Saturday, December 31, 2016

Year end post #2

Dear Vlad,
I may call you Vlad, can't I? I mean, you seem to like sticking your nose into our business and as an American, I feel equally justified in sticking my nose into your business.

Tell you what.

I'll shut down your access to the internet. I'll do it with magic. I'll stop all business on Twitter and Facebook and other assorted means of social exchange for a whole day.

How will I do that?

I just will. I'll sit here in my room and think hard thoughts and like magic, you'll be cut off at the knees.

Now, I tend to like Russian folk.  They're generous when they can be, they're hearty, they're resourceful and love to drink vodka. The ones I have known have all been sweet to me.

But you?

You're a different story. I can do well without you. And, when you finally get overthrown or give up to go to your dacha and vegetate, or you come to your senses about the way the world works, I will applaud. I'll even send you a card for your retirement.

But go away soon. I've had serious illnesses several times in the past decade and don't know how much longer I'll be around.

I just hope I outlive and out-endure you.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

End of year post

2016 sucked.
I've tried looking through my datebook (I do not have an iPhone thing because I am old fashioned and cheap and reliant on paper in front of me, not a screen that can disappear with an odd
 just to find one bloody good thing that happened to me, my kids or the rest of the world.
Zero. Nada. Zip.
So, here's something I thought I'd put out there to the incoming year...why not try to be BETTER than your older brother?
It shouldn't be all that difficult.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Scrooge's Belle

First thought this morning was whatever happens to Ebenezer's squeeze, Belle?
I read the book so long ago it, like 1962, that I had forgotten anything from the actual story. What I had to go on was seeing her in the dozen or so versions of A Christmas Carol movies.
The only one that stuck in my mind was a very old movie version in which Belle, alone in the world, dies after contracting some terrible disease while working in a hospital. Poor Belle.
In my favorite version with the Muppets, she walks away after singing "when love is gone" which in most new copies of the movie has been cut though sung over the credits.
You never see her again.
He never mentions that they were affianced in most flicks.
So I googled Belle.
In the original film version, she is married happily to somebody else and she and her husband mention Scrooge being a bitter, lonely old man. True, true.
However, in yet another version, book or movie, Scrooge runs in to her and gives her a huge donation to her cause, whatever that may be.
Ah, Belle! I like the thought that you marry a good man and have a lovely life after dumping Scrooge.
What if, however, Belle is the spirit of Christmas yet to come? That's her behind the black robes of death...and she is the one to break Scrooge completely?
Wouldn't that be lovely???
Go, Belle!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Galloping insanity

Life is incredibly fragile. Some people live long lives while others peter out much, much earlier. Some people do lots of wonderful things, others sit on their asses and accomplish nothing more than breathing, eating and defecating.

This is it, folks. This is where life is. My life.

No matter which way I turn, what I try to do that is good and reasonable, all I manage to do is defecate.

The emptiness I feel right now is because there is no more bullshit left in me.  It's surrounding me, but it isn't in me any more.

Monday, November 28, 2016

The new door

We changed our front door. We had a half-glass storm door that opened out to a small mud-room like affair.
This was the only cute thing about our Cape Cod of the reasons I liked it. Built like a small guard house type thing, like something that should have been covered with candy canes and gumdrops...that sort of look.

Whatever, I liked it.
But, as all things go, husband hated that glass front thing. He wanted a front door that would open inward, but because of the little guard house looking thing, the door had to open out. It needed about a foot more to allow a door to open inside.

Well, we bought a Craftsman style door. He and our neighbor rebuilt the guard house out a foot more. They found some rotten boards in the old part that had to be replaced, so they did.

I wanted some sort of stone halfway up the sides and front, but that idea got nixed. I long for it, but NO.

Anyway, he let me pick out the new light fixture for inside and a new doorbell.

Light came last week, will be installed when the insulation and sheet rock are up.
Today, the doorbell came.

Only we had to be notified by email that it came because there was no doorbell for the delivery guy to ring.

Ironic, no?

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Giving thanks

I'm not in the mood.
I know I should be grateful for so many things...but I find it difficult to actually give a damn today.
It's been a rough month.

Okay, I have to mouth the, friends, freedom, roof over my head, enough food to eat, all those things.
What I'd really like to say was that I am happy, but I'm not.

It will come. I can't stay emotionally paralyzed for long. But this time, it's really hard to get over it.
(Cher is voicing that line in my head. It isn't helping.)

What I need is peace.
And a good Godzilla movie or two.

Friday, November 11, 2016


I am tempted to write "we have seen the monster and it is us."

Then I sit here and think...I still have faith in the Constitution. I have faith in the system of checks and balances set up by those old guys back in 1789 when they came up with the rules of our land.

Their problems were different. They were mostly rich white landowners hoping to avoid the rule by the masses, until they realized that it was those very same masses who fought for and won our independence from the "tyranny" of King George.

We all have a voice. We have the duty to inform our legislators what we want, what we think is fair and unbiased, what we truly believe.

Get out your pens. Your typewriters. Your email methods. Find out who your representatives in Congress (that's the House and Senate) and make sure you keep writing to them. Let them know where you stand and where you expect them to stand.

It's always, always up to us.
It is our right and our duty.

Don't just sit it.

Friday, November 4, 2016

For the bland

Have you ever noticed that the folks in advertisements on television act as if they're heavily dosed on Prozac?
Ad in particular: for one of the restaurants out there, maybe Ruby Tuesday's. Kids ask their mother how she likes her food after the father has just taken a stab at something on her plate and eats whatever it is. The woman says with a smile "Ask your father".
Now, had that been ME or any member of my family, I'd have blown up at the guy, punched him in the ribs and probably stabbed my fork into his hand.
I do not take Prozac or any other emotion suppressing drug.
Perhaps I should.
Car crash ad for insurance. Kid calls mother from the wrecked car and calmly says, "Mom, I have to tell you something."
Mother or whoever is on the other end of the call calmly says, "Well, just as long as you are all right." She doesn't start screaming, "What were you doing? Did you crash the Subaru? Do you know how much this is gonna cost?"
The list of these medicated people in ads goes on and on, but there's one that I do enjoy. Two little girls are "making a cake" and slopping stuff all over the counter and floor.  Mom has to scrub at the floor with a sponge mop. Doorbell rings, they pull in this huge box of Swiffer cleaning supplies. Mother says something to littlest kid, "and how does that make Mommy feel?" regarding the big mess. Kid, cute little blondie type, scrunches up her face and raises her fists.
That, my friends, comes closest perhaps to how I might react.
But you see, I'd have already blown my cool over the kids slopping cake mix all over the counter and floor.
Yes. Yes I would have.
The fuse to my temper is mighty short.
I no longer know what being "calm" is.
Don't give me any crap!

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Unrequited love and labor

Thought I'd post some thoughts about my recent trip to Florida.
First, let me say, Florida is not all it is cracked up to be.
It just isn't.
It's mostly swamp and full of strangers...completely full of strangers.
It isn't New Jersey.

Second, I want to tell you about the Coral Castle.

Many years ago, this very small guy from Latvia came to America to make his fortune so he could marry his sweetheart back home and bring her here to enjoy life in the United States.
He set out to find work as a stonemason. So he goes to Florida, where there is only oolitic limestone, not sincere bedrock. (The reason there are so many sinkholes in the state is because rainwater can, over time, erode limestone.) But despite this, the little guy finds work, has kind folks take him in and get him adjusted to life in the US.

Then, somewhere in-between all this, he decides to start building something out of the limestone...a castle of sorts...where all his dreams are played out.

Hint: The woman of his heart's desire evidently either didn't want to go to America or didn't want him to go or thought he was a raving lunatic. She turned him down, yet, despite this, he started building his dream home out of solid rock for her.

Somehow, this little dude at less than 5', not even 100 lbs., created these odd standing stones. No one ever saw him work. No one saw how he lifted some 30 ton rocks out of the pits where they were dug. No one saw how he got them upright. No one actually saw how he carved, sculpted the shapes, or how he was able to align them with the sun and moon and North Star.

 He did some of the work 14 miles away from where the Coral Castle now stands. Then he got more property, along Rt. 1, and moved most of the already made rocks to where they stand today. Magic? Electronic stuff? The use of two logs in an A-frame?

Nobody knows because nobody ever saw him work. Nobody knows.
Once, two teenagers sneaked by and thought they saw him moving stones, but nobody believed their wild tale.

Here's this garden now. It is a tomb, a reliquary, a tribute to one man's determination.
And it is overwhelmingly sad to walk among the stones and hear the story. "Here is the bedroom he carved for his love and himself, with two small cradles for their never to be had children." "Here is the heart shaped rock table that weighs three tons." "Here is the swinging door rock that used to pivot on a car axle but when the metal wore down, modern day engineers could not fix."

The guy was either a genius or a maniac.
But he was all alone.
He had no wife. No children. No life other than his rocks.
He died of lung cancer in a hospital, all by himself.

I cried.
My kid, on the other hand, stated that "he should have gotten over it and gone on with his life."

Ed Leeskalnin just couldn't.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

New clothes

Herb has never ever commented on my clothing. Ever.
He's not the noticing type, I guess, because we've been together for over 40 years exclusively and not once has he mentioned what I was wearing, what I should be wearing, whether I looked good or pathetic in my choice of clothing.
Today, I came downstairs in a new shirt I got that is way too big for me, but it was chilly in the house and this was sort of a sweatshirt.
He stared at me, raised an eyebrow and said, "Well, this is new."
Yes it is new.
It is grey. I have to roll up the sleeves.
It is cozy and warm and I just got it this past week in the mail.
He didn't venture to say he liked or disliked it.
But he noticed it.
Considering he asks me if what he is going to wear is proper, a good color, warm or cold enough, I should consider myself lucky.
Or not.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

On being slightly unsteady

Today I am ordering a cane from Amazon, as soon as somebody wakes up and can sign me up for that Prime thing for free, two day shipping.
I need a cane.
I am unsteady most of the time, having lost some of that important balance business from the chemo. It didn't come back when the chemo ended, like the feeling in my feet and fingers didn't come back. My hair did come back, but not my sense of balance.
That's shot to shit.
If I turn around too fast. If my feet get tangled up when I try to get out of the way from somebody. If I have to go up stairs in a hurry. If I try to walk on an uneven pavement or parking lot. If I am tired or walking in the dark.
I sway and look like I'm drunk.
I have a cane from when Herb needed it. It is brown and ugly and makes me feel like an old lady, well, I am an old lady, but I could be older and this cane would be more appropriate.
So the one I'm going to order stands up all by itself. That's cool because often I have to lean it against something and it falls and clacks like a gunshot on the floor, causing everyone in the vicinity to stare at me. Most of the time, they are kind enough to offer to pick it up, but that makes me feel like I am so far gone I can't even do that because of being crippled and/or old.
The Hurrycane. That's what I'm ordering. I wanted it in silver but evidently you have to order off the website for a silver one and I want that free two day shipping from Prime.
Since I rarely order anything online, this is a big deal! If only K would wake up!!!!
Husband ordered the rental of one of those 4 wheel carts for me to use in Dizzyworld. We have it for the whole time we will be there.
Today, he asked me if I needed the laptop for the trip. The others have their little tablet thingers and I will have no way of checking my email. I think I may need to use his old one, the one he gave to kid #1 because I said I didn't want it.  Well, now I think I may need it, just to get my email.
Perhaps I spoke too soon.
For once, somebody listened....

Monday, September 19, 2016

Question for the ages

Somehow, I found a terrible movie on MGM this morning.
It was a South Korean attempt at kaiju, which, as you may know, is my very best favorite silly kind of movie.
Only this one wasn't just silly--it was pretty awful.

I could list some of the things that made it so bad, like the terrible monster head, the pathetic city-sets, the dialogue which was often repeated for no reason at all, the quaint use of a child to solve how to kill off the monster, the pathetic use of a child in the story at all, the scenes of folks running away from the monster to evacuate the town...they're carrying pots on their heads and boards instead of, oh, say, suitcases? But this is enough to give you an idea of how bad the flick was. Topping the list was the fact that you could distinctly see some sort of round pipe in the back of the monster's mouth from which the flame of death spouted.

However, and this is a biggie, one line changed everything. One line I have never heard in a kaiju flick, one small query that nobody has ever picked up and is haunting me now. If I think hard enough about this one simple line perhaps I can apply it to real life. Maybe you can, too.

It asked--the generals of all branches of the military, with a Korean and American flag in the background--quite honestly:

What does it want?

Never ever has this line been uttered in a monster flick. Yet is means a great deal to me. Here's this terrible, destructive, enormous monster from somewhere else. It is crashing and smashing its way up from the ocean or underground or a big egg or something and nobody else has ever thought to ask what it wants?

What does it want? Not fame or glory as it doesn't do any good, not even to or for itself. Not just to destroy...most of the destruction happens by accident or as the monster is trying to get somewhere and the tail swings through a couple of apartment houses and/or office buildings. Perhaps seeking what it wants, but it is a monster and it doesn't care how much damage it causes. It has something it must do or somewhere it must go, to find what it wants, yet no one tries to figure that out.

All they need to do is kill the monster (oh, those jets never work, neither do the tanks) and that's that.

If they could just figure out what it wants...perhaps there could be an easier solution. A better, quicker way to get rid of it.

But since the missiles, jets, tanks, and helicopters have absolutely no effect on the huge dinosaur/lizard/creature from space, somebody has to come up with a scientific solution. In this case, it was dumping ammonia on the monster. Couldn't take ammonia, made it itch to death. The monsters from Mars were killed by Earth germs. Godzilla's monster friends are either killed by Godzilla or...a combination of Godzilla and science.

But if the army/air force/navy, special forces could just figure out the primary goal of the monster, things would go a lot quicker.

There are no Yungarys/Godzillas/King Kongs, what have you in real life.
But that is not to say there are no such things as monsters.
Look around.
Figure out what it is they want.

Use that against them.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Anybody need advice?

While sitting in the car in front of the post office, I noticed the storefront across the street was empty. It is usually at least some kind of business, from take out restaurant to bodega to Filipino something or other, but it was empty, again.
Then it hit me. Brilliance does not come often, but this was spectacular!
No food. No clothing. No liquor. No tai kwon do, however it is spelled.
I wondered if there had ever been a place to go if one needed advice.
No tarot card reading. No palm reading. No psychiatry. No psychology. No Lucy from Peanuts.
Just advice.
"Hey, I found lipstick on my husband's underwear. Should I approach him about it or let it go?"
"I need a vacation but have no idea where would be nice for me."
"My brother in law is an asshole. Should I still try to tolerate him?"
"My mom keeps telling me to get a job. I'm only 11. What should I do?"

"My sister takes all my stuff. Should I rat her out to my mother that she's been smoking?"

"I need to gain wait. How do I go about doing that?" (Like anybody ever said that.)
"Why do they have daylight savings time?"
"Should I take horseback riding lessons or violin lessons?"
This kind of stuff.
Stuff I could answer.
And charge money for, but not a whole lot of money. Couple of bucks for an astute answer.
Unbiased responses, unless you're a bigot and then you'd get an earful.
Do you think I should set up shop?


Sunday, September 11, 2016

September 11, 2016

This was going to be a fabulous day. Six of us who wanted to be famous writers were going into NYC to the NYRWA chapter's annual wine and cheese party in the heart of Manhattan. We'd hired a luxury van and driver to take us there, wait for us and bring us back home to New Jersey.
I had a new outfit, really "writerly" as I thought successful writers wore a specific over the top but not bizarre style. I did my hair and sprayed it solid. There were going to be agents and editors there and it would be like shooting fish in a barrel. Surely an editor would love my pitch and beg me for my manuscript.
(Do not have photos of the others who were to go with us. The above portrait is of Caridad Pineiro who was working in the city and would meet us there.  Pictured with me are Kathye Quick and Patt Mihailoff.)
Didn't happen.
The world turned upside down.
New York would go blank for weeks.
So many people died.
I had forgotten about our trip into the city....something so bloody important to me on that morning...died in the ashes of the Trade Center, the Pentagon and that lonely field in Pennsylvania.
The shadow is still hanging over us.

Thursday, August 25, 2016


Some CEO type has decided that she needs a whole lot of money. Her company manufactures life-saving epinephrine injectors...something people with intense allergies use on emergency basis. Now, she seems to have a problem.
She wants more money. She already makes millions, but she wants more. What to do? What to do?
Raise the price of the medicine 400
or 500%.
Her problem solved.
But wait! There's more!
Lots of people depend on this medicine. It has saved countless lives because it stops the affected person's throat from sealing, stopping their breathing, all sorts of other hell before they die. They used this medicine for years. It worked.
Now, it is priced out of their range. It has gone from quite expensive to outrageously expensive.
I sincerely doubt this person cares.
But the public uproar was loud.
Somebody threatened to take this CEO person and the  company to court to have the government order them to lower the price.
Only...there is no real law that would allow it, other then common decency, that is.
A couple of months ago, some swine raised the price of a particular AIDS drug about 700% or thereabouts. Public outrage embarrassed the company, but not the young snot who stood to make gazillions out of this price increase.
Heh heh, seems that there was another company manufacturing the same drug. Theirs cost very little to make and they sold it for a reasonable price.
He got nailed for some other crime...out on bail I believe, but still facing a trial.
Public outrage works.
Voting against big business' greed, voting for people who are not in anything for the money, that works, too.
Go for it.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Signing my life away

Did you ever wonder how good your credit rating was?
There are all those ads on TV for free credit scores...or not free credit scores and I must admit, I did wonder a little.
I used to pay all the bills around here. Then husband retired from his real job and he took over the finances with a much bolder stroke than I ever would. I used to pay bills in full except sometimes for the credit cards. I always paid more than the minimum amount, but I had to guarantee I'd have some money left in the kitty to be able to, oh, I dunno, buy food.
So I involuntarily gave up my position as bill payer. I thought my credit score would then become non-existent.
I was wrong.
So, today whilst signing some 40 papers put in front of me, I saw my credit score. Mine! Mine alone!
And it was very good.
Sort of.
I think it's pretty much bunk.
When I got sick, I couldn't be depended upon to do math of any kind, so I didn't play with the check book. There was a time when I couldn't sign my name legibly.
Now that I'm sort of better, my hands still do not always cooperate when it comes to my signature. I don't use credit cards. I pay for groceries from a debit thing and sign on that little machine thing.
That's about it.
Haven't written a check in a long time. So how can I have a credit score?
Ah, sweet mysteries of life!

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Vacation review

So, we drove down to NC. Took us two days because we're getting too old to drive nine hours straight.
The back ache started then.
It continued throughout the whole week. Excruciating pain that I tried my best to hide.

There were times that I just climbed into the bed and lay there, waiting for the fake Advil to work. It didn't help too much.

All the work I intended to do on my story didn't get done. My gmail refused to accept my passwords, stating that someone was hacking into my account.
It was me.
So much for that.

I did work on two other people's stuff, getting it done in time to have them post their stories on Amazon.

And, probably because I was suffering in silence and not including anyone else in my misery, I was rewarded with a dream that I managed to write down--a complete story, beginning to end. I will write it right after I finish Mermaid.

Life is bizarre.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Lipstick Hyperbole

Someone on FB posted the question: lipstick or not?
I had to reply to this one.
Red lips are amazing. They catch the eye, center focus on the lips, brighten one's face, yadda yadda yadda. But, alas, red lips are not for everyone.

When I was in 8th grade, back in 1962-3, all the girls started wearing stockings (with those awkward garter belts) and lipstick. They already had their bras, because--I lived in a well-developed town. So, it was off to the nearest 5 and 10 for lipstick.

I can't remember the name or the brand, but after the Tangee phase passed by, it was on to Cotton Candy Pink or something along those lines with a pink plastic tip coming out of the top of the tube. It was the only one light enough that mothers would allow. We all applied it liberally and pouted into toilet paper to blot it as we had seen our mothers do.
We had arrived.
We were women now.

As the real reason for coloring one's lips is to bring attention to the fact that our lips were now kissable and luscious, I seem to remember that none of the 8th grade boys gave a damn. Oh, there were some who knew what was happening, but most of them didn't understand. Some actually laughed when a particularly backward female donned lip paint.  But it had to be either the Tangee or the lightest pink of pinks.

I did want to wear lipstick. I even found a light light caramel color that had taste and scent that was light enough since the pink fad was gradually on the fade. I put it on right. Blotted it, wiggled my lips in the mirror, saw that it was good. 
Nobody noticed it was so close to natural.

Then I tried red. 

Disaster! Yes. Lipstick made my lips kissable!
I couldn't go anywhere without people wanting to kiss me!
The guys queued up.
Aunties, uncles, grandparents, not brothers (good thing, that) but people on the street, babies! Everybody wanted to kiss those lips of mine.
I couldn't walk down the street without being accosted.
It was as if I were wearing a sign that said KISS ME.

It was so wrong. Red lips spelled trouble. On me.
Other women could wear red, just not me.
It was magnetic to every male anywhere.

There is a line from the song "Love Potion Number Nine" where the guy takes a sip of the potion and goes crazy wanting to make love to someone.
It goes, paraphrased, "I didn't know if it was day or night! I started kissing every thing in sight, but when I kissed a cop down on 34th and Vine, he broke my little bottle of Love Potion Number Nine".

Well, it wasn't me who did the kissing, it was everybody else.
What did Mr. Tangee or Mr. Cutex put in that lipstick?

That's when I learned how to run and hide. Picture me running around corners, hiding behind brick walls until the horde passed by...actually, picturing me running is difficult enough. Attention can be good, but it can be really really bad if it isn't wanted!

Took me awhile to realize that I wasn't popular, I had these inviting red lips.

Red cape in front of a bull and red lips on me...danger danger danger.

So, I stopped wearing the red. I tossed out the caramel colored/scented tube, too. Got rid of the pink with the little colored plastic tip sticking out of the top of the cylinder.
My love affair with lipstick ended.

It has continued to this day.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

It just ain't fun any more

Let me start out by saying that I have a terrible temper. Keeping it under control is difficult, but most of the time, I can manage. But repeated attacks on my control wear me down and eventually, I will let it loose. The tiger gets out of the cage, King Kong breaks his chains, Godzilla rises from the depths and I blow up.
If there are other people who suffer from this same affliction, and it must be an affliction as it doesn't seem right, it doesn't seem natural, it seems more like something Jesus wouldn't do.
Oh, wait!
Jesus lost his temper with the guys selling stuff outside the temple and went around wrecking their tables and throwing a hissy fit! It says that in the BIBLE somewhere. So...while most of the time, Jesus was going around barefoot, being kind to dead guys, blind guys, lepers, his mother...his buddies, even the people who set Him up to be crucified.
Hey...He could have zapped them and walked away. He could then have zapped every other person who got in His way and been King of Kings.
But, for some reason I still have trouble figuring out, He didn't. He kept His cool and allowed Himself to suffer a horrible death.
Well, I can't be like Jesus.
I have been pushed to the brink and my temper is simmering, no-- maybe it's boiling by now.
I feel the burn in my gut.
The lava of fury is rising.
When I break, it's gonna be explosive as all hell.
Sorry, Jesus.
No Klondike bars for me.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

A mineral is not a gem, necessarily

A program about what we've forgotten about history had a short story about how American forces did battle with nazi ( I do not capitalize that word) soldiers six months before we entered the war with the bombing of Pearl Harbor.  It seems that we had men stationed in Greenland protecting the cryolite mine there after the nazis invaded Denmark. Since Greenland would have made a delicious place for the bad guys to settle and eventually get into Canada and the US, the same people who refused to have a blackout along the East Coast to prevent U-boats from blowing up freighters there were brilliant enough to try to protect the cryolite mines.

Cryolite is essential in breaking down Bauxite, from which Aluminum is made, or something like that.

So...story goes that we (US) sent Coast Guard ships to find these Germans supposedly hiding away at a new weather station in Greenland. Only they were not to be found. As luck would have it, the soldiers and Coast Guardsmen managed to find a Norwegian fishing boat, boarded it and found the seamen were nazis in disguise who immediately ratted out the location of the weather station. It was Hitler's idea, and probably rightly so, that if they caught the weather in Greenland that would eventually arrive in Europe, they could plot their air strikes and battles better. Makes sense...armies still depend on weather forecasts so they don't end up trying to, oh, invade Russia in winter, stuff like that.

Anyway, cool. They get the fake fishermen who rat out the German guys who are sent packing and we have access to the cryolite mines all to ourselves and our allies.

Only, the supply is limited. It runs out eventually and they have to make fake cryolite to deal with the Bauxite problem. The mines closed down entirely by 1990.

Why I write this is because it is something I never heard about and thought was pretty cool. Next time you grab your Reynolds Wrap, think about Greenland and give them a nod of respect.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Fathers' Day

My Dad with my niece Cara...this must have been in 1975 or so. That smile was magnetic!

I miss him.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Ghost in the Sand

Seaside Heights and Park were towns that formed a great deal of my childhood. I didn't live at the Jersey Shore, but I sure wanted to. And I took advantage of every vacation spent there and, once I was old enough, I drove down there myself with Sandy.
There were very few places to "go" and "have fun" and "meet guys" in our central NJ life back in the 60s. In my home town, there was NOTHING to keep one entertained. The small park in my back yard was good for ice skating and watching kids sneak smokes where their parents couldn't see them, but as for doing anything...well...if you get something out of standing around with a few kids you don't really know, then I guess some people could call that fun.
But going down the shore! Now, nothing could beat that! During the day there was the ocean to get pounded by waves in and crabbing and getting a terrible sunburn. At night, there was the boardwalk and the incredible adventures to be had there.
The boards smelled of creosote. The air was redolent with the aromas of pizza and sausages and peppers and onions. Kohrs had the ice cream. The fun house had this idiotic laughing lady in a glass window and she screamed this obnoxious laugh far into the night. There was music coming from the Chatterbox night club and thousands of teenagers milling around the stretch of boards. And the steam organ music of the carousels...and the candy stands and wheel games. I'm lost in these memories!
Over the ocean hung a sliver of moon, highlighting the white cresting waves. The sound of them crashing against the sand was a subtle beatbox base to our lives.
That was a long time ago.
When we drove through yesterday, we were dismayed to see half of the boardwalk gone. Yes, we witnessed how they worked to fix it after the hurricane. We saw the skeleton of the roller coaster clinging hopelessly to the sand as it was beaten by the waves. But we saw our governor reassuring us that it would be back! Everything would be back, and the building started and the boardwalk was laid and then what was left of Seaside Park faced the indignity of a fire that took away so many shops and restaurants and memories.
The people who had those shops have chosen, apparently, not to rebuild. Seaside Park boardwalk is just that--a boardwalk. One arcade, the one closest to Seaside Heights, remains, and a restaurant has been built at the very end. Other than these establishments, there is nothing. Like the gaps in a seven year old's teeth, even though you love the kid, the lack of teeth makes them pretty ugly.
So is my Seaside.
The Heights side was bustling, but different. Parking has been left to a central machine that prints out a tag for you and takes your money...something like two bucks for half an hour. Who the hell spends only half an hour on the Boardwalk? Nobody. Nobody. My guess is that the parking revenue is to be used to pay for rebuilding my memories.
Well, it can't. The whole feel of the Jersey Shore is gone for me. That longing to be there is gone. My childhood and teenage years have been eradicated completely. Not one slice of pizza, not one dripping cone of Kohrs can do anything but remind me that everything about the shore, this part of the shore, MY part of the shore, is gone. For years and years, just going there made me happy. Everything happily remained the same.
And now it's gone.
I feel vaguely hollow.

Monday, June 13, 2016

My grandma

My grandmother on my mother's side was a major factor in my life. She was always there, offering strange advice and folklore, never listening to anything we told her, cleaning like a madwoman, name it. She also bought me every winter coat I ever got until I was married. She loved her great grandchildren. She mellowed as she got older, then she got sick and her personality disappeared.

She told me once that she would love to go to the American Museum of Natural History in New York. Several times we planned the day, door to door service, no subways or cabs involved, but she always found something to stand in the way.

So, she never got there.

She died at some age in her 90s. In her life, she had lived in Ukraine in a hut with a dirt floor. She moved to the Red Shanties in Northampton, PA that at least had a real outhouse, not just a trek out to the back yard where one did one's business. She knew how to kill chickens, steal goose eggs right out from under the goose, sew awnings and make pirohi like a champ.

But she never got to do the one thing she longed to do.

There is a valid lesson to be had here.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Memorial Day

Growing up, our little house had a park with a lovely lake in the back. Just down the yard, cross over the road and there it was. I found out much, much later while reading a topographic map, that the lake had a name other than "The Lake". It was called Lake Creighton.
The park was lovely. Flowering bushes in spring...forsythias and lilacs. A "boathouse" made by CCC men during the Depression. Probably the lake was dug out then, too. There was another structure, down by the dam...some sort of pergola and a run off lagoon in stone. Sometimes golden carp could be seen frolicking in the lagoon. There were golden carp in the lake, too. And, most wondrously of all, in spring, fragrant wisteria covered the pergola.
If you were agile, you could climb up to one of the castle-like stone pillars and sit in the shade of that wisteria, hiding from others.
There was a wooden shed on the corner by the boathouse that the parkman used to store his rakes and such. There were three doors in the boathouse (which never in my lifetime had any boats associated with it) that we always wished had toilets. They were locked tight. There was a fireplace inside the stone structure, though. During ice skating weather, it would blaze with a fire started by the older kids. They'd scrounge wood from back yards and once caught the roof of the boathouse on fire. But I was too young to even guess who did it.
Besides, kids from other towns came to the lake. Some called it Willow Pond. I think I blamed them for the destruction there, but who knows who tore things apart and wrote over the walls?
The point of this story is that the whole park was named for a young man from Middlesex who died in WWII...Victor Crowell.
Down at the very end of the park, by the brown bridge, still stands a flagpole where, every Memorial Day, the town would rally for speeches and salutes and hearing the lonesome high school trumpeter play taps.
Not a word was ever spoken until it was done and the town suffered a moment of silence in memory of those who had given their lives for us.
And so it should always be.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Other Mothers

                                      I love my mom.
I learned so much from her, but there were certain things she couldn't teach me. For those things, I had to rely on others. My teachers, first and foremost, taught me the things in school that got me through it. Outside of the Daisy Gets Her Period thing, all the rest was academic. And Mom had already taught me those details.
But there were scout leaders, who were kind and did all the scout things...what I remember most was how to set a table and how not to enjoy sleeping in the woods with 20 other "girls".
And then there was Marge. The lady in the first photo was my best friend's mother. I spent a great deal of time within her sphere and am grateful for it.
Margie was more worldly than my own mother, or at least she appeared to be.
She had a rough, smoker's voice and a huge heart. She confided in me simple things, her thoughts, her observations on life, her dislikes and likes. Sometimes, she even admitted to her fears, though they were few.
She loved her kids and her husband, but she also loved herself. Her confidence was mindboggling. When she walked into a room, you actually felt her presence and that was just the way she wanted it. Her penchant for wearing red and black clothing, her height aided by the highest heels available...her silver hair piled high atop her head...she was quite impressive and she knew it.
And she used it.
I think people were cowed by her mere presence. She exuded confidence. No one intimidated her. She took charge.
This is what she passed on to me. Margie never hid her light under any bushel.
But she was plagued with illness...and from the operations and the horrible results from them, she lost her grip on her mighty self. While it is easy to see how she self-medicated the pain and the unhappiness, it is just as much a great shame that she could no longer be the woman she had once been.
It hurt us all to witness her decline. There were times when the old Margie would come back, but the shadow of long suppressed fears and the pain pills and alcohol took their toll. Her world became clouded and eventually, she lost the fight she once had.
She died an ugly death, by herself in the family home, found by her husband and a stranger. (But that's another ugly story.)
Thank you, Margie, for all you gave me and all you taught me. You were a terrific second mother to me and I will never forget you.
I hope you are at peace.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

A thought

Someone (Lisa Verge Higgins) just posted a quote from JM Barrie's Peter was remembered by a literary agent I have met, but that means nothing. It's the quote that's important.

The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease forever to be able to do it.

Now, if you remember anything about Peter Pan, whether it is Mary Martin winging around the nursery room or the animated Disney guy or any of the other versions of Peter (we will discount that horrible live version with Christopher Walken as Hook) you know that Peter is getting the Darling children to fly with him to Neverland. He has Tinkerbelle reluctantly sprinkle them with pixie dust and they think lovely thoughts and up they whoosh!

It would be pretty terrific to be able to fly, except if one happened to be acrophobic. But let's just assume one is NOT acrophobic.

Flying free, able to go anywhere under one's own power, above the crowds, beyond the rainbow or Big Ben, to a wonderful place where there are Indians and pirates and lost boys and mermaids and underground houses to keep one safe from crocodiles and nasty pirates! Yeah

However, there really isn't a Neverland, except the ones we create in our minds and transfer to the pages of a book. Our story. Our book. Our Neverland.

And the very moment we think we can't fly, we drop like stones.

I can fly. At this moment, I don't particularly feel like flying, but I still believe I can and I will, when I want to.
The trick is never stopping to believe.

(I think Journey had a song about this.)

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Plainfield, NJ

It's been called The Queen City, though I don't know why. In the 19th century, it was THE place to live...probably before the boondocks of the rest of the state developed from farmland. There are still some lovely huge Victorian homes there, though most, regrettably, have been cut into numerous apartments and painted all one color. Usually white with green or black shutters.

But once Plainfield was the place to see and be seen.

When I was very young, we used to go there maybe once a year. My mother always chose the hottest day of the year to go shopping for my winter coats and when it wasn't New Brunswick, it was Plainfield. There were some big stores there--Bambergers and Teppers and lots of other smaller, but nice stores in a long main street. There was a Woolworth's and another five and ten cent store I can't remember the name of now. I would go into Woolworth's and immediately come upon the candy counter. Since it was hot outside, there was no chocolate for sale. If we went there in cooler weather, Mom would buy chocolate covered peanuts for my father and some sort of glass container, shaped like a car or a telephone or something, filled with round candy pellets for me. I don't remember what they tasted like. I may never have gotten around to tasting them because I would save that little glass bottle just for the look of it.

McCrory's. That's the name of the other five and dime.

When my mother had to get a new dress for something important, some dinner dance with my father, she'd go to Bambergers. I guess it was elegant. Back then, dress lengths were set. Fifteen inches from the floor. If you were short, and Mom was, well, she had rather long dresses. Taller women, well, they showed more leg.

What brought on this whole thing was remembering something special. A Chinese restaurant, the Queen's Palace, that we would go to sometimes. Rarely. But I remember having to walk up a steep flight of stairs to get odd that it wasn't on street level. The waiters never spoke a word of English and the men had their black hair slicked back, their maroon cutaway tuxedo jackets contrasted with their starched white shirts. Black ties and black trousers, of course.

We would have chicken chow mein and drink Chinese tea with loads of sugar because they did not have soda or milk for kids.

But the really coolest thing of all was when my brother Jack came with us to celebrate his birthday. He had lots of his own money...from his Newark Star Ledger paper route. We climbed the stairs to the Queen's Palace and went inside. The rows of tables with crisp white tablecloths ranged before us. Maroon or dark red booth seats. Waiter showed us to a table.

Mom orders chicken chow mein of course.
Jack, after carefully perusing the menu, ordered a lobster for himself.

Thought I was going to pass out! Nobody ever ate anything but chicken chow mein there as far as I knew in my relatively short lifetime.
But here, my older by three years and a few months brother was going to have lobster.
He reassured our mother that he would pay for it himself. I'm sure she was greatly relieved because it was probably going over budget as it was to eat Chinese food at a restaurant.

So. We get our bowls of white rice, the tea, and silvery covered servers of CCM.
The waiter leaves, returns with a gigantic plate displaying a magnificently huge reddish dead lobster.

Jack's trophy.
Jack's ambition.
Jack's folly.

He was maybe thirteen or fourteen. He'd never seen a cooked lobster in his life, except perhaps on television, but I doubt it.
I will never forget the look on his face.


Nobody in our family had ever ordered or eaten lobster before this time. Nobody
It was pretty risky for him to attempt to manipulate the claws and what to do with the green stuff and the grey stuff.

I don't remember how or if he managed. I have no idea whether he liked it.
All I remember is seeing that gigantic red monster on the platter being set before him and the range of emotion crossing his face.

Plainfield has gone through far too many ugly changes. It is edging its way out of obscurity and trying desperately to regain its status and respectability. We must credit urban renewal and the desires of the citizens to bring back the Queen City.  The Palace isn't there, hasn't been for decades. The two movie theaters are long gone as are the department stores.

But the Queen City isn't dead yet.
The heart is still beating.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Time for another fake relative

Such a lively bunch of characters I never had in my family!
Take this guy, for example.

We lovingly refer to this twig on a branch of the family tree as "the fog chaser". Born in England in the latter years of 19th century, Nigel was one of seven sons of some distant relative from the other side of the tree. His parents were lower middle class, lived adequately and would have lived better if they hadn't had all those sons.  I understand there were daughters, but much of this history is blurred by...fog, of course.

Anyway, Nigel had a fairly normal childhood and being the baby of the family, managed to have his life made miserable by older brothers who taunted him for his brilliance and lack of athletic ability. Yes, Nige was smart but hopelessly uncoordinated.
His older brothers were robust and handsome and hard working, all contributing to the family income, making sure Mum and Da were comfortable. The sisters, too, evidently. But then, there was Nigel. He didn't contribute much at all to anything.
He was a shy boy, more bookish than seemed natural.
His only talent of note, at first, was his ability to be a teachers' pet because of all the reading and retention he did. Shooting back the answers his teachers wanted to hear was easy.
Understanding the Latin, the geography, the Greek, even, was easy. While his brothers had stumbled through to the third form, Nigel breezed through school, garnering prizes for his one glorious talent.
He would have made it to University had not the family fallen on much harder times.

One brother was run over by a horse carriage.

Another brother left life in the big city to move to the country.
Died while wrestling a pig.

Next brother (they went in order of age it would seem)  apprenticed to a brewer.
Died while sampling the wort, fell into the kettle, at least he died with a smile on his face.

Alfie, the next brother, went into service.
Caught romping with the mistress of the house, shot by the master during a quail hunt. Found with a bird stuffed down his throat. How odd!

Sidney, next in line, also went into service.
He ran off with the vicar to Australia, good as gone forever.

Next to last brother became a copper. Mysteriously went missing third day on the job, whilst chasing Jack the Ripper through Whitechapel in a real pea-souper.

That left Nigel. Poor, scrawny but smart Nigel. He mourned his brothers. While they had been cruel to him his entire life, they were no longer a problem. But this left his sisters and parents bereft. Also rather poor without the income from the brawny bunch.

Nigel thought and thought of how he could help them, as limited as his abilities could be. One day, while strolling through London, careful to avoid particularly foggy streets but failing, it occurred to him that the vapors swirled about him as he moved. He thought about this. The more he thought about this, the more the vaporous vapor swirled until it dissipated. About his person was an area empty of fog.
This was nothing short of miraculous.
He leaned against a lamp post and thought hard about what he was witnessing.
The more he thought, the further away from his person the cloud moved.

Daring to take a deep breath (nobody actually breathed hard in the pea soup as one never really knew what it was made of, even back then) Nigel thought, "wouldn't it be loverly to make all the fog go away?" and, to his amazement, the area around him faded away, leaving him standing in a fifty foot in diameter circle of just air, not fog.

People walking down the street became aware of this empty circle and stepped cautiously within the nothing, only to see Nigel leaning on the lamp.
They smiled, as most Londoners are not chatty, not even back then when there were fewer of them and most spoke some sort of the Queen's language.
But they enjoyed the lack of fog.

"I made it go away, " Nigel boldly spoke out.
"Aw, g'wan. Yeh silly bugger!" echoed through the crowd.

Nigel merely smiled, thought harder and expanded the circle of emptiness even further to the astonishment of the growing crowd.

A scientist happened by at that time and stopped. After observing Nigel's apparent ability for some time, he stepped forward. "I don't know how you are managing to do this, young man, but I believe it requires study by the finest minds in the land. Come with me...I am on my way to a meeting of The Finest Minds in the Land society right now. I'm sure you will be of great interest to all."

So Nigel went. He stood outside the great hall where the scientists met and demonstrated his remarkable ability to them.
Most were awestruck.
Some were dumbstruck.

Nigel went on to be knighted by none other than Victoria Regina herself.
He lived well into the next century where he managed to dissipate the fog all over England where it was wanted. He cleared the skies for those brave young British fliers on their forays into danger. To keep out the German dirigibles that flew over London, Nigel kept the skies overcast where it was needed. 
Unfortunately, Nigel passed away shortly before 1938 so he was unable to help prevent The Blitz. Since he died unmarried and childless, he had no one of his own to pass his ability to.

However, it is believed that one of his sisters produced children and that may be why there is no longer the terrible pea soup fog in England now.
We may never know the how or the why, we just revel in the fact that it was.

Friday, April 1, 2016

The bathroom is bugged

Tiny, 1/16 inch beetle-like bugs appear in our bathroom.
They're little black spots on the wall, but they're still bugs and I dislike bugs inside the house.
I do not know where they come from but a few years ago the husband decided to change the trim on the house, starting with our bathroom. He ripped off some of the baseboards, finished gorgeous new woodwork around the inside door, complete with rosettes that match the trim on the laundry room. He intended to take out the old shower stall and put in a larger one, but that meant taking down a wall and it never got done.
What was left was a gap in some of the baseboards in some places, not all. Bugs this small could easily get through from the floor joists, the inner wall, the empty space above the rooms. I don't know. I do think, however, that these bugs originate somewhere near the floor.
I usually find them making their way slowly up the wall before I squish them in a tissue and give them a burial at sea.
The other day, however, I saw one clinging to the wall over the mirror, approximately a foot over my head.
I don't know what they eat. Dust? Skin flakes? Wallboard? Paint?
Whatever they do eat, they don't do well with it.
Here's the weird thing: those that reach the highest, die.
They do all that climbing, aiming toward the ceiling, and they don't make it.
There's something allegorical, something fabulous, something perhaps even gothic but definitely religious in all this. They aim so high, they struggle, they defy random tissue attacks to reach nearly the top, but they never reach their goal.
They work hard.
They strive for something so difficult.
They never make it.
Now, I wonder if they realize in their tiny bug brains that their goal is unobtainable, or whether they exhaust their strength and desire, or perhaps this is a suicide run.
Their destiny is to almost make it to the top and die trying.
Sounds familiar.