Friday, May 30, 2014

Spaghetti vacation

Last Friday was the last Lutheran church spaghetti dinner  ( an oxymoron if ever I heard one) until September. The First Christian church final spaghetti dinner was  three weeks ago. I did a post on church dinners a few years ago,  when we were going to Swiss steak or chicken and biscuit dinners, mostly in small towns around the county. They were sponsored by churches, but sometimes held in the village hall and were very much the same: meat  and gravy, mashed (real) potatoes, green beans, corn, applesauce and many colorful and sugary desserts.
Now we confine ourselves to the two spaghetti dinners right here in town. Both of these offerings started fairly recently in  the church supper business. In each case, the congregations had built a new church hall for various uses-weddings, Eagle Scout investitures, altar society meetings, maybe even quilting bees for all I know. They can be rented to groups and generate some cash for the church.The dinners were started as a way of paying off the mortgage debt created by the building of the halls, where the dinners are held, which seems redundant, or something.
The Christians offer plain marinara or meat sauce, salad, beverages and homemade desserts:pies, cakes and brownies. The Lutherans give you plain marinara or meatballs, much better salads, garlic bread, beverages and desserts, including really good German chocolate cake in honor of Luther, I guess. Their hall is quite magnificent, designed to fit their semi-Victorian Gothic stone church. Their dinner is a dollar cheaper and they donate a portion of the proceeds to different social service agencies each month, thus demonstrating civic involvement and rendering to Caesar and all. I only know this because an acquaintance who volunteers there told me. I do not know if the Christian church does this sort if thing, but I do know that they've paid off their mortgage on the social hall, which is a good thing, along with providing a night off for the family cook once a month, which is also a good thing and all.
For the next three months I shall have to make my own damn spaghetti with no dessert to follow, since I don't do that sort of thing. It makes for a long summer.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Empty Street

When I moved to this street 52 years ago, the neighborhood was full of children. The street is only a block and a quarter long, with a dead end. We were all creating the Baby Boomer generation. On this short street, there were over sixty children, ranging in age from 9 months ( my youngest) to 18 years old.
The houses were built in 1951, with two stories and full basements. The yards were small, but with a couple of exceptions( houses where mean old ladies who always threatened to call the police if a child set foot in her yard) the children  pretty much had the run of the neighborhood. At the end of the street was-and still is- Dix's woods, the owners of which let the kids roam there freely, with a hill for sledding. The kids played well together, no fighting, except for a couple of boys who tried to bully the smaller kids. It was the era of stay at home mothers, so any problems were quickly settled.
The area was close enough to downtown, the library, the movie theater and school, so everyone walked once they were old enough to go places on their own.
In the summer, there was constant activity. Out after breakfast, in for lunch, out again until dinner, out again until bed time. Almost every summer evening the whole gang would be in the street playing "mush ball," so-called because it was played with a semi-collapsed toy ball about the size of a soccer ball, using a large plastic bat. Even though most of the boys were also in Little League, usually played early in the evening, mush ball was more fun and not confined to boys only. Very seldom did a car interfere with the game, since the street was a dead end one. When it was time to come in, each family had its own way of signaling the end of the day for their kids: a specific whistle, a bugle, and in my case, a cow bell.
All that is gone now. There is one child on the street, a six year old boy who plays mostly by himself. There are three empty houses for sale. The small houses here which held all the large families we had in those days, even though they have four bedrooms and two bathrooms, are no longer popular. The
kind of people who used to buy these places now want bigger places, not so close to the town. The
fact that the kinds of houses they want also entail driving their 1.2 children everywhere doesn't seem to bother them.
I miss the children, mine and all the others. I loved watching them walk by on their way to school, I
miss their voices on summer evenings. I miss the thudding of their feet as they ran across the yards.
It is just too quiet. The street is too empty.
I am glad that my kids had this place and all those other kids to be with throughout their childhood. I think most boomers had the last really free childhood-at least those in middle class families of the time. I don't envy the over-scheduled, over- tested children of this generation, growing up in suburbs with no sidewalks and hovering parents.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Literary Ego Tripping

I have noticed for the past several years that on book covers  the authors' names now dwarf the book titles. These huge, embellished names also appear over the title. This is probably because people often select a book based on who wrote it. That's not unusual, since most of us have our favorite writers. However, I started thinking of all the great authors of the past who were content to have their names under the title, and in much in smaller, more modest print.
This current need for top billing strikes me as a kind of  egotistical posturing, especially as some of the large font scribblers write the same book over and over again, knowing that their loyal followers will grab anything with their names on the cover, writ large, shouting " HERE'S MY LATEST !!!" Who cares what the title is?
I cannot picture Jane Austen, for instance, doing this, even though her books probably sell better today than they did when they were first published. And, yes, there is a similarity in her plots, but her wit and style are unsurpassed.
Anyway, I find today's bloated authors' names just a bit unseemly. I can see Hemingway loving it; it fits his image. But there are scores of hacks out there trying to lure the reader in by appearing to be stars of their own literary garbage. It ain't fittin'. Just sayin.'

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Under the Lilacs

The lilacs are in bloom on what's left of the hedge down the street. When the Myers lived in the house, the lilac hedge was huge and bursting with branches full of the sweet-smelling blossoms. lIt is now a bit scraggly, and the lilac bunches are not so prolific. This was where all the neighborhood children picked bouquets of flowers for Mother's Day, with no objections from the owners. In the mornings, on the way to school, they would gather some for the teachers, too. There are now very few children in the neighborhood, so the crowds of kids coming home from school on these May afternoons are no more.  It's as if the sparse hedge shrank as the kid population diminished.
We have a couple of lilac bushes in the back yard, sending that scent into the kitchen in the afternoon.  This lovely plant has only a limited time of beauty, turning quickly into a green shrub, but it doesn't matter, especially after such a terrible winter. It's brief span of pleasure to the senses is one of the benefits of surviving an Ohio winter.
There's a lovely place near where Emily lives in Bavaria, Schleissheim Palace, one of those fairy tale places, full of sweeping marble staircases, Palladian widows, walls hung with brocade - the real deal. There are formal gardens, fountains, mazes and all the things a palace should have. In the front is one of the most beautiful lilac gardens, with every color that lilacs can possibly be: purple, lavender, pink, mauve, white and maroon. This a a popular Mother's Day destination. (There's a beer garden, of course, since it's Germany.) You can wander around the lilacs, which is feast for the eyes and the nose. It is quite heavenly.
Our little scraggly lilac hedge pales in comparison, naturally, but in its day it was a magical place for many children, as wonderful as the palace lilac garden in far off Bavaria.
And you could pick some lilacs for your mother.