Banded birds: Will they fly?

Had to put some Miles Davis in the cd player tonight, so I guess that means I am missing my youngest and his eclectic music tastes, if not his YRMLM complaints.

Sent him another postcard collage today. I don't know if my creations will pass Postal Service muster, as I have been running them through my Xyron laminator before adding the postage.

If you happen to receive a collage postcard, please let me know. I'm trying to find out what sorts of creations are acceptable to the Postal Gods. In the meantime, I'm listening to Chick Corea, and searching for Charlie Parker.


Medical researchers have noted a correlation between the onset of the well-documented "empty nest syndrome" and the first presentation of cyberchondria americanus symptoms. Symptoms include heightened agitation; irrational aggravation; cold sweats; frequent aborted calls to overseas tech service numbers; eyelid spasms; repetitive unproductive behaviors such as turning computers on and off, on and off, on and off..., plugging and unplugging surge protectors, or answering every darn request for a user name and password with MerCurY7 and GemINI8; exaggerated hissed verbal threats to go live in a cave and never come out.


Marco Polo

Got a Mikey Dog Travel Log update. He's reached the high top of the Italy boot, in the Cinque Terre region of Italy, east of Monaco, south of Genoa. On my map puzzle, Italy is orange. Britain is pink. France is green. Monterossa is a beautiful small town by the sea, he says. Tomorrow he'll hike a trail connecting five small towns along the sea. Monterossa is a "bit touristy", he says. I smile reading his email.

I should have known Mikey Dog would be a world traveler. In kindergarten he was fascinated by maps and aerial perspectives, making drawings of the streets from a hotel window in San Antonio, and of the terrain below his airplane window near Albuquerque. In first grade he wrote that if he won the lottery he would go back to Washington, D.C. to see more of the museums and play with Linky the cocker spaniel. A few years later, he was so fascinated with Marco Polo he convinced a children's theatre director to create a play about Marco Polo. Genghis Khan was another of his fascinations. Soon he will study international business in Italy. Maybe he will travel the Silk Road.


Grab that case of shoestring potatoes!

First thing this morning I turned on the t.v. to check on Hurricane Katrina and the evacuees inside the Superdome like many folks all over the country. New Orleans is one place I've actually been in person, not just through the eyes of some fictional caterer/amateur detective. New Orleans is a foreign, wondrous, decadent, humid city of fascinating history and insects the size and weight of a bowling bag. It is also the site of national Whiz Quiz tournaments which, despite their popularity and importance, have never been held in the Superdome.

The Superdome is even bigger than the insects. Sure, it was many years ago when my then-spouse insisted we go for a run around the Superdome SEVERAL times, but I bet it hasn't shrunk. That sucker is monstrous, and jogging in New Orleans is like doing water aerobics in a kettle of boiling crawdads. I hold New Orleans in my fond memory. I'm mostly over wanting to put my ex in a kettle of boiling crawdads.

Sunday night I watched footage of the evacuees waiting in lines to get into the Superdome carrying their trashbags of food and clothing. Then this morning they had dim light but NO A/C! Those poor people, I thought, remembering my eldest's high school graduation held inside sweltering Texas Stadium. If I felt trapped sitting through the ceremony for the largest high school class to ever graduate in Texas, with concession stands selling H2O for $3/bottle, imagine how they must feel sitting out the storm. I had the luxury of knowing that the parade of students across the platform would eventually reach the Z's, although I did have on pantyhose, which counted double for suffering. Please don't let any folks in the hot, muggy Superdome have on pantyhose!

I had just worn nylons for the first time at my sixth grade promotion in late May of 1967. The nylons were "Suntan", and my dress for the occasion was a lovely Monet blue and lavender voile. My mantra was, "Don't lock your knees. Don't lock your knees. You won't faint and fall off the risers if you don't lock your knees."

1967 was Nebraska's statehood centennial. My pal and I were going to attend the Nebraska Camp Fire Girls Centennial Camporee in Lincoln's lovely, shady Pioneers Park. It was going to be "real" tent camping for hundreds of girls, with educational bus trips to the major sites of the Capitol City.

There's a definite lack on web information on this event, despite my best search efforts. Using the rainfall statistics for Lancaster County at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's High Plains Climate Center, along with the perpetual calendar in my loyal World Almanac, I suspect that the Camporee began on Sunday, June fourth. On the first full day of the week-long event, all the campers rode school buses into town to visit the Historical Society Museum, the State Capitol building with its Unicameral Chamber, the Governor's Mansion, the Folsom Children's Zoo, and the Sunken Gardens. After about the second educational tourist attraction this adventure had become a torture of searing bus seats and delays for hungry, thirsty, bored, irritable girls in navy shorts and white blouses.

Finally we boarded the buses to ride back out to the campsite. Recognition had dawned that we would continue to be hot, sweaty, bored, irritable, and itchy inside the canvas tents while counselors stirred big pots of hamburger stew made with Lipton dried soup packets, mixed the Tang, and got out loaves of Wonder Bread. The darkening sky matched our moods.

The storm came in suddenly, whipping the tent flaps and pouring down rain. The rain felt pretty good, but then the tents started falling down on us. The counselors couldn't make supper. They had to herd all the girls into the concrete park restrooms at the back of the concession stand. We could hear the tornado sirens. A couple adults held transistor radios to their ears. We kept packing closer together, standing inside the restrooms, scared, still itchy, thirsty, and hungry, and horrified about being in the MENS. Sirens, lightning, thunder, loose pieces of clothes and paper flying around. Then a lull. A brave young woman ran out through the rain, wind, and mud to what was left of the mess tent. She was bringing us provisions! She was bringing us a case of canned shoestring potatoes! It was just like a chapter from Little House on the Prairie or On the Banks of Plum Creek! We were going to huddle together budgeting our precious, limited supply of salty, greasy, potato sticks as the rain poured down even harder. We would gradually rotate so that each member of the group would get a turn to sip a bit of water from their cupped hand at the dirty sink of the MENS restroom.

In those primitive days there were no cell phones. Somehow, someone sort of in charge managed to get word to the city that the camp was a wreck. The Lincoln National Guard sent buses to load all the campers and the rest of the shoestring potatoes to ride to the armory. We each got a cot, and a PB sandwich. We didn't sleep well, still being soggy, and not knowing where we were.

After a few days at the armory, and a volunteer work detail back out to the campsite to load all the wet belongings into National Guard buses, I found a way to contact my parents so they could pick me up. All organization for the Camporee had broken down. No FEMA, no Plan B. And not enough shoestring potatoes!

Sending visualizations of shoestring potatoes to everyone in the Superdome tonight...


Home Decorating 101

What location is to real estate, balance and harmony are to interior design. Some people have a natural gift for creating balance and harmony in their spaces. Others consult feng shui experts. Many check out the large, heavy, gorgeously illustrated interior design books from the library about French kitchens and Santa Fe living rooms as a guide. Some use computer programs to rearrange without sweat.

In my own unbalanced way, I strive to move the pieces in my home to achieve a harmony of color, pattern, density, openness,antique, and contemporary. I like a variety of textures, which means some surfaces aren't covered with dust just to act as accent contrasts to the rest of the arrangement.

What sets me off fenging the schwee all around the condo is cords. Cords AND cables. They make me nuts. I can't sit down and watch a movie in my "home entertainment center" if I can see the electrical cords squirreling around in my peripheral vision. My plan for the day was to do the mountain of ironing while watching some tv and videos in the living room, but the cords behind the tv were taunting me.

Before long I had all the books off the shelves, all the entertainment devices unplugged and on the floor, the aquarium drained and headed to the dumpster, and a cold Miller Genuine Draft to aid the search for balance and harmony. At least I don't have a couch any more. And, by the way, complaining about the lack of a couch gave my two sons and their friends a safe, harmless, meaningful teen activity this summer when they could have been out on the streets rabble-rousing and leaving chewed bubble gum under the table at Taco Bueno! Just another free parenting tip...

After a couple hours I reached living room nirvana. Every chair, table, and framed photo was perfectly positioned to exude sheer bliss to anyone who enters. Unfortunately, I missed Lesson One of the class. Lesson One was when I should have learned not to achieve balance with the ironing board in the corner and the pile of wrinkly clothes plunked in the middle of the floor as part of the serene equation!


Put your finger on the string

Mailing a package used to be simpler. All packages were wrapped in brown paper and tied with string--used and saved string. The brown paper was likely reused, too, or may have been a cut up grocery sack. The box was certainly reused.

You put a slip of paper in with whatever you were mailing (preferably homemade cookies) with the destination address "just in case". Then you wrapped the box tightly in brown paper. You were allowed three small pieces of expensive Scotch tape, one in the middle, and one at each neatly folded end. Then you would use the saved string to tie the paper on. When you got ready to make a knot, you would call upon the small child, who had been quietly watching this major process, to hold the string with one finger while you pulled the knot tight. The excitement was in learning just when to pull the finger away from the string so as not to be stuck in the knot.

You wrote the address on the brown paper, and walked to the post office to mail the package. When you got to the counter, you told the postmistress "parcel post". She did a complicated calculation of weight and destination, all the while talking about whether it would rain in time to save this year's crop, and about how many jars of watermelon pickles you were putting up. She might let you lick the postage stamps. Then you would walk home, stopping in at the library for a new Nancy Drew mystery.

I am very pleased to report that Sherlock Holmes is in the public domain. That means you can read Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's "The Adventure of the Cardboard Box" with just one click of the mouse. I won't tell you how it turns out, but I will say listening to Sherlock Holmes cassettes in the car improved the quality of many road trips with the boys!

Today I learned the hard way that you can't reuse a Priority Mail box unless you want to pay Priority Mail postage. I wish I had covered the box with used brown paper. Then I wouldn't have to make another trip to the post office. I couldn't have used string, though!

The Box: Select a strong box with room for cushioning. On recycled boxes, cover all previous labels and markings with a heavy black marker or adhesive labels.

Sealing: Tape the opening of the box and reinforce all seams with 2 inch wide tape. Use clear or brown packaging tape, reinforced packing tape or paper tape. Do not use cord, string or twine.

If you are easily amused--let's say you think pulling your finger away from the string before it's caught in the knot is exciting--you might want to read this brief history of the U. S. Postal Service from 1775 to the present. And I sure hope there are homemade cookies in the present!

The Fruit That Won the West

Hot, hot, hot, hot as I crawl forward on my belly across the Death Valley sands toward the mirage...

My magnetic material is melting in the heat of another North Texas August day. My mental disks are feeling fragile and desensitized, too. Thank heaven I'm not riding the trail behind a herd of cattle, rounding up the stray dogies.

Maybe I'm anemic, my fevered imagination worries. The heat zaps me more than it used to. Maybe I need dried apricots. My mom was a big believer in the benefits of consuming dried apricots. She made sure they were one of my four basic food groups when I lived in the dorm in college (along with Triscuits, machine-dispensed coffee (fifteen cents/cup), and yogurt).

Mom convinced my little brother that all cowboys ate dried apricots to stay regular when they were riding the range. When I bite into a dried apricot, I still hear the Sons of the Pioneers singing, "All day I face the barren waste without the taste of water, Cool water." That was my brother's cowboy music album, and pretty enjoyable still.

The taste of water is foul these days in the Metroplex, due to the annual algae bloom. This is the only time of the year anyone really needs to buy bottled water. I'm all for taxing bottled water, if nothing else to pay the expense of cleaning up the littered bottles along every sports field, trail, park, parking lot, and roadway in the state. But I would request the tax not apply in August!

We take so much for granted here. In much of the world tap water is unsafe to drink without boiling, if there's even a tap at all.

My mail art first attempt.


Do the Laminator With Me

I'm in the last mad dash to prepare lesson plans and materials for the fall semester. The photo images will survive if and only if I laminate them.

Everybody's doin' a brand new dance now
Come on, baby, do the locomotion
I know you'll get to like it if you give it a chance now
Come on, baby, do the locomotion
My little baby sister can do it with ease
It's easier than learning your ABC's
So come on, come on, do the locomotion with me

How can it be that Gerry Goffin and Carole King wrote the Locomotion song in 1962?

All Quiet on the Laundry Front

"It's quiet out there...too quiet," I remarked. When the jungle, the city, or the battlefield becomes too quiet, the reader knows all hell is about to break lose with an enemy offensive. I am conditioned to wait and to fear the worst is one breath away.

My washer and dryer are idle. So is the dishwasher. It's eerie. I don't think this has ever happened before. For twenty-three years my major appliances have been running like an involuntary household heartbeat. Now they are standing silent, waiting for the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unmatched Sock.

Brought a few dingy puppets and dress-up clothes home from work just to cheer up the Kenmores. For one cycle they felt useful and needed again. Tonight at bedtime I'm going to read them The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge. And speaking of lighthouses, check out these photos: Lighthouses, a Photographic Journey.


Bucking the Trends...

...or confessions of a non-Foodie.

Twenty years ago I met a professor at a Christmas party where we were playing some sort of trivia game. He announced proudly that he had dropped out of contemporary culture twenty years earlier. I remembered the conversation because I had just realized that I couldn't converse with the preteen babysitter we had enlisted for the evening because I didn't know anything about Michael Jackson's Moonwalk, Madonna, or OP clothes. I didn't intentionally drop out of contemporary culture, but vice versa. As a harried, broke, sleep-deprived mother of toddlers my name had been dropped from the membership roll of The Hip & In The Know. These things happen when your every single car drive is accompanied by Raffi or Wee Sing tapes.

I drive around in my seriously un-sexy Buick these days listening to NPR or the classical music radio station. I use the word "groovy" in conversation. I wonder why so many people at the mall look like they are wearing their pajamas, or just their underwear. I call graphic novels "comic books" and think they should cost a quarter at Ben Franklin's. And so, I have missed the food fad.

There are a lot of folks out there sampling exotic olives and making Crème Brûlée, which sounds like a good name for a teenage cave man. I have to apologize for ordering "a just plain regular black coffee", and get haggis and hummus mixed up.

With no sons at home, I am tempted to eat nuked hot dogs with French's mustard three meals a day. Driving home from work I had a little chat with myself (for the amusement of the driver ahead of me) about eating better. So I went to Central Market. I'm probably the only Planoite who's never been. Had a nice time wandering around looking at fresh veggies and fruits, and an amazing array of sausages. Started zoning out reading labels in the salad dressing aisle in my continuing search for onionless dressings. Suddenly someone was asking me in a very shrill, singsong voice if I needed any help. I turned around to find a woman who looked like a Sixties troll doll wearing a green and white striped apron and a nametag identifying her as a "Foodie". She had a pink lamb puppet, which was apparently the reason for the odd voice. I said I was fine, but the lamb was quite insistent that she could help me, so I asked the lamb which dressings didn't contain onions. The lamb was stumped, and scurried off to the bulk organic whole grains department. I talk to puppets often in both my jobs, but I don't want to do it in the grocery store!


Big Board in the Dumpster

You'll be happy to know this is not an analysis of trading on the NYSE. Yes, I listen to Marketplace on NPR on the drive home from work most days. Yes, I stood in line at the post office today watching the tv infomercial about putting twenty percent of my retirement investments into gold. I suppose that is about right. I have a leftover gold wedding ring that could best be considered a retirement investment!

This Big Board is the dry erase board hung over the kitchen sink for eight years. It served as the Master Logistical and Grocery Store Calendar for our household, and highest transportation coordination authority. We all equated it with the map in the Strangelove War Room. Many times we quoted, "Gentlemen! You can't fight in here! This is the war room!", as a guiding rule in our post-divorce family make-over. My efforts to organize my crew sometimes led to quotes of Jack Ryan imitating Admiral Painter in The Hunt for Red October:

"The average Rooskie, son, don't take a dump without a plan." Wait a minute. We don't have to figure out how to get the crew off the sub. He's already done that, he would have had to. All we gotta do is figure out what he's gonna do. So how's he gonna get the crew of the sub. They have to want to get off. How do you get a crew to want to get off a submarine? How do you get a crew to want to get off a nuclear sub...

My crew is off the sub now. I should have taken a picture before I dumped the Big Board in the trash. It's a strange feeling not being the Condo Concierge/Recording Secretary/Mission Commander for the family. Rats. I suppose I have to manage my own life now!

But first, let's do the numbers... Enjoy the Larry Carlton music that's been showing up during NPR show breaks lately.

Saying Goodbye to Sgt. Bradley

I broke it to him as gently as I could. The Marine recruiter who has left hundreds of messages on my voice mail over the past seven years does not need to call here anymore. There is no chance whatsoever that I am going to enlist.

Without Sgt. Bradley, I will have only the Plano Public Library's automated calling system, and some pesky UT alumni directory salespitchers to leave me messages. Only the Maytag repairman will have fewer Call Notes.


Travel Light

Mikey Dog is heading off for his junior year of study abroad with this red backpack and blue duffel. I'm going to ship him the box by the foot of the ironing board that has some winter necessities. That's it. Everything he needs, he has to take along and be able to carry.

What do we really need? We are accustomed to having so much stuff. Does it really enhance our lives? Just wondering what would happen if each of us individually, and as a nation, decided to travel lighter, taking only what we really need...

My middle son first got the nickname "Mikey Dog" when he was smitten with my sister's cocker spaniel, Lincoln. Mike and Linky seemed a matched set--comparatively easy-going, comfortable in their own skins, and appreciative of life's simple pleasures. The nickname still fits, as Mike is very protective of his old mom, rarely perturbed, happy to chase a frisbee, or to just snooze by the fire. He's a big dog now, and I wish him the very best on his great adventure.


Clearance! Everything Must Go!

FEMA take note:

This condo is a disaster. One son brought all his worldly goods back from his apartment and is now packing everything essential for the next two semesters into one backpack for life overseas. Another threw a massive amount of stuff together for the next two semesters for life in the next state. My territory is just as messy, and I have no excuse. Don't know whether to rent a backhoe or a flame-thrower!


Not Driving Miss Daisy

Not driving Mary Kay Cosmetics, either. The Caddies of "Cadillac Ranch" are looking a lovely shade of pink right now to promote breast cancer awareness, and the September Amarillo "Race For the Cure". Stanley Marsh 3's ten nose-planted Cadillacs have been painted and graffitied many times in the thirty-one years of the installation.

It seems very appropriate that this road art icon on the "Mother Road" of historic Route 66, is now honoring our mothers, sisters, and friends who are victims or survivors of breast cancer. My good friend, JP, loves old cars and license plates, follows Route 66, and is in remission. Surviving breast cancer has made her stronger and clearer in her goals. That girl is a V-8 engine now! She is a rosy gift of inspiration for everyone she meets.


Charles Loloma

The large drowsing animal and I were reconnected by our shared awe at the Loloma exhibit at the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian in Santa Fe. Charles Loloma (1921-1991) created beautiful jewelry that elegantly combines Hopi traditions and materials with compositions akin to Frank Lloyd Wright and Piet Mondrian. Akin as well to paper collages made by the large drowsing animal's mom, who shall remain nameless. I am inspired and energized....just as soon as I finish the guerilla Tonka Truck/Zen condo clean-up.

This was my second visit to the Wheelwright, and I encourage anyone headed to Santa Fe to visit. Examples of Loloma's jewelry can be seen at Blue Rain Gallery, and at eNewMexican.


Highway 287

Taking my youngest to college. Maybe this will turn into an emotional trip, but all I feel now is exasperation over the car-loading, and anxiety about the bike on the trunk carrier and the inability to see much out the rear window.

The large drowsing animal in the passenger seat has spent a great deal of time saying farewell to his pals. He has not invested much thought or energy into packing and organizing for the move to the dorm. His belongings are not alphabetized, color-coded, or marked with indelible ink. No checklists were created, let alone harmed in this experiment. This child who can be so much like his mother sometimes, is being completely unlike her today.

The rain is coming down so hard I may have to stop under an overpass. What if the bike falls off the carrier, or the carrier falls off the trunk? The instructions for the new carrier were not user-friendly in the cloudy six a.m. light.

Three cars are in the ditch. I grip the wheel tighter, not wanting to join them. The large drowsing animal stirs enough to change the Ipod music from Miles to Coltrane. Have to cut him some slack for choosing music we both love.

Last drove this highway through Wichita Falls alone during a March snowstorm. Years ago now, but a major moment in my journey to being a strong, happily-divorced woman. The current downpour on 287 marks the next transition.

Westward Expansion

I'll huff,
and I'll puff,
and I'll stuff,
and I'll slam that trunk down!

Torrential rain prevented loading the trunk last night for the trip to the dorm. The pioneers were stalled at St. Jo by the flooding of the Missouri.

Not one toothbrush more could fit into the trunk of the Buick. Shoes are wedged into the tiny spaces between the duffels and the crate of art supplies. The computer still has to be loaded into the back seat. Hard decisions have to be made. The piano is going to be jettisoned long before Death Valley in this wagon train movie! I hope Lil Stevie doesn't fall out and get bit by a rattler.


Learning the Drills

It's mid-August in North Texas. It's ninety-nine degrees. School is in session. Therefore, it is marching band practice season. Time to learn the drills and routines for football season.

My little rolling band of recycling collection bins is also learning its positions and routines at the condo complex. This band is my project. I hope the residents will soon learn the routine and be pleased with the performance.

At first the bins were rolled out of their "staging area" to the far corners of the complex. They had to be returned to their positions, as the city collection trucks have an automated arm that grabs and dumps the bins. The arm hooks onto that metal bar on the front of each bin that looks a bit like a mouth, OR MAYBE a silver piccolo.

I would like to get each bin a band hat with a marabou feather, but I have riled some of the residents enough for this month. People are beginning to participate in the voluntary effort. I'm using Professor Harold Hill's "Think System" in hopes that this could be an effort that unites and reenergizes this community.

By the way, the little blue recycling basket is the baton twirler!

Humidity Flashback

Walked out to the dumpster this morning, and came back soaked. Geez, it feels just like Camp Kiwanis near Milford, Nebraska, in June. That would be just after the flood waters of the Big Blue River receded enough for the Camp Fire Girls of 1964 to hike out on the penninsula to the swinging bridge, swatting at the enormous mosquitoes and horseflies as they walked.

Camp Fire Girls hiked in their little baby blue Keds and white anklets with their names written in Rub-a-Dub laundry marker. They wore navy shorts, white blouses, and hats to protect them from ticks. They coated any bare skin with a 6-12 brand insect repellent stick that looked like an art room glue stick and felt about the same, if you've ever drawn on yourself with glue stick the way my students often do. Smelled lots worse though.

The Kiwanis Club of Lincoln owned and maintained Camp Kiwanis from the 1920's until 1983 when it was sold to Easter Seals. For fifty years the camp was used by the Camp Fire Girl's Council. Originally six acres in size, it grew over the years to sixty-three acres bounded by the Big Blue River and the Chicago Burlington railroad tracks.

Being a camper on the Big Blue River penninsula, and much later visiting the Lied Jungle at Omaha's fantastic Henry Doorly Zoo are the closest I've ever been to the Amazon rain forest. If I ever went there, I would be sure to write my name on my socks!

Salon product

Got my hair cut by an actual stylist today, with shampoo, goops for this and sprays for that, blow-drying, curling iron, and more spray. Was swirled around in the chair for, voila, the New Me with extra body. Holy moly! It's the Pillsbury Doughgirl in a Raquel Welch wig! All I need is a lavendar pique dress and matching scalloped jacket with pearlescent buttons to play the mother of the groom in a sitcom wedding.

Usually I go to the JiffyChop for the fourteen dollar/four minute haircut. The cutesy motto taped onto the chopper's mirror reads, "Mom doesn't let me play with power tools at home." Occasionally, one of those cuts goes way wrong. I had to grow my hair out a few weeks extra, then let someone try to start me fresh along the meditative path to the true coiffure.


Grizzly Man in Seventh Grade

Irrational dread of starting junior high school filled me during sixth grade, and expanded through the summer of 1967. Now I know that this was my first episode of depression and panic disorder, possibly aggravated by or masquerading as an enervating illness that resembled mononucleosis. As the start of classes loomed, I bundled my fear into obsessive reading of magazine stories about fatal grizzly bear attacks. I'm sure there's a psychological term for this coping mechanism.

In my black and white memory of this time, I am reading the magazine stories while lying on the gray living room carpet--reading the stories over and over again. The carpet is new, just installed the summer before. In my recollection, Sports Illustrated ran a continuing story for four issues, although I can only find a citation for "Menace in Our Northern Parks; Grizzlies," by E. Watson, SI 27:62-4+, October 30, 1967, in the Readers' Guide to Periodical Literature. The Time Magazine online archive provided some corroboration of my memories, and I was able to print out the ghastly report, "Night of Terror; Two Killed By Grizzlies in Montana Parks," Time 90:19, August 28, 1967.

Werner Herzog's new documentary film about the grizzly-obsessed Timothy Treadwell is in theaters now. I'm both repulsed and attracted by the subject. I'm thankful, too, that I don't have to start junior high ever again, speaking of horrifying.

Herzog made a film, Aguirre, the Wrath of God in 1972 . I saw the film in college at the UN-L Foreign Film Series in 1975, give or take a year, and I have been haunted by it for thirty years.

Amazon.com reviewer, Bret Fetzer, writes that Aguirre, "becomes more pertinent every year. The astonishing Klaus Kinski plays Don Lope de Aguirre, a brutal conquistador who leads his soldiers into the Amazon jungle in an obsessive quest for gold. The story is of the expedition's relentless degeneration into brutality and despair, but the movie is much more than its plot. Director Werner Herzog strove, whenever possible, to replicate the historical circumstances of the conquistadors, and the sheer human effort of traveling through the dense mountains and valleys of Brazil in armor creates a palpable sense of struggle and derangement. This sense of reality, combined with Kinski's intensely furious performance, makes Aguirre, the Wrath of God a riveting film. "

Watching the Grizzly Man movie trailer, I mentally substitute Klaus Kinski for Treadwell. Do I want to be haunted by another Herzog movie for thirty years?

Living in Texas in the summer often leads sane persons, trying to steer their cars along congested expressways without actually touching their fingertips to the red hot steering wheel, to wonder what-in-the-hey-ho those armor-clad Spanish conquistadors were thinking when they decided this region was fit for human habitation. Had they completely fried their brains inside those helmets in their obsessive pursuit of gold, the fountain of youth, and opportunities to abuse the indigenous population? Fried brains may account for the Spanish conquistadors speaking German!


Dangerous Tellantura and Bambi

Air holes are important, as any child who has ever caught fireflies in a jar knows. My preschool students have been pretending to be explorers, photographers, and biologists in the Amazonian rain forest. They've been drawing air holes on the lids of jars to keep the bugs they've created alive for further study with tiny toy magnifying glasses. The bugs are made out of fun foam, googly eyes, pipe cleaners, irridescent beads, and buttons. We put snips of emerald green raffia into plastic boxes and jars from the Raytheon WASTE recyclables program. Kids still believe that the "grass" in the jar will make the bugs happy, just as we did forty-five years ago. I find this reassuring.

The kids use their Altoids/Rx 35mm cameras to take photos of their bugs, then they scribble about the animals and plants they have seen on their expedition in their teeny-tiny scientific journals with short country club golf pencils. We make sure to carry extra film cannisters filled with rolled up metallic ribbon. We wouldn't want to run out of film on this trip!

My favorite part is writing labels for the bug jars. "Have you identified this insect?," I ask. Amazingly, the child may tell me this specimen is the Dangerous Tellantura that eats green beetles. Other times, the child will say, "huh?"

I refine my interview question. "What kind of bug d'ja think you've got there?" The child explains it's a friendly Rainbow Sparkle Beetle. "Hmmmm," I say in a scholarly review musing voice.

When the second question fails to get an answer I can write on the label, it is time to ask, "What is your bug's name?"


Sarah Catherine Margaret Jane

Rockstar Firelight

Thanks to all the folks who save their Altoids tins and other fun recyclables for our survival kits!


Jag of the Junkle

The kids finished the "junk jaguar" today, painting the face and spots on the papier mache collaborative effort. It is a magnificent beast, and will be prowling the school for many months. That makes up for the disappointment of sending the masks home tomorrow.

I wouldn't want to meet this cat in a dark alley!

We all learned that the spots of a jaguar are clustered in a pattern called, "rosettes". The students had different ways of painting spots on their parts of the jaguar, which makes it more fun.

The elementary students, kindergarten to grade three, put several layers of newspaper papier mache on the structure built of recyclables last week. The final tawny coat is torn paper scraps of yellow, tan, and orange. The paper is saved receipts, maps, magazine pages, patterns, gift wrap, junk mail, envelopes, old finger paintings, and even some Egyptian hieroglyphics.

My hope is that the students now have a personal connection to this Amazon creature because of their artwork. May that connection encourage their curious self-motivated research, and their concern about the rain forest.


Eat More Chicken

Those Chick-fil-A cows have the right idea. I specifically need my friends and students' parents to eat more of the deli rotisserie chickens from their favorite grocery store. See Example A.

Example A

See that black plastic pan holding the golden brown chicken under the clear plastic dome? We just used a bunch of them to begin the forms for papier mache jaguar masks, and they were perfect. We used a lot of Altoid gum boxes for mouths, and many other items for eyes, ears, and noses, but the chicken pans were the key to success.


The voice of the automaton...

...or the language of Love?

Substituted again today at the small library where I used to be a storytime lady back in the late Nineties. It is fun to spend time there, see some of my favorite patrons, wonder how the kids got so grown up, and just be around books. The library's technology has changed radically since 1999, and become much more user-friendly for staff and patrons.

One of the relatively new improvements is an automated notification system for reserved books. That means that when a book reserved by a patron becomes available, the patron receives an automated phone call informing them that they can pick up the book at the library. The phone recording has a woman's voice saying something like, "This is the Broccoli Public Library calling with a message for..." Then an automaton pronounces your last name first, first name next, and middle name last. The woman's voice returns to explain that materials you have placed on hold are now available to be picked up and will be held for a certain number of days.

We used to make the phone calls ourselves. We would leave more personal messages:

This is Clementine at the Broccoli Public Library calling for Mrs. Brainly. I know you just stopped by this morning, and I hope you got home before it rained. Wouldn't you know, as soon as you left, the book you placed on reserve was returned, so we will hold it at the desk for you until Tuesday.

One of the patrons thinks my voice is the one on the new automated recording. She says it's strange to hear, since I don't really work there any more, so why would it be my voice? We joke about it for awhile, but it slowly dawns on me that I was originally so nervous about making the phone calls that my messages were very flat and jerky. Phone phobia was just one of the aspects of my anxiety disorder in the time of my divorce. So, it's not that the automaton sounds like me, but that I sounded like an automaton much of the time.

In 1979 I worked at Love Library at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, a job that also had its fun moments. The library received a Kurzweil Reading Machine for the blind, and I spent time training on it so that I could theoretically help visually-impaired patrons with this brand new technology. The Kurzweil Reading Machine somehow scanned print material, and "read it aloud" for the user in a very mechanical synthetic "voice". This was pretty far-out sci-fi stuff in those days. Bar codes had only been used in retail stores for five years, the same year Atari launched Pong, the first video game. "Star Wars" had brought us the voice of Darth Vader just two years before. Audiotapes were still reel-to-reel. Answering machines and microwave ovens had been around a few years, but personal computers were off in the future.


Revenge of the Yerm-Lims

High five this old CollageMama! I am so vindicated. El Steveroo received a letter from his university explaining that he wouldn't have to take any college foreign language classes BECAUSE his mom ruined his life* and made him take French his senior year of high school.

*You Ruined My Life, Mom!

Hamilton Pool Preserve

Received a comment from South Australian blogger Beerli about the waterfall photo in my sidebar. The forty-five foot waterfall at Hamilton Pool Preserve is one of my favorite places in Texas. When my cousin treated me to a delightful weekend in Austin last spring we had a picnic and hike at the Preserve. On other visits my sons and I have floated and played in the water.

(My photo from 4/05)

Descending the hill to Hamilton Creek and following the path to the Pool feels like a transition into a time both prehistoric and magical, as well as a transition from the semi-arid Texas Hill Country to a riparian canyon of ferns and chatterbox orchids. Thousands of years ago the limestone dome over an underground river collapsed due to erosion to create this beautiful grotto. Now the grotto forms the end of a steep box canyon. The ecology is very fragile, and seems to be carefully monitored and protected by Travis County so that needs of endangered species are balanced with enjoyment by seventy-five thousand visitors per year.
Photos I wish I had taken, but are from the links above.


The Sloth Movement

After the second day of Amazon camp, a kindergarten student insisted her mom take her to the library to get books about the rain forest. There are few things that cheer me as much as when a student gets hooked on the public library. The student in question was so excited about the illustration of a three-toed sloth she found, she could hardly wait until class to share it.

On the fourth day she came to class wearing a claw necklace. It probably came from Oriental Trading Co. as a plastic bear claw party favor, but we pronounced it a sloth claw, then started laughing. "Sloth claw, cole slaw!" I used to take a Tupperware container of sloth claw to my ex's family reunion picnics. Talk about your exotic animals!

Tree sloths are smaller than I imagined. My library book explains that they are only two feet in length full grown. I was thinking of the Ice Age giant ground sloth fossil at the University of Nebraska State Museum. Tree sloths style their hair with green algae, but they can't match their Ice Age relatives for strangeness.

About now you may be wondering about the Seven Deadly Sins, since you survived twelfth grade English and only have those terrifying flashbacks a couple times a month now. Afraid you will forget the seven, along with Snow White's dwarfs, but afraid you will never forget the torture of Spenser's The Faerie Queen, Milton's Paradise Lost, and Dante's Inferno...you reach for the Tums.

Pride is excessive belief in one's own abilities, that interferes with the individual's recognition of the grace of God. It has been called the sin from which all others arise. Pride is also known as Vanity.

Envy is the desire for others' traits, status, abilities, or situation.

Gluttony is an inordinate desire to consume more than that which one requires.

Lust is an inordinate craving for the pleasures of the body.

Anger is manifested in the individual who spurns love and opts instead for fury. It is also known as Wrath.

Greed is the desire for material wealth or gain, ignoring the realm of the spiritual. It is also called Avarice or Covetousness.

Sloth is the avoidance of physical or spiritual work.

Occupational Outlook Handbook

In high school I didn't know what I wanted to be when I grew up. I still don't, but that's a different story. My high school counselor, Mrs. North, gave me a pep talk about attending Bryn Mawr, and sent me home with a book of career choices the size of the Los Angeles white pages. Mrs. North thought I should become a medical illustrator. She didn't understand that I fainted whenever I had blood drawn. Let's just say my middle name is Queasy Louise. Drawing accurate colored pencil innards illustrations was not my destiny. Neither was Bryn Mawr. To this day, if someone says, "Bryn Mawr", I get a colored pencil mental diagram of the inside of the human eye, then get noodly in the knees.

My students are much more focused about their career plans. The three-and-a-half year-olds discuss their futures while munching on popcorn.

"I'm going to be a Pizza Girl," says the dark-haired girl.
"Well, I'm going to be an Alien," responds the red-headed boy.

Stay tuned for the 3D classic Pepperoni Original Crusts From Space after these messages from our sponsor. Instructions for making your own 3D glasses come from the U.S. Geological Survey Terra Kids web site.


Beyond Banana Bread

On the phone with Dad, discussing food, of course, and I wander out to the kitchen thinking I would stare into the cold refrigerator for a minute and a dinner inspiration would pop to mind. Whoa! What happened to those bananas on the kitchen counter? They looked fine this morning, but now they are so dark and fragile I can barely lift them into the waste basket. They have oozed and stained the counter.

Dad is considering whether to go out for cooked veggies or fresh. Wendy's? Boston Market? I tell him the bananas have got to go.

"What about banana bread?," he asks.

"These babies are beyond banana bread," I explain. We agree that Beyond Banana Bread sounds like a bad summer sequel movie or remake, maybe starring Mel Gibson. We get the giggles, especially when we decide we must each go forward toward our supper destiny with a cry of, "To banana bread and beyond!"

Although we've hung up, I still have the giggles. I see Mad Max himself, Mel Gibson, wearing a Fruit of the Loom classic tv costume for the grape guy. I try to say "beyond banana bread" aloud, but my tongue is tangled in Toy Story-speak with Buzz Lightyear, and it comes out like "Binaca Breath Spray". These bananas definitely belong to the post-apocalyptic science fiction movie genre.

Good grief! Back in the early 1970s when we were wearing gaucho pants, battle jackets, and hot pants all made of polyester double-knit, high school was the land of Binaca. We were all hurrying to our lockers in the halls of high school learning spraying wintergreen breath freshener on our tongues. Life was primitive in those Olden Days Before Backpacks. Bianca had just married Mick Jagger.

Told my youngest that my class was making a life-size papier mache jaguar, and I was still working out the design bugs in my junk-collecting mind's eye. "Just go on-line and get a schematic," he suggested. Oops. The diagrams are for Jaguar cars. My class is making an animal.

Same son went to see the remake of "Bad News Bears" last evening. What was he thinking!? He said it was an awful kiddie movie with cussing. Walter Matthau clones dressed in banana costumes do a Kilgore Rangerette dance routine just off camera in my brain.


More rotten than the bananas, George W. makes newsreels of "Beyond Arrogance". Twenty-one U.S. soldiers were killed in Bush's post-apocalyptic science fiction Iraq in the past three days while the President touted teaching intelligent design in public schools and disbelieved Rafael Palmeiro's positive steroid test.

On a local level, my son is making a smoothie fruit shake. He fills the blender one-third full of ice cubes, then adds frozen peach slices and frozen berries. He peels a banana, and adds it with a bit of cran-grape juice, some fresh strawberries, and a peeled orange. Turns on the blender, and it freezes up. Put the banana in first! Always put the soft stuff into the blender before the frozen stuff!


Dream Team

I have the joy of teaching a delightful, polite, enthusiastic, smart group of eight and nine year-olds right now, many of whom I've known since they were three or four years-old. All I have to do is hang an idea out there on the wind, and they are running with it. I made a few suggestions about how to make their drawings successful, and every child applied at least one suggestion. When they had questions about the rain forest animals and how to draw them, they looked up the information or images in my library books with a little help.

We started building the form for the almost life-size jaguar that we are going to papier mache. They were so pumped! I would not be surprised if they arrive tomorrow with all sorts of solutions to the problem of the big cat's ears. One of them might even research whether owls live in the rainforest. I need to check on that myself.

This is the class of my dreams!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...