Saturday, June 30, 2012

Yeah, It's Hot

It’s dog-breath weather time here in Ohio. Makes ya long for February – almost. Thank goodness John put in a bunch of window air conditioners in last year. I don’t like the noise, but I do appreciate the cooth therefrom.

In keeping with the wool blanket air, there will not be much cooking going on in this house. We’re eating a lot of salads, throwing in all sorts of fruits, cheese, and meat (mainly chicken) and filling up on greens. It’s too early for the really great things to be available at the market like local melons or peaches, but there’s enough being shipped in from further south to satisfy.

On an entirely different note, I have noticed a strange word choice being used by more writers these days. Instead of a character leaving a room, getting out of a car, or walking from a restaurant, they are using the word “exit.” Characters exit a car, exit a room, or exit a restaurant. What is this about? It seems quite awkward to me. I think it was the Hanna-Barbera high stringed cat who shouted “Exit, stage right!” as his image shot off the screen. Could that word “exit” have imprinted on the brains of tots watching that show, and these tots, having grown up into writers and liking the sound of that word be using it to enhance their prose style? Which it doesn’t.

Well, I shall exit this post now and get back to reading the work of an exit obsessed writer. If she doesn’t stop it, I may have to exit the book, or the reading thereof.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Garden of Uneden

The rogue lily has been breeding underground and  new baby lilies have sprouted, so now I have all of these things springing up. So far I think they have intimidated the deer, so they have remained uneaten. They have intimidated my poor little cilantro and sage plants, which I shall move to the regular garden as soon as it is ready to have new things planted in it. I weeded it yesterday and it looks like something out of the Oklahoma Dust Bowl. We need rain.

Every year I am determined to thin out the less showy Stella d’oro lilies and have not done so. The poor things are so crowded they are not blooming as much as they should. I know they will be hard to dig up and will probably need a hack saw to separate, but it must be done.

If plants were protected like children, I would be hauled into court for neglect.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Bigger Than A Breadbox

Three are problems with large print books, I have found. I just waded through one that had just fewer than 900 pages. The damn thing weighed over five pounds. I am not a weakling, but that’s a lot of paper to wrestle with for an hour or so.

The book is “The Story of Edgar Sawtelle. I guess it was an Oprah book, even though there was no child sexual abuse in it. It started out well, reminding me of one of my favorite writers, John Irving. However, it began to deteriorate after a few hundred pages.

I was at a children’s literature conference some years back and one of the authors/illustrators talked about the fun and necessity of research when working on the kind of book which requires that the writer knows what h/he is talking about. Then, he said you put the research in the background, confident that your story will reflect but not spell out what you know. Lately, I have found that some authors don’t know how to do that. The result is that some of the characters start spouting information in stilted, pedantic speeches or boring conversations that impede the narrative flow, all in aid of letting the reader know how much the author knows... Are writers being paid by the word now? Do editors edit? I looked in the back of the book to read the acknowledgements, and he had dozens of readers and editors helping him, he says, over a number of years. No one had told him the truth, apparently. I have no problem with wordy writers: Hardy and Dickens did wonders with words. This book, which I finally gave up on entirely, managed to bore the hell out of me. Repetition, repetition: people going over the same thing, and then disquisitions in the form of letters about dog breeding.

In spite of all the dog research, he has a female dog standing on three legs to pee.  I know it can happen, but he makes such a point of knowing all about dogs that I just lost all respect, if I had had any, for the so-called writer. I stopped halfway through, and, hey, that’s over 400 freaking pages. (I skipped to near the end and they were talking about the same stuff.)

It’s too bad, because there was the germ of a good story there.

And the damn thing hurt my wrists.
The one on top is the one I am writing about. The one on the bottom is a normal book.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

A Queen's Life

Since there’s nothing on TV these nights, I found myself watching a PBS special about a trip to the U.S. of A. by the queen back in 2007. Housekeepers in the posh inn where she would be staying were all in a flutter to show off how well they had prepared for the royal visit. The bed linens, they gushed, had been washed FOUR times – this before the regal body had mussed to sheets.  How many times AFTER she slept on them would they have to be washed? Does the queen think that previous guests had cooties? One maid proudly showed off the brand new TOILET seat, saying the she was sure Her Majesty would appreciate that. This caused in my mind a visual that I really didn’t choose to entertain. DO you think maybe a lackey rushed in with another new one each tine the queen flushed? Or did a lackey rush in to flush, too? A new roll of TP?

This whole think started me thinking about the life of a royal personage. I wondered, for instance, if the queen had ever made a sandwich, or even knew how. Manly years ago, in the old, original Kent Kapers, I wondered that sort of thing about our own American queen, Jackie Kennedy. After her death, I wrote about the things she had probably never done, and I shall now plagiarize myself and apply the same sort of probing questions about the British monarch. These are women with the sort of life one may think is full and rich, but actuality lacks much.

For example, has Liz ever eaten tuna noodle casserole? Much deserved derision surrounds British cuisine (except for roast beef, of course), but this tasty and easily prepared staple could add some savor to the land of Spotted Dick and Toad in the Hole.

Has she ever fished a child’s toy out of the toilet? Used a coat hanger to pull matted hair out of a drain?  Cleaned up after one of the Corgis had an accident on the royal Persian rugs? Shopped at a Wal-Mart? Dressed herself? Gone outside without one of those HATS on? Actually changed a nappy? Washed out her underwear in the bathroom sink? Bought groceries? Taken out the garbage? Seen garbage? Mopped a floor? Made a bed? Used a plunger on a stopped up sink?

Let’s face it. The woman has had an incomplete, unrealistic life. Tiaras and ermine robes may be fun to wear, and being the richest woman in the world means you can have anything money can buy, including happiness (who believes not?) but, come on, you’re not really LIVING. You end up basically incompetent to survive in the modern world, I think.

But it would be nice to have a new toilet seat every time you sit down in a strange place.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Big Brother

I was four and Bully was eight.For once he wasn't teasing me.

Since his oldest daughter, Amy, was a recent visitor, I have been thinking about my older brother Bill. He left us about nine years ago, out in Montana, the place he and Eileen returned to after he retired from Mercy Hospital in Springfield. He had started his first practice out in Montana in the early fifties, later settling in Springfield after he switched to cardiology in the seventies. I don’t think he had ever felt at home in Ohio and the big blues skies of Montana suited him.

He was the very model of a big brother to me, even though he could be a terrible tease, convincing me at five that I was adopted and that my real name was Anne Hopkins. He would periodically reinforce this, sending me howling to my mother. His insistence was stronger than my mother’s reassurance that I was truly her biological offspring.

He was smart, funny and thought up great games, especially when our parents left him in charge of us so they could go out and relax at the movies or a bridge game with friends. Furniture and artifacts suffered from some of our more exciting antics. We always managed to arrange the damaged pieces so they looked mostly normal when our parents got home. They had a wonderful, high antique spool bed. One night, somehow one of the mattress supporting slats broke. Billy rigged it up so it looked just fine. And it was, until our very pregnant mother climbed aboard. The resulting crash roused us all from our innocent sleep. Little brother Ed could have been born on the bedroom floor, but fortunately held off for another month or so.

He discovered where they hid the Christmas presents in the large central hallway which was full of cupboards. He knew I didn’t want to know ahead of time and would threaten to tell me. I just put my hands over my ears because I liked surprises. In that same hallway, he managed to talk our father into letting him have a large closet for his “office.”  He provided a desk and Billy provided himself with a telephone he had probably scrounged from someone’s trash pile. He connected it illegally, of course, with out line. This was a sacred spot and we were forbidden to enter. My sister was just as smart as he was and a lot braver than I.  She had not problem defying his authority and breaking into this office whenever she had a chance. She found a treasure map in his desk and decoded it. I don’t remember if we actually hunted it down, but I was duly impressed with her skill as a spy. They had some epic battles as children, while I watched, admiring them both.

He loved to build things and invent things. He had this book full of fun things to make out of ordinary household objects and the nosier the better. I was fascinated by papier mache puppets he and a friend made for a Punch and Judy show they would put on. (I found a copy of that book and Polly and I made the same puppets many years later.)

He had a collection of lizards, chameleons and skinks, for which he and our father made wooden cages. We all caught flies to feed them, watching their tongues flick out and pull the live flies in.

He made our childhood fun and exciting.  I have no doubt that he did the same for his children.

He had the qualities I hoped to find in a husband: intelligence and humor. And I did.

Monday, June 4, 2012

June Already

Wait! It’s June already. Where did May go, and why so quickly? It was a lovely month, mostly, as I recall. I spent a few days incarcerated in a hospital, having suffered from pancreatitis. Since it’s something common to alcoholics, I was shocked that I should fall victim to this without having had the fun of drinking. I found out that the meds I am on for high blood pressure and high cholesterol were the culprits, something they forget to tell you when they put you on those drugs. I recovered from it quickly but it took me another week to get over being in the hospital, where one is constantly at the mercy of people with needles. I am back to normal, although I am drugless, so my blood pressure and cholesterol are probably climbing as I write. Who care?

Emily was home for about two weeks, which was just great. She was here for the wedding of one of her friend’s daughter’s weddings which I also attended, since her friend’s parents are also friends of mine.  I had not seen the bride since she was a toddler and she turned out to be quite beautiful in a Vera Wang fairy tale wedding dress. The wedding was at a local art museum and was festive and fun. Thrown in was a tour of the galleries, from which I abstained. I don’t like mixing social events with checking out exhibits, so I’ll catch it later.

While Emily was here, we drove up to the northern part of the county on one of those days that make living in Ohio worthwhile – all green and blue with white clouds and waving grassy meadows. We went to one of the great orchards for strawberries just picked. Then we went to Rafael’s bakery in that fine old building, where he had Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” blasting on the sound system. His wife died this past spring and he had had her memorial service in the building. I missed it because of the pancreatic problem. He had met her in Barcelona many years ago. He was a DJ in a club. He told me that when she walked in, he put a stack of records on the changer and followed her out and never went back. They had been married for forty years. She was a lovely woman, a professor at Hiram College. She’d been ill for several years, and before she became too ill, they went back to Barcelona for a farewell rip. It is a very romantic story and he is a very romantic Spaniard. He loves women and we are all his fans at the weekly market.

My gorgeous niece Amy came up to see us while Emily was here. She is the daughter of my late oldest brother and is very like him - only much better looking. We had a great visit and hope to see her more often. She is an assistant to a university president in southern Ohio and doesn’t have a lot of free time, so it was so good of her to come up and spend time with us. She’s a terrific person.

Emily left yesterday and the house is very empty as it always is after she’s been here. She and John and Sally all have ITouch devices and what silence there was was broken by the tap-tap-tapping of their little hand held computers. I think those things are addicting. Emily could do Facetime with her daughters and husband whewhen she was here, so I got to visit with them, too.

While I was under the weather I was gifted with many flowers, which explains the picture accompanying this post. It almost liked like a funeral parlor at times, but was much appreciated.