Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Whence Came These Blossoms?

I notice a tall plant growing in m little flower garden the other day, and also some small stalky things. The tall plant turned into this beautiful lily, which I did not plant and the stalky things turned into these little blue star shaped things. I have no names for them and no idea whence they came. The little blur things, the color of a June sky, grow as a single blossom on each stalk. I think they are from a bulb, since I did notice the stalks last year, but no flowers. The lily is a complete mystery and I'm happy to have it. I have a batch of stella d'oro lilies in the same patch, but I don't think they could have given birth to this different sort of lily. I know that seed plants can spring up because birds intestinal functions act as seed sowers - bur bulb plants? Not unless an emu happened to have wandered through my yard. Down in Holmes County, the Amish have taken to raising emus, rheas and ostriches, but they are flightless and it's a long walk from Sugarcreek to Kent. Perhaps a passing stranger, strolling by last fall, planted a surprise for me. I like it.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Sense of Place

When I took a few writing classes a several years ago, one of the first things the instructor talked about was that the writer must be able to use his/her sense of place, home, roots. I was born in New Jersey and left there when I was 4 to move to the South, where my father was from. I spent eight years living in Atlanta, which was actually a Southern city in those days. I spent eight years there before moving to Ohio, and I have lived here for 70 years. But Ohio is not my home, not really. I guess one's childhood home remains the place one identifies as "home." Having a Yankee mother kept me from picking up the old biases of the South, biases which keeps many people from appreciating the better parts of that culture.

I am thinking of that today because last night I watched, for the umpteenth time "To Kill a Mocking Bird." I had re-read the book a couple of years ago and found that it had lost its magic for me. That's not to say that it is not a good book; it's just that from this distance (it came out almost 60 years ago, in the pre-civil rights era) some of the things Atticus says in the book seem paternalistic now, as was not uncommon among "good" white folks in those days.

However, what I originally loved about the book and the wonderful movie, written by Horton Foote, is that it brought my childhood back so vividly to me. Even the houses on the street looked like the houses on the streets I roamed in Atlanta's West End. On our block, we even had our own Boo Radley, only ours was a severely, very homely, retarded, and much loved by his family, young man. We were terrified of him because he would sit on his front porch rocking in a noisy rocking chair and make strange noises. His mother claimed he was imitating the street car bells. She once showed me a picture of him when he was a toddler and very beautiful. Sad. His parents finally had to take him to Milledgeville to the state institution because his younger teen age sister couldn't have her high school friends over. He died within a year.

Two houses down from us lived a woman divorced from her army officer husband. She had two sons, one a biker, and the other a handsome young man who would dress up in his mother's negligee and sing Gershwin tunes in a falsetto voice in his back yard. The biker would periodically beat his brother up. The people who had lived in that house before had a daughter we would play with. The mother and grandmother spent their days ironing wax paper bags as some kind of piecework , so their house always smelled of hot wax.

Across the street was a large gray Victorian house where another woman lived with her two teenage daughters, both overly developed for their ages. The husband and father was in the federal penitentiary for mail fraud. They had this great gazebo in their backyard, but the two girls were too old for us to play with. And their father was a criminal!

Next to that family, in a big white house with a huge porch, lived Mr. Mincy, a retired Georgia farmer whose hero was the former governor, Eugene Tallmadge whose black wool broad-brimmed and red suspenders he emulated. Mr. Mincy kept two contented cows in his back yard, and sat on his front porch every afternoon chewing Red Mule tobacco. I used to sneak over and gather the tiny tin Red Mule tags he'd throw over the porch rail. Every once in a while his two grandsons, with names like Floyd or Earl, would roar into town on their motorcycles and flirt with the two girls from next door.

It was an interesting neighborhood in a Southern Gothic sort of way, and I thought everyone lived in a neighborhood like that until we moved to Ohio. Maybe Southerners were more likely to live their lives out loud, but almost every place I've lived since has seemed so bland. Our old neighborhood on Sells Avenue, S.W., Atlanta, Georgia, is now all African American but probably still has stories to tell, and may even be haunted by the smell of hot wax, the noise of someone trying to sound like street car bells, the aroma of tobacco juice and cow manure, or a faint androgynous voice warbling "Love Walked Right In.".

I took the above picture of our house on a trip to Atlanta some years ago. When we lived there, it had a white picket fence and a gate we would swing on, and grass in the yard. We spent a lot of time on that porch catching flies for our brother's lizards, which he kept on the back porch in neat little wooden cages.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

I Know What The Question Is, But What's The Answer?

And the question is, why doesn't Obama do something about the oil spill? I love that the people who are demanding this are those who also want the government to keep the hell out of the private sector. They carry on about the government trying to control the banking business and health care, and shout in letters to the editor that Obama is a socialist, communist and fascist all rolled into one evil personage.

The media, radio, print and television want him to be more emotional. They don't like rational, logical carefully considered responses to problems. They say he is distant from "the people." Hey, we had a guy that a lot of people wanted to have a beer with at the local saloon, who could shed a tear on occasion, but who also got us into this mess with his and his cohorts' approach to big oil, their own personal gold mines.

I have not heard exactly what it is that Obama is supposed to do, according to the people who want him to do something. Send in the army corps of engineers. Oh, wait a minute, aren't they the people who messed up the Delta to begin with? Send in the National Guard? Oh, wait, they're trying to deal with tornadoes and floods, or fighting in Afghanistan. Commission all those smart people who claim they have an invention that will clear this thing up in no time to take their inventions down their and get to work? Oh, wait a minute; are there actually such people and do their inventions really work? (Hey there, Kevin Kostner!) Should he personally clean a pelican while shedding copious tears?

It's obvious that the BP people are apparently completely incompetent and dishonest, but can an American president take over an international oil company? Is that what he should do? Should he bomb London? Is that what people want? Should he go on TV and gnash his teeth and rend his garment in grief? If someone has specific answers to what can be done, it would be helpful if that person could let us know.

This is a man-made tragedy and it will take everyone a long time to resolve all the problems resulting from our heedless oil greed. And that's everyone of us, not just the president.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Hot Soup for a Summer Night

What am I, nuts? It's hot. Muggy. The floors feel damp on my bare feet. However, I am making soup for dinner tonight. I am making soup for dinner tonight because I have this great leftover gravy from a pot roast dinner I made for last night's dinner. It was hot yesterday, too. I just wanted to have a dinner without too much trouble, since my friend Susan was visiting from Dayton, and we were going to a matinee over at Porthouse Theater at Blossom Center. We went to see "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee", which I had seen but she had not. I didn't want to be enjoying a funny play while wondering what to fix for dinner or even having to fix dinner after spending an afternoon enjoying a funny play. So I threw all the meat and vegetables into the slow cooker early in the morning so I could relax and enjoy the funny play and have dinner ready when we came home. The performance was superb and the dinner was tasty and hot and we had a fine sparkling wine to cool us off. Cynthia made one of her delicious salads with lettuce from her garden, and John had gotten some strawberries and fixed them with ice cream.

Now I have all this nice gravy and some leftover potatoes and carrots and why not make soup, for cryin' out loud, even though the atmosphere is warm and humid? Sure, I could freeze the stuff, but it's never the same. So, I'll throw in some broccoli, peas, parsley from the garden, and serve it with some of Rafael's great bread. He's the charming Spanish baker who's at the market on Saturdays. He said it is Spanish bread because he is Spanish and if he were French, it would be French bread. I think I have enough lettuce, which has been slow to grow to add to store bought spring mix for a decent salad. No sparkling wine, but some Cheap Chuck Sauvignon Blanc and I'll have a nice French/Spanish peasant meal here. It'll be a tad warm, but nourishing.

I also made some chicken stock today from part of a carcass (see above picture) which I can freeze because it keeps well in the freezer and I can use it for all sorts of things. It's not the same as good beef gravy. And the usual summer soups, like gazpacho, or cool cucumber, are very labor intensive and don't taste nearly so good.

So maybe I'm not nuts.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


As I was doing the laundry today, I started to ponder underpants. Not panties. I don't know anyone who calls them panties. I hate that word. Anyway, in nice, sunny weather such as we are having today, I hang my laundry outside. Except for my underwear. I am hesitant to display my giant underpants to the neighborhood, especially since I live on a corner lot, thus displaying to a wide variety of passersby whatever is flapping on my clothes line. I have discovered recently that many of the new "developments" forbid the drying of laundry outside lest the real estate values are debased by the sight of empty clothing hanging out there with no bodies inside them. It seems as if laundry is akin to some sort of very personal activity, like putting your toilet out in the yard.

But I digress. The subject is underwear, particularly underpants. My Brit friend Helen calls them knickers, but that word only reminds me of those things my older brother wore back in the days when boys didn't start wearing long pants until they were around twelve years old. They wore knickers, which came to the knee and were usually made of corduroy, which meant you could hear a boy coming five minutes before he showed up. (Which meant you and the dog could beat it out of your brother's way before he had time to torture you. )

But I digress again. I hang my smalls inside on a wooden rack which I set by the window in order to catch the sun. They may be visible from outside, but they are not blatant. My favorite underpants are about 6 or 7 years old. They are no longer pink, blue or beige. They are sort of nothing color. They have a lacy waistband. They are 100% cotton. I love them. They are by Warner. I went in to Macy's shortly before I broke my hip to buy some more, ones with actual colors. They don't make them any more. The only 100% cotton ones were bikini style. I no longer have a washboard stomach. I do not wear bikini style anything. Or they had leg holes tahat came up to your arm pits. I ended up having to buy some nylon things that are nice looking and feel good, but I wanted new cotton underpants just like the ones I have had for all these years.

Today I got the latest Vermont Country Store catalogue. They have lots of cotton underpants, even Lollipops, but they look like old lady underpants. My Warner cotton underpants do not look like old lady underpants and that's what I want again.

I shall wear my new nylon underpants, of course, but I shall continue to wear my old Warner 100% cotton underpants with the lacy waist band until they fall off my body in a gray heap.