Not Aunt Bea

Oops! I became Barney Fife this weekend. I can't blame anything on Otis or Goober.

Mailed my eleven year old nephew a pair of handcuffs I found in the junk drawer. It seemed like a good idea at the time. I didn't REALLY need those handcuffs, since my Arctic Glare superpower can freeze any bad guy in place. I figured Sheriff Sky might occasionally need to jingle some cuffs as he walked down the dusty Main Street of that Hell's Half Acre we know otherwise as Washington, D.C. One of my guys HAD TO HAVE those darn handcuffs for some group presentation in a high school class, and I vaguely remember a desperate late night shopping trip.

Unfortunately, I failed to consider the possibility that the handcuffs might have keys. Sheriff Sky arrested his little sister. She's a beautiful and wily outlaw, but she never did anything to deserve this punishment! Miss Nats is handcuffed, and waiting for cross-continental mail to arrive with the keys to free her! Lucky for her, the Pony Express is a thing of the past.

My grandfather had a book called A Dynasty of Western Outlaws, by Paul Wellman. As a kid, I would try to make myself as small as possible in the farthest corner of my grandparents' tiny street-level McCook apartment, and read about Quantrill's Raiders, the James-Younger Gang, the Daltons, Bill Doolin, Belle Starr, and even Pretty Boy Floyd. Between that book and seeing "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" at the McCook movie theater with my cousins, I got hooked on Western outlaws.

I'm especially partial to Ron Hansen's outlaw novels, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, and Desperadoes. The writing is so wonderful, but I don't know if I can deal with big screen Brad Pitt doing the Northfield bank robbery shoot-out in the Coming Soon to a Theater Near You Hollywood Feature Presentation. Read the book! Read the book! Read the book!

Never underestimate those early childhood influences. I don't know if Sponge Bob and the Teletubbies are gay, and I couldn't care less. At the age of three, I could greet a visitor with Miss Kitty's immortal, "Sit down, Matt, and I'll buy you a beer."


Shake it, baby!

As my preschoolers were dancing around shaking the last of the gourds from Ms. Janie, one of them shouted, "Shake it, baby, shake it!" At least none of them said, "Shake it, but don't break it!" Some kids did dancing routines reminiscent of Las Vegas showgirls or Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders. We were dancing to a Putamayo World Music cassette.

After all my work this weekend dealing with the backlog of filing for my image files, I felt the urge to collage. I'm so out of practice. This past year I've concentrated all my time and effort on writing. It feels good to work with paper again, and to try to get into the mental zone of 2-D composition. The photos aren't very successful. With flash gets weird reflections on the different paper finishes. Without flash needs too much Photoshopping. Still, it's good to know you can take the Mama out of the Collage, but you can't take the Collage out of the Mama.


Transplanted to 1965

My parents gave me the gift of solitary downtime to daydream and recharge. Parents want to give their children the best of everything, but sometimes the best gift is the time to do nothing.

My parents were strict, thank heaven. They expected us to be out of our PJs and into clothes by noon on the weekend. Until noon we could stay under the covers reading about Laura and Mary Ingalls or Robin Hood, build with Tinker Toys in the living room, or play Barbies if we put on our bedroom slippers. We had some really keen gold space boot slippers. Funny, but the slippers didn't even have a Disney princess or registered trademark movie tie-in on them. We were free to imagine what they might be.... and they were magic.

We survived without adult-organized activites and sports for the most part. Some winter Saturdays I did ride the city bus downtown to my swim lesson at the YWCA, then bought a large Tootsie Roll for a nickel, and checked out some new biographies at the main Bennett Martin Library next door before catching a bus back home.

In the afternoons I could draw floorplans for fantasy homes on graph paper to the background sounds of Celtics/Lakers games with Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain in quite short shorts, or the heavy breathing of Kurt Goudy stalking the elusive trophy African velpdeeloop on "The American Sportsman". I could play quietly while my dad napped on the couch with the newspaper over his face. Often, I tore interesting photos out of old magazines to make into collages or just keep. I still have some of those clippings in my files.

The sounds of my napping dad's slow breathing, the dryer running in the basement, the rain, and maybe my mom's sewing machine gave an underpinning rhythm to my day. I didn't have to accomplish anything or be anywhere, except as I devised. As the afternoon ran out, a calm would settle in. All is well with the world. All is well with the world. The living room would become darker. I would lay on the carpet studying the pictures in books of architecture and art, or Herman Miller furniture catalogs. I could stack three LPs on the spindle of the hi-fi. "Rhapsody in Blue", Prokofiev's march from "Love for Three Oranges", Cole Porter or "Claire de Lune", Mary Martin in "Peter Pan", Ethel Merman in "Gypsy", Lena Horne or Petula Clark, Ray Walston singing either "Those Were the Good Old Days" from Damn Yankees or "There Is Nothin' Like A Dame" from South Pacific. When you're a Jet, you're a Jet all the way.

Accomplished incredible feats early today--bagged a pair of those elusive trophy perfect shoes, mailed packages to my dad and nephew, swam laps at the Aquatic Center, called a friend and laughed until my sides hurt. This afternoon has been for the rain and the dryer, sorting photos torn out of old magazines, quietly recharging.

In the mid-Seventies I participated in a group listening to classical music with Nelson Potter in UNL's Centennial College. I especially liked the clarinet music of Poulenc. Next winter the Fort Worth Opera will perform Poulenc's opera, "Dialogues des Carmelites". I sense that I'm supposed to attend, so I'm listening to this lovely music, and becoming curious about the French Revolution and religious orders. There's studying ahead!

I'm struck today that the very kind of afternoon that gave me great peaceful and creative energy forty years ago is still the most wonderful sort of Saturday afternoon.


Catwoman I'm Not

I'm allergic to onions, bananas, and cats. I'm careful to avoid all of them in my diet. I'm not allergic to coconut, artificial cheese-flavored alleged food products, or black jelly beans, but I would be if I could. I'm equally careful to avoid them in my diet. You don't want to know why I have these intense aversions, but I will say that two of them involve chain-reaction carsickness on hot vinyl backseats.

Back when I still lived in "the house" with the boys, we were visited by Danger Kitties. I hadn't thought about the Danger Kitties in years. They kept trying to climb the screen of our sliding patio door, and would get stuck several feet off the ground, and mewl at surprising volume until unhooked from the screen.

The Danger Kitties were born in the rotting storage shed across the alley. The Boat Boys who lived in that house were oblivious to the presence of feral cats in their shed. The Boat Boys used to sit out in the large motor boat parked in their driveway, drinking beer and listening to loud music. One morning I got all three boys buckled into the Mazda MPV minivan, opened the garage door, started backing out to drive them to school, and found the motor boat blocking the alley. No Boat Boys were home, of course, only feral Danger Kitties incapable of moving the motor boat. Hadn't thought about that particular weirdness in years.

My youngest is in the college scholarship savage jungle hunt. It's part tsetse flies, and part high stakes Texas hold-em poker. We have to play the odds to hit the big money. He's the third child of divorced parents. If you think there's a big chunk of wisely-invested college savings socked away for him, you would be seriously deluded.

In fairy tales it is often the third son who manages to convert the inheritance of a cat and a burlap bag into marriage to the king's beautiful daughter. This son will land on his feet wherever life throws him. He will respond to my anxieties and micromanaging with smug detachment from the warm hearth in front of his computer screen. He will trick the giant into becoming a mouse, and charm the miller's daughter into driving him around town in her dad's new Mini Cooper. Plus, he will have thick, luxurious hair without even earning it. He's already clawed up the couch, and I still let him live here.


Bend those knees in unity

It's all one big world. We are all more the same than we are different. Some of us are just older and our knees creak when we do the Keith Haring moves. This week my students will be looking at a fabulous Nigerian appliqued wall hanging, circa 1960, that I saw in the Girard collection at the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe last August.

The music that pops into my mind when I look at the Nigerian wall hanging is from the 2003 animated feature film, The Triplets of Belleville! I think it's all in the elbow moves of the dancers. Paper dolls meet bendable Barbie and do the Watusi.


Sore Throat

Woke up with a scratchy, raw throat at 5:21 this morning. Oh, no! Please, please, not strep! After awhile I knew I was going to have to eat a sloppy joe with a big stacker dill pickle. It's not the best thing for a sore throat, but it's as close as I can get.

I belong to the Campbell's chicken gumbo soup recipe* contingent of Midwestern sloppy joe eaters, not the Heinz ketchup-Manwich contingent. This is very important. Down here in Texas when a displaced Nebraskan meets a displaced Iowan, the conversation gets around to loose meat sandwich preference pretty quick. Like religion and politics, it's important to find out just what kind of person you are dealing with so you can avoid stepping on conversational toes.

The best thing of all for a sore throat is a Tastee sandwich from the Tastee Inn & Out drive-in at 48th and Holdrege Streets in Lincoln, Nebraska. Actually an order of three Tastees is about what it takes to do the job of recovering from a sore throat. I sure hope the Tastee drive-in is still there.

When we turned the pea-green '54 Chevy into Tastees on the looping tree-lined driveway off Holdrege, the microphones stuck up from the ground like giant white lollipops. The pick-up window was on the passenger side of the car. Sometime I got to lean out of the car to get the cardboard tub of Tastee sandwiches from the woman with the white uniform and hairnet. Ahhhh, the steam and mustard aroma! [The tub made a fine tom-tom.] If we went inside to order and eat, the person at the counter would write up our order and send it in a pneumatic tube! This was fascinating to me as a kid, just as my sons loved the Omaha drive-through bank with the clear pneumatic tube.

I've invested a large chunk of today Googling Tastees, Maid-Rites, and other loose meat sandwiches. Never did find a photo of the Tastee Inn & Out in Lincoln, but it was lots of fun, and my throat is feeling much better. It was easier finding a photo of the original Runza Drive-In on the way to Pioneers Park, and the original Valentino's by the Ag Campus. Dad says the first Tastee Inn near the main NU campus was the site of the mid-Seventies Hong Kong Pizza King, a multicultural experience, and later became Pontillo's, home of the very bad breath meatball sandwich.

You can read the review of a play presented at the FringeNYC Festival last August:

Onion Girl, a new play written by Joye H. Cook-Levy and directed by Scott R.C. Levy, tells the story of Billy, a young woman whose Mother has died and left her the family business: the Tastee Inn & Out in Sioux City, Iowa, a relic of the original fast-food days. Regulars can drive up and place their "usual" orders with a person they know, and “onion chips with an extra container of dip” is a house specialty...

There's some disagreement about the year of the invention of the loose meat sandwich, but all signs point to Sioux City, Iowa. "Loose meat" is a pretty unappealing name. I had never heard that term until a 1994 episode of Roseanne. The Food Timeline's History of Sandwiches has a section on Sloppy Joes:

During the second half of the nineteenth century ground beef gained popularity in America because it was both economical and nourishing. Recipes for Hamburg Steaks (aka hamburgers) were included in many popular American cookbooks. Cooks often added inexpensive fillers (bread crumbs, ketchup, tomato paste, eggs, sweet peppers, minced onions, Worcestershire sauce, bottled horseradish, pickle relish, mustard, salt & pepper were the most popular) to stretch the meat. [Duh!] This ground beef mixture was then fashioned into meatballs, meat loaves, hamburger stew, and loose meat sandwiches....Where do sloppy joes fit in?
"The origins of this dish are unknown, but recipes for the dish date back at least to the 1940s. It dates in print to 1935. There is probably no Joe after whom it is named--but its rather messy appearance and tendency to drip off plate or roll makes "sloppy" an adequate description, and "Joe" is an American name of proletarian character and unassailable genuineness. There are many individual and regional variations on the dish. In Sioux City, Iowa, a dish of this type is called a "loosemeat sandwich," created in 1934 at Ye Olde Tavern Inn by Abraham and Bertha Kaled."
--- Encyclopedia of American Food & Drink, John F. Mariani [Lebhar-Friedman:New York] 1999 (p.297).

Besides Tastee drama and history, there is Tastee art. This is from Kent Wolgamott's review of Wendy Jane Bantam's exhibit last spring:

...She also captures some Lincoln landmarks with three smaller paintings that also display her quirky sense of humor. They're "Sub Zero at the Topper Popper," "Zesto Zesto," in which ducks frolic in the parking lot in front of the ice cream shop, and "Spies at Tastee Inn & Out," where rabbits surround the building and one is on the roof holding binoculars.

I love it! I tried to find that painting on the website for her gallery, but I think Wendy sold it.

Okay, we've got drama, history, popular culture, medicine, and art. Now it's time for religion. This is the Tastee Inn Prayer from a story by David Boles. (I bet I went to school with his sister):

"Oh, Lord, may the pick-up window never be on the right side of the car and may the building never get a new coat of paint."

Can't you just hear Janis Joplin singing, "Oh Lord, won't ya buy me a Tastees sandwich. My friends all get curly fries and chocolate shakes, too..."

*Sloppy Joes:
1 lb. ground beef
1 can chicken gumbo soup
1/2 cup chopped onions or 1 heaping tbsp minced onions
1/4 cup water
1 tbsp catsup
1/2 tsp dry mustard
1 tsp salt & a shake of pepper
Brown beef and onions. Add other ingredients. Simmer 30 min.


Out of my gourd!

Out of my shed! The gourds are gone. Long live the gourds. I know one gourd was broken and tossed into the corner of my tiny patio garden. Maybe some of the seeds will grow next summer.

Maybe seeds of interest will grow, too. I teach over two hundred students every week, and they all spent some quality gourd time this week. I read nearly all of them a new picture book called Calabash Cat and His Amazing Journey ,with illustrations based on traditional gourd carvings in Chad.
As the cat tries to find the place where the world ends, the reader is struck by the chance to see the world from the eagle's back, unrestricted by national and geographical divisions.

Most kids in preschool have experience scooping the slimy innards out of a pumpkin to roast the seeds. They understand when I tell them that the "slimy stuff" in the gourd dried up and then the seeds could shake around.

When I got the gourds from Janie's farm, they were heavy. Their best aspects were only revealed when they aged, lightened, and rattled around! I know some people like that.

Preparing the gourds was a major Wet & Wild experience. Very late Saturday night I decided to move the three dozen gourds from my shed into the bathtub to do the bleach/soap solution scrubbing to get rid of mold. How different could it be from bathing an excited toddler? Knick-knack paddywhack, give a gourd a bath! It's a real exercise. The gourds float away and jiggle. I've got bruises on my arms from leaning over the edge of the bathtub trying to corral the gourds. Forgot to locate rubber gloves, so my hands are chafed, and my rings are tarnished. Oops.

My many, many preschoolers have looked for similarities and differences of the gourds. They laugh when we talk about the "neck" of the gourd, its fat tummy, and cheetah spots. The elementary kids got to decorate their own gourd with Sharpie markers, animal print tissue papers, and diluted Elmer's glue. The Elmer's and tissue paper turned out quite beautiful, translucent, and polished.

Grew some birdhouse gourds the summer my husband and I separated. My three boys needed enriching distractions from the heavy-duty stress. We made gourd birdhouses, and painted gourd rattles. I found a job at a library. It was a tough time.

One of my coworkers was a newlywed library assistant with a very old car named Lola. When Marie got ready to drive off with her young groom to grad school in Portland, my youngest and I performed a silly pseudo gourd shaman dance around Lola so she would deliver Marie safely to the Pacific Northwest. I still have the gourd rattle, but I've lost track of Marie. And what about Lola by the Kinks?

I met her in a club down in old Soho where you
drink champagne and it tastes just like cherry-Cola C-O-L-A cola
she walked up to me and she asked me to dance
I asked her her name and in a dark brown voice she said
Lola L-O-L-A Lola Lo lo lo lo Lo - la

Well I'm not the world's most physical guy
But when she sqeezed me tight she nearly broke my spine
Oh my Lola la-la-la-la Lola
Well I'm not dumb but I can't understand
Why she walked like a woman but talked like a man
Oh my Lola la-la-la-la Lola la-la-la-la Lola

Well, we drank champagne and danced all night
Under electric candle light
She picked me up and sat me on her knee
and said "Dear boy won't you come home with me?"
Well, I'm not the world's most passionate guy,
but when I looked in her eyes, well I almost fell for my
Lola Lo lo lo lo Lo - la Lo lo lo lo Lo - la
Lola Lo lo lo lo Lo - la Lo lo lo lo Lo - la

I pushed her away
I walked to the door
I fell to the floor
I got down on my knees
Then I looked at her and she at me

Well that's the way that I want it to stay
And I always want it to be that way for my Lola
La-la-la-la Lola
Girls will be boys and boys will be girls
It's a mixed up muddled up shook up world except for Lola
La-la-la-la Lola

Well I left home just a week before
And I'd never ever kissed a woman before
But Lola smiled and took me by the hand
And said "Dear boy, I'm gonna make you a man"

Well I'm not the world's most masculine man
But I know what I am in the bed, i'm a man
And so is Lola
La-la-la-la Lola la-la-la-la Lola
Lola la-la-la-la Lola la-la-la-la Lola

Many kids will read Follow the Drinking Gourd during Black History Month. My students over age six were able to follow the cuts that would have to be made to make a gourd into a bowl or dipper. The human race needs this awareness. How can we carve one gourd to make a bowl, a ladle, and a drinking cup? How can we recut, reconfigure, and reuse things with far less waste?

What is a gourd?A gourd is a hollow, dried shell of a fruit in the Cucurbitaceae family of plants. Gourds can be used as a number of things, including bowls or bottles. Gourds are also used as resonating chambers on certain musical instruments including some stringed instruments and drums. Instruments of this type are common in Africa, South Asia, and the Caribbean. Gourds are also used as a tool for sipping yerba mate by means of a bombilla, in Uruguay, Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil, where it is called "cuia" (kOOya). Birdhouse gourds, (Lagenaria siceraria), are commonly used in southern USA for group housing for purple martins, which reputedly help control mosquitoes.

Day-blooming gourds are pollinated the same as Squash, and commercial plantings should have bee hives supplied. Night blooming gourds are pollinated by moths, which are normally present in adequate supply unless they are drawn off by night lights in the area.

Also from the Idiom: Out of one's gourd. Meaning: very foolish, crazy.

1596, "dried, hollowed gourd used as a drinking cup," from Sp. calabaza, possibly from Ar. qar'a yabisa "dry gourd," from Pers. kharabuz, used of various large melons; or from a pre-Roman Iberian *calapaccia.


Adventures on a Shoestring

No, this isn't a frugal travel guide. It's a double-knotted safety and sanity manual.

When Danger Baby was tiny, he loved to crawl across the floor to attack my shoelaces. I never let him suck on the shoestrings. Blaaaaackkkk! In frustration he developed the habit of pulling threads and unraveling his socks. I don't know what it is about kids and strings!

In the olden days of the 1960's we wore saddle shoes or oxfords to school, black patent Mary Janes to church, and Keds all summer. Somehow we all learned to tie our own shoes so they stayed tied. We had school clothes, scout uniforms, ballet leotards, play clothes, and Sunday School/birthday party dresses. We came home from school and changed into play clothes. Sunday School dresses, play clothes, and leotards never went to school, and vice versa. I think we had plenty of fun, but childhood and school were viewed as more of a Basic Training for Real Life than they are today. We learned quickly that different behaviors as well as different clothes were required for different situations. As long as I'm in pet peeve mode, I might as well say that we knew not to act like we were at the school carnival or basketball game during the school orchestra concert!

Shoestrings was the topic, not the decline of civilization brought on by children's Velcro shoes. Once I had to rescue a preschool boy who managed to get his shoestring ensnarled in the hinge of the folding chair. He dang near broke his ankle falling off the chair and hanging there!

This week a little darling pulled the drawstring out of the waistband of her designer sweatpants by chewing and sucking on the string. [We were glad she was wearing underwear this time.] Then she pulled the drawsting of her groovy pantleg until she could tie it in a knot to the buckle on her shoe ON THE OTHER LEG. She was getting herself quite cat's cradled and macrame-ed! The knot was so bad, not to mention so soggy from being sucked, that I had to cut the string so she wouldn't tie herself into a big knot. Just try jumping rope with your own shoestring. Reminds me of the Chinese jumprope we used to play on the playground using that rope made from rubber bands.

And now for the safety note. I wrote about Danger Baby standing up in his crib and tearing the wallpaper off the bedroom wall. Only the wall was damaged. A friend's own Danger Baby stood up in his crib and reached the pull cord for the window blinds. He got it wrapped tight around his neck, and nearly died. I know "a man's reach should exceed his grasp...", but please consider that your child's reach may exceed the safe environment you've tried to create for him.


Danger Baby turns 20

This week my middle son will have his twentieth birthday. I never thought we would make it! Maybe I can finally quit having that nightmare about him being washed down the storm sewer of our long-ago suburban Omaha cul-de-sac house. I just always felt that I needed to worry double-time about him, waking or sleeping.

A former brother-in-law summed it up well when he announced why he liked three-year old Mike:

He's ornery, he wears hats, and he eats fish.

Often Mike wore more than one hat--fireman, cowboy, baseball, racing helmet, army, construction hard hat, way-too-big stocking cap-- in various configurations. He only played soccer two years because soccer is a seriously hat-deficient sport. He had to make do with a neon yellow sweatband!

T-ball was better. It had caps, and he could wear one of my clip-on earrings to pretend he was Ruben Sierra. We cranked up the volume on the car tape player for "We Are the Champions" on the way to T-ball games!

Harry Houdini's mother had a tough life. She has my complete sympathy and respect. Danger Baby was an Eighties escape artist. I had to tie his shoelaces together when he sat in his baby carseat to keep him from climbing out. He could stand up in the crib and tear the wallpaper off the wall.

I never could keep him confined to the grocery cart child seat. I would stop to read the nutritional info on a can of soup, and Danger Baby would be three aisles away. In the time it took me to select a head of lettuce, he could climb out and load six dozen fresh bakery cinnamon pull-aparts into the grocery cart.

The only thing Danger Baby couldn't escape was the electric mixer beater. While licking the beater he managed to get it hooked over both his teeth and his chin. Jaws!

In 1986 we took a family vacation to Yellowstone. For at least six hundred miles Danger Baby played with a Matchbox tractor while sitting in the carseat, then threw it on the floor, hollered "rackoo-rackoo" until the tractor was retrieved, then repeated the cycle. On this vacation his claustrophobic tendencies were revealed as he ABSOLUTELY POSITIVELY refused to sleep in the tent. After a long highway drive, I ended up sleeping in the car while Mike slept in the carseat, and his dad and brother slept in the comparatively relaxing and luxurious tent. In the Tetons I had to keep Mike zipped into my sleeping bag to keep him from burning himself testing the cabin woodstove. At Yellowstone I had to keep him from falling into the geysers, and from completely freaking out when Old Faithful blew. At Jewel Cave he suffered a total spelunko-wacko panic attack that disrupted the whole tour group, and he never did like elevators after that.

Danger Baby really wanted to be a stunt rider. He watched a "Reading Rainbow" show about rodeos, and took to standing on the seat of the wooden rocking horse while wearing the "Lyle the Crocodile" Halloween costume, blue snowboots, and as many hats as he could balance on his head.

While reckless, Danger Baby was also very caring and attentive to his imaginary baby alligators. Whenever they fell off the back of his red tricycle he would stop and carefully help them back into position. Danger Baby has turned out funny, considerate, focused, planning, frugal, sentimental...


Get on the bus, Gus

I think there should be City Bus Theater; part Mystery Dinner Theater, and part Diner Theater, but more mobile. Actors get on and off at different stops, and do improv on the bus, while the audience rides along wavering between avoiding making eye-contact and joining into the improv. This idea isn't new. Actors pop on and off of the subway in New York City doing little bits of comedy and drama, funded by the city.

I rode a bus a lot back in my Lincoln days. Went downtown as a kid to swim lessons at the YWCA and to the public library, or to the dentist. Did my Christmas shopping at Woolworths and the department stores after a ride downtown, where all the lights are bright* . I rode a city bus home from high school via the VA hospital and the mall. Commuted to the university, and learned it was possible to walk the six miles to campus carrying a large, heavy bookbag if I missed the bus.

On a cosmic level, I learned the bus never arrives until you give up and accept that you missed it. The whole privacy concept on public transport is a topic open for discussion. You ride along putting your energy into creating the repellent force field so you don't have to interact with the other passengers, and yet you are eavesdropping. You pretend to ignore people acting out in various ways, but you gradually develop relationships with the repeating stranger. You ride the bus home from work every night for five years with the same guy, gradually becoming more intimate, but you never learn his name or where he goes after he gets off at 33rd and Randolph Streets... How would Studs Terkel get the stories of everybody riding on the bus?

There's a popular kids' book and play called "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever", and then there's Ms. Frizzle and the kids on the "Magic Schoolbus". Somewhere in the middle is "The Best Field Trip Ever". The field trips that are burned into my memory are the trips to the Lincoln Journal and Star newspaper offices, the Gooch's Mill macaroni plant, and the Skyline Dairy ice cream plant.

I can remember exactly five times when I got in trouble as a kid, not that I was perfect, but, well, actually I was real close! Usually if I strayed, my over-active guilt complex kicked in, so no official sanctions were required. One time I got in trouble on the bus on the way to a field trip downtown. I'm pretty sure it was fourth grade, and we were on our way to visit the newspaper. We had received a lecture about not making faces and waving out the bus windows. Imagine my surprise to look out the window of the bus and spot my dad walking down the street on his lunch break. Wouldn't you wave??? Of course! Would a jury convict?? "An example was made of..."!

Mom and I used to have a wardrobe evaluation--"You can't wear that! It looks like an outfit the woman eating the Velveeta sandwich at the bus stop would wear." Geez, I miss Fritzi today. One month. Anyway, we also used to say, particularly about her mother's fashion color combos, "That looks like a nosebleed on raspberry sherbet."

Jim Lehrer is a major bus fan. Have you ever read any of his books about the one-eyed lieutenant governor of Oklahoma, or his White Widow?

*DOWNTOWN by Tony Hatch- as recorded in 1964 by Petula Clark
When you're alone and life is making you lonely
You can always go - downtown
When you've got worries, all the noise and the hurry
Seems to help, I know - downtown
Just listen to the music of the traffic in the city
Linger on the sidewalk where the neon signs are pretty
How can you lose?
The lights are much brighter there
You can forget all your troubles, forget all your cares
So go downtown, things'll be great when you're
Downtown - no finer place, for sureDowntown - everything's waiting for you

Don't hang around and let your problems surround you
There are movie shows - downtown
Maybe you know some little places to go to
Where they never close - downtown
Just listen to the rhythm of a gentle bossa nova
You'll be dancing with him too before the night is over
Happy again
The lights are much brighter there
You can forget all your troubles, forget all your cares
So go downtown, where all the lights are bright
Downtown - waiting for you tonight
Downtown - you're gonna be all right now


Paint Chip Off the Old Block

I love to play with paint color chips. Still. Yeh, I know, I'm nearly fifty. I still pick them up and stuff them in my purse at the paint department of Home Depot or Elliott's Hardware. I hope no one will ask me what I'm planning to paint, how many gallons I'll need, or whether I want flat or semi-gloss latex. It's hard to explain that I just want to spread the samples out on a table and rearrange them in different designs.

A friend at the ballet last night asked me what else fun and exciting I had planned for the weekend. "I'm not the parent-on-duty this weekend, for a change," I said. "I can stay wrapped in blankets and read, or write. I can fool around with my Photoshop program. I can eat burritos for breakfast if I choose. I can smell freshly ironed clothes while I watch the Bogart movie my son gave me for Christmas. I can play with colors, textures, and lines." I don't know if she understood that I considered these options fun and exciting. Play and contentment are sometimes about being instead of doing. Sometimes in the game of Life we recharge with champagne bubbles and fireworks, and other times with purring cats and simmering soups.

I'm especially fond of the paint chip books with perforated pages. The pages are dry to the touch, and the chalky scent catches at the back of my throat. Fold on the perforations, and carefully tear the little rectangles into Candy Land sidewalks, carnival tickets, Chance, Community Chest, and Monopoly play money. Lie on your stomach on the rug in the living room on a rainy day, arranging a color mosaic, and listening to "April in Paris". Plan gardens of colors separated by gray flagstones that need no trowel. Quilts that need no sewing. Be still and dream.

We had lots of color samples for paints and tiles growing up. I always considered them treasures and BIG perks of my dad's job as a structural engineer in an architectural firm. Kids felt sorry for me because I didn't have a Chatty Cathy. I felt sorry for them because they didn't have tile samples.

My students of all ages have been playing with circles inside squares this week to create magic maps based on board games. The inspiration comes from two books I love to read aloud to kids (even twenty times in one week), Circle Dogs, by Kevin Henkes, and You Are Here, by Nina Crews.

So many wonderful winter hours spent with board games at the family dining table--checkers, chess, dominoes, Chutes & Ladders, Candy Land, Monopoly, Memory, Chinese checkers, pop-a-matic Trouble, and my mom's beloved Scrabble. Visualize tic-tac-toe and Twister, too.

You sank my battleship!


Gums to die for

I had an appointment with 2 at 4 today. "Two" is the name of my dental hygienist, although that isn't how you spell it. I always feel like my tartar is being attacked by a secret agent from James Bond's M16 or by Get Smart's Barbara Feldon.

Agent 2 is always pleasantly efficient, and doesn't overdo it during the Floss More Often oration. I bet she whips out of her undercover job at the end of the tooth-polishing day, jumps into her Q-designed car, and speeds off to Istanbul, the Alps, or Hong Kong.
Listerine shaken, not stirred.

My dentist pops in for thirty-four seconds of quality time, and pronounces, "People would kill for your gums!" I'm betting these so-called "people" are the hired muscle of powerful international cartels.

Nobody "kills for" my beauty, my wit, my cooking, or my money. Shirley Bassey only sings about my gums.


Better Living Through Billiards

My youngest managed to fit time for billiards practice in the UNM Student Union into his campus visit yesterday while waiting for his academic interviews and departmental tours. Alas, he forgot to take his own cue. It would have been an easy carry-on.

My dad enjoyed hearing about his grandson's trip to Albuquerque, and also about the senior high school billiards club's adventures. Looks like Steverooni may get to travel to a tournament in Michigan next summer since he's the high scorer on the newly-formed team. Yes, Minnesota Fats and Texas Slim battling it out in Michigan...

While the Friday Lunch Gang was here this noon for roast beef sandwiches and tomato soup he got a call from a reporter for the school newspaper. Since half of the Mens and Ladies billiards teams, including the founders, were sitting around my dining table there was a lot of raucous "helping" with the interview. Most of the quotes won't be printable! As Howie says, it's all in the angle of incidence. I'm glad his grandson got that gene, since it definitely skipped me. The closest I get to a Billiards Room is with Colonel Mustard with the lead pipe.


True Confessions

"Dull and repetitive" will never be used to describe my job or place of employment. You have to be crazy to work there. It's required. You also have to be a team player, and pitch in during any crisis.

Thankfully, I was totally engaged in teaching a tribe of curious six year olds when the restroom flooded this afternoon. We were merrily painting our clay dinosaur pencil-holders when someone flushed a large quantity of paper towels. A flooding toilet and a loud wet-vac are nearly as distracting as a cherry-picker crew working on the utility wires across the street, a thunderstorm power failure, or a wasp in the classroom. The rest of the staff from Kahuna on down had to stick their fingers in the dike while I just had to keep kids from wading in and "helping"!

The restroom crisis called to mind a Very Black Day in my childhood. I was about kindergarten age, and my brother was two and a half or three. We were in the bathroom, which was painted Chinese red by the former owners, and had blue linoleum. I don't know what we were supposed to be doing, but I suspect we didn't really grasp the concept of privacy. My brother had a toy boat made of metal that was the model for recent retro Restoration Hardware Christmas ornaments. Somehow the toy boat fell into the toilet. Whatever we were doing, we weren't supposed to be doing it. I freaked and decided to flush the toilet to get rid of the evidence.

My dad had to deal with this plumbing nightmare. I think he said both "dang" and "damn", and glared as he plunged. Who could blame him? I don't think I ever admitted my role as the flushee, so I would like to do that at this time. I sure hope the statute of limitations has passed.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...