he exclaims, settling back with a satisfied smile. Those early lessons still come in handy, something I can pull out when circumstances demand, like moving to a big city for the summer.
When I took the internship, I hadn’t considered the contrast between the small towns that I had grown up in and the rapidly growing metro area I was headed for. Dogs barking, sirens screaming, horns honking, bottles crashing, shouts echoing, a million noises screaming for attention. And city traffic, frank in its insistence that you move the second the light turns. And yet, Madison lulls its citizens into feeling that they are entering a small town with all the bells and whistles of a city. It is a gentle backdrop to new moments birthed in the small triumphs and successes that turn a kid into a grown-up. It is patient with its daughters whose scraped knees expose our recent attempts to stand on our own two feet. The city’s rhythm sways easily to the inner tune that pushes and pulls the fragile introspective, eager to raise from the pavement and begin again. It’s been a long road here.
Perching on a stool, I carefully nibble a peanut, my eyes following the deft movements of a brush quickly uncovering colors hidden in the canvas. He leans back, shifting his weight, eyes his work, and starts again.
“Dad, what’s that called?”
“A moll stick.”
“Moll stick…” I feel the words, tilting my head. The canvas bounces. Ernie Harwell crackles the radio waves, bringing the Tigers’ game right into our sunny studio. We can pick up WJR in central Indiana all the way from Detroit.
Shapes slowly emerge from the brown background – Burnt Umber, squeezed from a metal Grumbacher tube sharp with creases. He pauses, caught by the stadium action traveling over the radio.
“He rounds second…OH, the ball is fumbled…He rounds third, OH, and another run for the Tigers.” Dad shouts and the game resumes, accompanied by faint shouts from the hot dog vendors and rowdy fans in the background. I carefully ease myself down from the tall black stool and head to My Corner. A custom-crafted Hobbit House sits there, an appliance box in its former lifetime. Now, shutters and a door are cut, which I can push open and shut as I please. I stack my plastic tea set in the corner; there is just enough room for me, a hobbit-sized human. When Ernie Harwell and Paul Carey aren’t bringing us the game, J.R.R. Tolkein inhabits the space, tales coming to life from the tape player. “In a hole, in the ground, there lived a hobbit. It was not a dirty, wet hole, nor a dry, sandy hole. It was a hobbit hole. And that means comfort.” Soon goblins would invade the studio, though I often ignored them and kept coloring.
Dad is a self-employed professional artist, and mom a stay-at-home mom before staying at home and being a mom is trendy. I am happy having both parents at hand, capering around the house and yard, watching the excitement at the arrival of our first aquarium and fish, watching Sesame Street before we owned a VCR, watching our first telephone being installed. I carefully repeat our new number, eager to share it with playmates, as mom and dad drill my newly acquired set of telephone skills.
“Glass residence, this is Elizabeth speaking.”
“Just a minute while I get him.”
“He’s not here, would you like to speak to my mom?”
For about three horrible minutes I was sure I had tossed my cell phone along with my laundry into the washing machine. Sure, it’s good for that pesky ring-around-the-antenna, but its heck for your warranty. After running down two flights of stairs, quickly ducking my head through doorways in urgent scans for the phone, I halt in the basement. Beautiful. Serene. Silver, glistening in the dingy, half-hearted light of the cellar bulb, my cell phone is waiting calmly on the dryer for my retrieval. It was not, as I had feared, drowning in the merciless waters of the filling washing machine. Sigh. But relief awakens conciousness of my surroundings. I duck and flinch unnecessarily in The Basement of my sublet house because I think it’s where Peter Parker originally got his powers. Draping cobwebs, minimal light, boarded-over windows and boxes in storage have led this place to become a favorite residential area, like the rest of Madison is known. Only these residents have long, lithe legs, a gazillion eyes, sticky traps of death and a thirst for innocent launderer blood. My blood. I feel itchy for hours after darting down there for two minutes.
Other Madison experiences hold much less terror and much more enjoyment. The summer’s Saturday morning Farmer’s Market draws huge crowds that throng around the square of the Capitol building for hours. Stalls and booths lure in passersby with calls of “Cheese empanadas” or overflowing displays of fresh flowers. Baked goods, ostrich jerky, gladiola bulbs and beeswax fill the vendors’ tents, most of which offer samples, posies and scones for the frugal, or loaves, bouquets and baskets for the serious buyer. Some hawk their wares by shouting items, others by attracting attention visually. In the honeycomb-and-beeswax stall, the vendor wears a beehive hat while tending customers. Across the square, a plant lady sports a vest made of hosta leaves. Flowers are woven into unshaved hippies’ hair at another flower stall, while a man in a Dr. Seuss hat twists balloon animals for dozens of squirmy children.
Dedicated peddlers extend from the jam and lilies of the tents to the petitions and tables of the activists. Baked goods are not the only thing being sold downtown today: ideas and causes are advertised with just as much enthusiasm as the cheese curds that are guaranteed to squeak when you eat. Planned Parenthood balloons float in the breeze, NOW posters are held aloft by eager college students basking in their new importance, free rainbow ribbons are distributed at a PFLAG table where preoccupied parents sit. Greenpeace cheerily engages shoppers in conversation, soliciting donations while a turn-or-burn banner coordinates with the grating sermon of an ardent evangelist. But the masses mostly ignore these energetic efforts, entranced instead with the aroma of fresh bread. A small girl with chubby fingers leans on tiptoe, examining the bag of flower petals she is ready to purchase, paying her tightly clasped quarters. Languages infuse the air, snatches of Spanish and Japanese floating in the din. The Orange Guy plays his flute across the street; he lives in a U-Haul and wears only and always orange, dying his hair and beard to match. Families sprawl, strollers carry lush bouquets and tourists’ comments express the awe of a first-timer. A South American pan flute group performs while four ladies stand in a close circle – singing? In flowing, flowery sundresses and wide-brimmed hats, they hold themselves like seasoned performers, an audience to themselves. Their music consists of rhythm, sound, and harmony, though no words are evident.
I feel sunburn crawling over my skin and, realizing my parking meter is ever on the countdown, gather my packages, bidding adieu to Today’s Farmers’ Market, where Madison itself mingles along the walkways.

[setting: cemetery]
Darn it all…
By Elizabeth Glass
[elderly woman grasping trowel and geraniums from back seat of beat-up sedan parked in a cemetery, speaking to a 13 year old boy with baggy black jeans and punk hair]

boy, mumbling: Well, now you know why I’m here. But why are you here? I mean, no one’s forcing you. And well, you seems kinda pointless.

May: Pointless? Since when did flowers need a point? And anyway, it’s habit. For that matter, when did habit need a point? Hold this trowel, I need to empty out the basket.There we go. Squirrels again, hoarding nuts. They’re a nuisance, but I guess that’s their habit.
I’ve been coming here for 63 years. You ever notice how we “old” people either want to forget how long we’ve been at it or else we know down to the day? I decided twenty years ago to take pride in it. Time does something for you, gives you a right to be heard. I’ve been coming here for 63 years, and every year, I do the same thing. I plant, I cultivate, I water, I trim, I tidy. Now, I know what’s happening in that head of yours. You’re wondering why. After all, Bob doesn’t know, it doesn’t do him any good. And there’s nobody left to do it for me. I could say it’s a matter of doing the right thing, but geraniums aren’t a matter of right and wrong. I could say it’s patriotic spirit, or wifely duty. But that’s not really it, either. Darn it all, I do it because I decided to. I decided that his life would be beautiful for as long as I was alive, even if it was after his life had slipped away. And this (hoists up) geranium is my way of screwing the powers that be. I couldn’t do anything about grenade fragments tearing through my husband. I didn’t choose the war. But this – this – this is my choice. No one else’s. And as long as I have breath, I’ll keep making this choice. Because it’s all I have left. Beauty kicked the bucket at menopause, I’ve been retired twenty years from teaching and I have to sort my pills in a day of the week pillbox. But I can still make choices. For now, anyway. Now come on, I still have Earl to do.

Boy: Earl?

May: Yep. Husband number two.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Favorites & Flops

Hmmm, how shall I rate my likes and dislikes? Today, I shall use my friendly stuffed scholarly bird, Sir Winston, as a ratings medium. 1 Sir Winston is low. 5 Sir Winstons is high.

Adopt-a-soldier: 5 Sir Winstons
This morning, as I finished my attempt on the New York Times crossword puzzle at the local coffee shop, I noted a couple at a table by the large plate glass window: a man in full military fatigues, with his wife, and a baby in the stroller.

It was gut-wrenching.

I have seen a display of empty boots representing casualties. It's not pleasant. And I've read numerous stories recently on the rising rates of post-traumatic stress disorder (or shell shock, as the late George Carlin aptly pointed out), depression, substance abuse and alcoholism among returning soldiers. Longer than planned deployments, multiple deployments, and cancelled leaves are ravaging the ranks like a delayed IED that lingers in the soul until feet return to the solid Main Street ground of American cities and towns. Then, the flashbacks, nightmares and memories return. And the women - the wives who stay home, raise children, deal with the broken dishwasher or school bully or teething babies - they all have not only the loneliness and worry to cope with, but the tainted image of the cause itself that causes our soldiers to feel unappreciated.

Whatever your political persuasion, it is the duty of red and blue states to welcome with open arms, and provide for, returning soldiers and their families.

The image of the young family was so gripping that I found myself looking for some kind of an adopt-a-soldier site - and sure enough, it was easy to find, easy to use, and I can't wait to be partnered. partners supporters with soldiers, gives helpful advice about mailing letters and care packages, and offers ideas of things to send. You can rest certain branches of the military, or whether you'd like to be partnered with a male or female soldier. It's a nonprofit organization that started as a grassroots effort by one military mom. Adopt-a-soldier receives 5 Sir Winstons.
Jumbo Remote Control: 3 Sir Winstons
This is just plain ridiculous. The other day, John was lingering around town while I finished a project at work before heading home. Apparently, he decided to kill time in the Dollar General. When I got in the car later, there was a bag with the BIGGEST REMOTE CONTROL I HAVE EVER SEEN in it. Turned sideways, it's about the size of a computer keyboard. Not only could the buttons be read by satellites for "Google Earth," I actually have to use two hands to hold and operate it. It makes me feel like a Lily Tomlin sketch where she plays a little girl in a giant rocking chair. Also, operating this remote actually makes me feel skinnier, it's so big.

The "rationale" for the one dollar purchase was mostly the giant grin on John's face, who proudly held out the new member of the family for my brother to see. Then, in one quick flash of masculine understanding that I will never be privy to, my brother just as quickly gave his argument for the purchase of the remote in not only an accompanying giant grin, but a high-five to John. They both stood, transfixed, muttering in a cult-like monotone, "it's soooo big."

I give the jumbo remote control 3 Sir Winstons, because it's very difficult to use, but on the other hand, it's very easy to find, but on the other hand, you have to balance it in your lap like a newborn, but on the other hand, it allows us to navigate DVD menus easier since the dogs chewed up the remote that used to do that.

Husband brought home no-reason roses: 5 Sir Winstons
This doesn't take explanation. John went out to play disc golf. I handed him a short list of things to pick up at the store on his way home. Later, the doorbell rang, and there stood my husband, with a beautiful bunch of three red roses in hand. No anniversary. No fight we were making up. Just because. Husbands: take note. This gets a strong, bar-setting 5 Sir Winstons. [Let me add that 9 out of 10 women who say they don't like getting flowers, really wouldn't mind if you get them flowers. Even if they say, "you shouldn't have done that," or "don't spend the money," I've met very few women who actually would see it that way. ]
Guy takes bath in Burger King sink: 2 Sir Winstons
I know, you're wondering why I would give any Sir Winstons to this recent news story. I'll tell you why: it gets a low rating for the gross fact that a guy did this. It gets a slight bump up, though, because people actually found out about the kind of thing that usually just goes unnoticed in fast food restaurants. In my former life, I've worked at both a McD's and a Burger King, and for a very little, regrettable time, a Dairy Queen. So let me just say this: I'm just glad he videoed himself doing it, so somebody found out. Also, I should note, that working in fast food joints long enough, is enough to make anybody insane.

Plushie Kali, goddess of death: 4 Sir Winstons

This plush toy gets 4 S.W.'s for making toys for adults. Anything mixing soft toys, mythology, and death - in cute colors, no less - gets my vote. It doesn't get 5 simply out of the fact that Kali, goddess of death just isn't that easily explained - though apparently, not as difficult to market as one would expect.

Catherine Rohr: 5 Sir Winstons
No, no, I don't hand out S.W.'s like parade candy, but this lady deserves it. Catherine Rohr, a Christian, was making $200,000 a year by the time she was 25 on Wall Street.

Then she visited a prison in Texas.

Leaving her job, she and her husband sold up and drove to Texas to start a remarkably effective prison program, teaching inmates business skills, linking them with mentors, providing mock interviews, and connecting program graduates with current inmates. The program is available for inmates with likelihood of upcoming parole. There is a startlingly low 5% recidivism rate.

Caucasian, 32-year-old Rohr doesn't look like the kind of woman who would step in and change the lives of men who've spent literally years in prison, but tough former gangsters tear up when talking about the hope this program gives to men who've missed the cultural trends of the past ten or fifteen years, like the widespread use of cellphones and the internet.

Last week, Rohr was a featured guest at Willow Creek's annual Leadership Summit.
Catherine Rohr gets a strong 5 Sir Winstons.

India's poor told to "eat rats": 1 Sir Winston
I give this news story the lowest rating possible. A politician in India compassionately told the poor there that if they're hungry, they should eat rats.


This somehow actually made that Queen - was it Marie Antoinette? - who, when told her people had no bread, responded flippantly, "let them eat cake" - seem kind and gentle.

Russia ignores truce: 1/2 Sir Winston
Seriously, Putin, don't waste the manpower to establish a truce with Georgia just so you can ignore it. And no, we aren't buying that Medyedev is actually president now, and that you are a humble, unassuming Prime Minister. If you're going to test out your weapons and reawaken images of the U.S.S.R., at least do it openly. I give this situation, and Putin in particular, a pale, measly 1/2 Sir Winston. Because at least you can explain snobbish tendencies of India's politicans due to their caste system. But this? During the Olympics, no less? Please, the Cold War was so a Reagan era ago.

China boots little girl from stage for somebody cuter: 0 Sir Winstons
You may question that I gave Russia a half S.W. and this story 0. People are dying - citizens - and hospitals and schools being destroyed in Russia. But you can at least argue that it's a military deployment.

China, however, in a last-minute decision during rehearsal for the opening ceremonies, decided the cute little girl who was singing the anthem was not cute - she had crooked teeth. Another little girl, often used in Chinese commercials, was brought out on stage to lip synch the anthem. The girl who actually sang it, pictured here, in a truly heart-rending gesture, said "I was just glad to be able to sing." And I'm sure she was. But from here on out, she will have the memory of being not cute enough.

This is sick.

And for some reason, be it all the attention on China's role in hosting, or the fact that an election year engenders nationalism, or the economy keeping people home and watching tv, everybody seems to be watching the Olympics this year. Which is fine: watch, support, applaud, ooh and ahh, I don't care, I wish I could do it with you.

But my rants about the blatant human rights abuses have led me to boycott the Olympics this year.
Here are common responses:

That's ridiculous.

You, yes you, will really matter on NBCs ratings.

Why do you hate America?

Okay, so obviously sarcasm drips from most of those responses. The thing is, I don't care: I don't care whether other people are watching the coverage. I'm happy for them, I applaud. It's a personal decision. It's just something I'm passionate about, and I don't expect everybody to care deeply about this one issue. What I DO expect is that people make sure they are well informed.

Therefore, I'm informing you. The Communist government of China is ridiculous. Not the citizens, the regime.
0 Sir Winstons.

Well, that wraps up today's "favorites and flops." Feel free to agree or disagree with my ratings, and add your own recent "favorites and flops."

I give you 5 Sir Winstons for doing so.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Olympics of Weirdness

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the world tournament of random.

The office next door hosted an Olympics party last Friday.

They ordered a sheet cake from Kroger's with the Olympic rings on it.

This is what they got.

They got their money back.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Murder Monday, Vol. III

To see previous installments of Murder Monday, follow volume I or volume II.

The gently rhythmic whirr of a lawnmower buffered the throaty barks of a distant hound. Through the screened window, the scent of cut grass rode in on bursts of the breeze. Fluffy white cotton curtains edged in eyelet bounced back and forth, etching sharp blocks of shadow and light on the worn hardwood floors.

Across town, an aging firetruck rumbled to life, lumbering out onto the street and coughing a siren into action. Surrounding hills caught the piercing shriek and threw it back and forth like a volleyball in the otherwise serene valley.

The trees were slow to turn this year. Faint yellows appeared halfheartedly, but the fireworks show of Maple reds and oranges was absent. Kentucky never had been known for the Icelandic winters of the true North - New York, Michigan, or Minnesota. These were regarded as distant lands, foreign countries, Yankee hideouts.

The corner of a pale green wicker edge blurred into vision. Blink. The lawnmower stopped, then started again. A soft, woolen crocheted hem felt warm against the gradually cooling breeze. Blink. Someone in the distance hollered for a dog.

Elle opened her eyes, momentarily disoriented. What day was it? What time? What state? Her gaze followed the uneven walls to a corner of the room, where her trunk sat spilling forth a cornucopia of pants, slips, socks, and scarves. Now she knew. She was in Oakford. Several state lines away from the familiar paths of broken brick sidewalks that lined her own hometown. Several more state lines away from her beloved school chums. All's well that ends well, she mused, but what about beginning well?

News of the gruesome murder three doors down had circulated more quickly than chicken pox in Sunday School when she was four. Tabs Kirke, known for running the office at the local newspaper that supervised distribution, had been shot five times in the chest. Tabs - who was finally listed in the obituary as Tabs "Tallula" Kirke instead of Tallula "Tabs" Kirke - was found, ironically, by the paper boy she hired three months earlier. Said Ms. Kirke was sprawled on her already messy linoleum with an unfortunate look of glee permanently stuck on her homely face. The startling expression on the face of the "victim" was the result, found Officer Spencer, of a winning lottery ticket in her clutched hand for the amount of $500.00. The conclusion was that she died, not of shock, as a now-embarrassed rookie had suggested, but from the quick succession of five bullets fired into her. She didn't look horrified at her assailant, because Tabs was notoriously near-sighted, and her glasses still hung around her neck on their cat-laden decorative cord.

What puzzled police the most was not that the killer left the winning lottery ticket, or that Tabs hadn't seen him or her. It was that the gooey red bullet holes, once the coroner had cleared away the blood, had been fired in an unusual pattern, leaving Tabs Kirke with a lead "x" in her chest.

A few of the less sensitive officers - the inexperienced rookie and the carefree veteran - had made the obligatory "x marks the spot" joke, the query on whether the victim needed an "x-ray" to the coroner, and the interoffice emails titled "madam x." Though the town was small, and Tabs Kirke was known for her colorful jokes, colorful cat sweaters and colorful car (green exterior, yellow interior), the policemen could be excused their seeming callousness. Both men had known Tabs, and finding your newspaper lady in a partially dried pool of blood with a winning lottery ticket in hand and toast popped up that had never been retrieved was truly unsettling.

The men had fed her cats, contacted her relatives, called the newspaper boy's parents to pick up the shaken juvenile, and thrown away the toast. There had been no struggle. Forensics had arrived in a nondescript minivan and had dutifully dusted the 87 houseplants, shelves full of flea market knick-knacks and the four square inches of bare kitchen counter. Her trash was searched, the body was being processed, her answering machine listened to, her bank account assessed, her email sorted.

But nothing gave any clue about who shot Tabs Kirke and why.

And that thought spurred Elle out of her nap, into her slippers, and over to the window, which she carefully shut. She went to the kitchen, rummaged in a few boxes, and plugged in her electric tea kettle. In times of crisis, only Assam would do.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008


Oh my gosh I just got a REAL CHUNK OF KIWI in my strawberry kiwi yogurt.

See that thought? That thought, right there? THAT's what my mind has been like today.

Last night, my mom called. It went something like this:

Me: mrphrpghb?
Mom: something something something something LAMP something something
Me: yeah. yeah. yeah. mrphrppbhb? yeah.
Mom: are you alright?
Me: something something muscle relaxer narcotic something.

Then John took the phone away. This week has been defined by three pill bottles: Harry, Moe, and Curly, or Moe, Curly, LARRY, that's it. An anti-inflam, as I call it, a muscle relaxer which puts me to sleep, and a narcotic pain killer that REALLY puts me to sleep. And my old trusty heating pad which I have memories of dating back to the mid-eighties. I see your muscle spasms in your lower back and raise you a husband who's having knee surgery tomorrow.

But reality checks aren't easy to come by when you drive into town and see - or think you see - these:

You may be snorting soup out of your nose asking "what in the name of Guantanamo Bay ARE those?" They are, in fact, an attempt on some town leader's part to make our small city look - and I quote - "more Victorian." MORE VICTORIAN??

You can see by their size that these wooden, painted, creepy clown-like faces are not life-sized. No, that's why that wooden man looks like he's about to get squooshed to death by hanging baskets of wave petunias and vinca vine.

Not only that: they were commissioned. Commissioned. The really scary ones are the ones reflecting the maker's optimistic attempt at diversity - they look like a lawsuit waiting to happen. And some have artful props, like the lady with flowers above, or the "mailman" down by the bank with a "real" mailbag. He's across the street from an obscurely ethnic figure. I think she's supposed to be African American. She's not as obscure as the wooden man down by Subway, though - I've heard guesses ranging from Martin Luther King, Jr., to Saddam Hussein.
They're so bad I hesitate to even put them UP on this site, guilty for inflicting their presence on the rest of the world that didn't have to see them. You didn't HAVE to wake up this morning and eventually see these during your day.
I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. I just couldn't bear the pain alone any longer.

This is me on the way to Louisville Saturday to meet John's sister and bro-in-law for lunch and then to visit Great Aunt Nelda in the hospital. Sometimes in the car I get bored and take pictures of myself. But I was feeling funky that day anyway. I had green shoes on that weren't the same shade as the necklace, and bobby-pinned my ponytail in weird spirals coming out of the back of my head. I was on muscle relaxers that day, too.

This is Todd and Becky and John and Me at Bearno's pizza in Louisville. That's a spicy a meataballa! Anyway, it was good and hey, I'm wearing that jacket today, too. My boss keeps the office cold enough that if someone shoots a bear and needs a place to store it, they can put it by the copy machine for a few days and it'll be good.

OH. And get this. The cleaning lady threw away my art. THREW IT away. What do I have to do around here, label things, like hey, lady, that's my paper plate blueberry juice art you have in your hand there. Geesh. You can't trust ANYbody these days.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Murder Monday: Vol. II

To read Volume I of "Murder Monday," go here.

While Carole King was recording "Tapestry," Elle McConn was christened Eleanora Thisbane McConn by a near-sighted mother in a small town worthy of a Flannery O'Connor short story. By the third day of Kinder Care, Eleanora was shortened to Elle. And in the ways of the small town, it stuck.

Her mother had been Gretchen Millicent Thisbane, of the third generation of Thisbanes that had helped to found the crossroads on an isolated corner of the state map. Eleanora's father had been deputy Mayor when a freak accident involving a squirrel and a bicycle left Gretchen Millicent Thisbane McConn a widow.

And so it was that Elle McConn grew up tutored by the stacks in the library, of which her mother was head librarian. Before she knew of the grammar that structured the stories held in dusty volumes, Elle had plumbed the depths of the Dewey Decimal system in all its ordered glory.

To say that Elle wore a contemplative expression as unique as the Russian brooch her mother wore would oversimplify her nature. Eleanora Thisbane was much more observant than the harried parents of loud children in the library gave her credit for. She was tranquil. She was measured in speech and graceful in movement. If Elle had a nagging fear, it would be settling into the stale. But her quick mind made that fear only a spectre.

Not one prone to making rash decisions, Elle thought long and hard before deciding to stack her sweaters and skirts, trousers and shoes in an old-fashioned steamer trunk. Her penchant for boxes and purses, scarves and earrings from days long past had led her to barter the antiques dealer down on the sturdy but worn trunk. She was one of the very few people she knew who regularly bought antiques to use them.

Elle arrived in Oakford one October, fitted in an A-line wool skirt, heavy brown cardigan, and J. Crew shoes that she had snatched up on clearance. It had taken courage to sign for a mortgage solely on her own steam, but as she was allergic to cats, she felt relatively free of the vices of singledom.

The tree-lined street sat quietly waiting to welcome her to the tiny one-story house that had captured her heart. The front porch, freshly painted, displayed two doors: one into an entry hall, the other directly into the sunny living room. The entry hall, floored with time-worn oak, expanded into a dining space that cushioned the living room from the kitchen.

It was the kitchen that grabbed Elle and didn't let her leave the property without promising to return: a red and white parquet floor shone. Though she worried a bit about the refrigerator that should have been described as an "ice box," the realtor quickly assured her that the house was recently rewired.

With a small bathroom featuring a giant claw-footed tub, and two tiny bedrooms opening from the dining area, the inside of her domicile was complete.

The lawn was well-kept but unadorned - like many Easterners she'd met - but a quick search of the yard yielded a sagging tool shed hidden in the northeast corner. After tearing away a tenacious vine, she found the outdoor faucet promised by the realtor. All winter, Elle planned to scour gardening catalogues, sketch flower bed plans, and choose which tomatoes to start indoors. The thought delighted her.

Now, with a body found a few doors down from her idyllic setting, Elle found herself examining locks on the front and back doors, checking windows for security, and exploring the root cellar. She thought about the merits of a dog, but had never managed to keep anything larger than a goldfish alive for very long. And attack goldfish aren't very helpful, she mused.

On this fall day, Elle stretched out on the porch swing, savoring a day off, her eyes landing on the pumpkins she'd placed on the porch steps. Bother the spoons, she thought. At least the porch didn't need unpacked. A couple of mums and she was harvest-ready. Elle was ready to jump into autumn baking, but that would necessitate unpacking the tower of cardboard resting on the kitchen parquet. Her tranquil eyes followed a mini-van down the street until the corner of her living room blocked her view - but not before she noticed twinkling brake lights.

Casually, Elle bent down to straighten a pumpkin on the steps, her eyes slyly catching a figure climbing from the van. A man cruised purposefully towards the ribboned yellow line around The Murder House, as she had come to think of it. Her mind worked quickly.

"Hello? Hi. I'm Elle, a neighbor. Sorry to bother you, but I haven't seen an obituary yet and don't know where to send flowers."

The man she addressed was eclectically dressed in plaid cotton shorts, a linen smock that made Elle think of India, birkenstocks, and a golf cap. He also seemed to be in a very great hurry. But then, she pondered, most men who drive mini-vans are.

His reply was more startling than his outfit: "Wellemshoreitllgitthersoonererlater."

"I'm sorry, what was that?"


Elle tried again, a bit exasperated. "It's just that I would like to send flowers."

Finally, he reached under the caution ribbon, grabbed a paper coffee cup left by one of the officers, and spit.

Elle's stomach lurched, but she leaned forward, ready to listen.

"I SAID, I'm sorry ma'am, but that 'bituary may hafta a wait abit. The corner's doin' an autotopsy and I ain't about to spring for so many lines in the Observer until I know jus' exactly when that funeral'll be. And I ain't acting before the corner's done."

"Oh, ah, were you related to - (polite cough) - the victim?"

The man took off his golf cap, revealing a shock of twisted red hair streaked with grey, scratched his scalp, and looked confused. "Ain't been here long, haveya?"

Elle didn't think it wise to disclose how few people actually knew her and would miss her if she suddenly disappeared. "Oh, well, you know, what with work and all, I just don't know my neighbors as well as I'd like."

"Then I'll tell you what ever'body else around here knows: whatever she was, my aunt whaddn't no victim, now, nor any time in her life, fer that matter."


One time I made up a day. It's like a leap day. It's called Froosday. See, that way, you can put all the things you don't want to do on Froosday. "What, take the broken couch to the dump? Okay, I'll do it Froosday." This delightful little concoction brings together the best of Tuesday and Friday. Tuesday is about peak momentum for work in the week - the remaining days slide down to the weekend. And Friday is a pretty funky day for most people.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you: Froosday.

And since I don't have any pictures from Froosday, I'll share what I have from yon sevennight. I don't think sevennight is a Shakespearean reality: 12th night is, and of course, a fortnight.

Here is yon faithful, brave canine Daisy. She's pantomiming the dog days of summer in the fort that John and I built in our living room last weekend.

My chivalrous kin, Ethan, did most certainly practice the arts of henna upon my hand. These curs'd spots will remove more easily than Lady MacBeth's, and should be gone by next Froosday.

Here laboureth my love upon a sporting device, in which to practice his disc golf throws for yon tournament of honour.