Was it the mysterious missing Dietrich?

I didn't know what I was missing! The boys are back in town. The empty nest is good. I like it a lot. Still, it is lacking in that pungent aroma of petrified sweaty socks left in the backseat of sun-baked cars, and that infusion of youthful-yet-jaundiced editorializing mist. The guys are weaving in and out of the old homeplace, and I'm enjoying it.

Once in awhile, under certain oppressive atmospheric conditions, the Buick interior smells of a fruit smoothie spilled on the floor mat in the last millennium. My youngest has taken a summer job making nutritious and delicious blended frozen fruit drinks at an unnamed franchise. Since fruit smoothies are one of his four basic food groups, along with bagels, pretzels, and green chiles, this is a perfect job for a short time.

I expected the clientele would be Starbuckled IPod junkies and Birkenstock wearers with laptop computers and lots of airbags in their Volvos. True, that is a form of reverse snobbery, even if I don't usually eat DQ Char-broiled belt-busters. Please don't tell that I was profiling!

My son reports that his semi-gelid fruit concoctions lure exotic car owners. A guy came in, he says, driving a Ferrari...

..."And do you know what, Mom? He let his dog sit on the front passenger seat ...... Mom, do you understand? DO YOU GET IT??? This is SO totally wrong. A dog on the seat of a $300K work of art!"

You would think someone drew a mustache on Michaelangelo's "David" and dressed him in a kilt. And was it Blue Dog? No.

Guess who just got back today?
Those wild-eyed boys that had been away
Haven't changed, haven't much to say
But man, I still think those cats are great

(Always thought that was Springsteen, but it was really Thin Lizzy. )

My oldest apprises me of the mysterious "Dietrich", the alleged driver in the 162 mph crash of an Enzo Ferrari on the Pacific Coast Highway last February. He brings me up to speed, so to speak. This major news event must have happened when my radio station was conducting an annoying pledge drive. Or maybe that was one of many weeks I was so disgusted with the Bush administration that I let the Hawaii 5-O theme by the Ventures play continuously in lieu of radio news ...

Seems that a Swedish ex-con millionaire did or didn't let an entity known only as "Dietrich" drive this acme of automotive design. The story has pseudo-Homeland Security officers and the"anti-terrorism force of the transit system".

The LA Times reports Eriksson said he was a passenger in the Ferrari, which he said was being driven by a German acquaintance he knew only as Dietrich. One witness told deputies that the Ferrari appeared to be racing with a Mercedes-Benz SLR northbound along the coastal highway when the accident occurred about 6 a.m. west of Decker Road. "It took out the pole, and part of the car went another 600 feet," Sheriff's Sgt. Philip Brooks said. "There were 1,200 feet of debris out there. "Eriksson told authorities that "Dietrich" ran up a hill toward the canyon road and disappeared. Brooks said detectives are far from convinced they have the whole story. Eriksson "had a .09 blood-alcohol level, but if he's a passenger, that's OK," Brooks said. "But he had a bloody lip, and only the air bag on the driver's side had blood on it. The passenger-side air bag did not. My Scooby-Doo detectives are looking closely into that."Maybe the 'driver' had a friend who picked him up. Maybe he thumbed a ride," the sergeant added. "Maybe he was a ghost."

Maybe Dietrich went to get a frozen fruit elixir! "Book 'em, Danno!"

Should you need to look at the wreckage, go to http://www.wreckedexotics.com/special/enzo/ . If you want an Enzo Ferrari photo for your computer desktop, click to http://www.dieselstation.com/archive/Ferrari-Enzo/index.shtml
If your car has occasional locker room sensory flashbacks...


Take Back Your Mink!

Take back the drapes.
Take back the rod.
I fixed the blinds
With a paper clip, aren't you awed?

The vertical blinds had only been broken for a fifteen months. I tried to fix them back in aught-five with only brief success. After a few months I settled into a state of acceptance that the blinds would swivel but not open. It was annoying, but not life-threatening.

For unknown reasons the annoyance resurfaced today at Level Orange. I blame it on Bush, and on the fluff downfall from the mimosa nuisance trees. I found a curtain rod that would adjust to 96" (it's a big sliding glass door), and some white twill drape panels that didn't make me gag at Target. I don't really like drapes or blinds, but there are privacy and energy-efficiency issues to be considered. People who live in small condos shouldn't throw stones.

This is not my condo. It is Philip Johnson's famous Glass House.

When I got ready to take down the old vertical blinds to put up the new curtain rod, I could hear my dad telling me to try once more to fix them. I could hear my mom reading The Little Engine That Could. "I think I can, I think I can, I think I can," I huffed and I puffed (but that might be a different story). The paper clip did the trick! Hooray. I can take back the drapes...

Not long ago I saw "Guys and Dolls" performed by ten-year-olds. It was quite a feat, and I applaud them. When "Take Back Your Mink" popped into my head today, it was in those preteen Texan voices doing New York accents. Can't quite imagine Adelaide or Sister Sarah, Sky or Nathan Detroit spending much time fixing vertical blinds. Of course, I'm not your normal Hot Box Girl, either!

He bought me the fur mink five winters ago
And the gown the following fall
Then the necklace, the bag, the gloves, and the hat,
That was late '48 I recall
Then last night in his apartment
He tried to remove them all
And I said as I ran down the hall:

Take back your mink
Take back your pearls
What made you think
That I was one of those girls?
Take back the gown
The gloves and the hat
I may be down
But I'm not flat as all that.


Trivial Pursuit: The AARP Edition

I played this game again today. It seems to be one of my favorites lately. You could say it never grows old:

  1. Remember to go to the grocery store.
  2. Forget the list.
  3. Use assorted associations, visualizations, and chronological memory to mentally reconstruct list.
  4. Use great concentration to hold onto the mental image of the reconstructed list.
  5. Drive cart carefully while picking up the items.
  6. Don't forget the pie!
  7. Check out.
  8. Take groceries to parking lot.
  9. Try to remember where the car is parked this time.


Collage boxes

Sometimes the CollageMama even collages. It doesn't happen often enough. My efforts this winter and spring have been three-dimensional efforts inside and outside cigar boxes. A crazy art teacher friend gave me the boxes last fall, along with many more for my students' Louise Nevelson projects.

Of course seeing Joseph Cornell's films and boxes at the Dallas Museum of Art's "Dialogues" exhibit in September also got me thinking about boxes. Seeing Ellen Tuchman's beaded art, such as her matchbook pieces at the Dallas Theatre Center this spring, always reconnects me with my love of beads and buttons.

I'll write about my other inspirations on the Anchorwoman blog in a day or so. I'd be glad to hear what you think.


My trail of bread crumbs

Last evening I got to hear the Dallas Symphony Orchestra perform "Pictures At an Exhibition" conducted by the Russian guest Andrey Boreyko. The music was clear and light, rich, dark and frightening, bold and triumphant. I liked Andrey Boreyko's interpretation very much. Felt like I had been wandering in the woods of a Grimm fairy tale without my bread crumbs. I sat above the stage level, which was good for seeing the harps and bells and other unusual featured instruments. It makes me happy when the tuba player gets such rousing applause!

My college watercolor professor, Gail H. Butt, Jr., would have been eighty-two this weekend. In my drawing, painting, and composition classes with Professor Butt, I heard his lecture about "rich, delicate, and bold" many times, usually reinforced with recordings of classical and jazz music, and the smell of his cigar.

Scott Cantrell's review in the Dallas Morning News comes straight from my UNL watercolor class:

Rounding out the concert was a vividly characterized Mussorgsky-Ravel Pictures at an Exhibition, with great care over gradations of volume and color. At big moments, Mr. Boreyko was even sensitive enough to factor in the generous reverberation of the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center.

The Lincoln Symphony Orchestra performed "Pictures At an Exhibition" for an assembly at Millard Lefler Junior High in 1970. Made quite an impression on me! Then in 1972, Emerson, Lake, and Palmer had a rock version of Mussorgsky's composition. I have to admit that my favorite album in 1972 was "Fragile" by Yes. If I had to listen to much of the ELP or of "Roundabout" today I would get a needle-sharp sinus headache! We won't even consider Procul Harum's "Whiter Shade of Pale", or the Moody Blues' "Knights in White Satin".

Mussorgsky was Russian, so his folktale inspirations are Slavic, not Germanic like them good old Grimm Boys of the consulting firm Hansel and Gretel, LLP. The wise and powerful Baba Yaga, crone/witch/earth goddess, is a fascinating archetype. Plus, she has architectural implications. Baba Yaga is sometimes cruel, and other times kind, but she always lives in a house that walks about on chicken legs. I wish my condo could go wandering around the neighborhood on skinny legs in fluffy slippers when I have insomnia.

So nice to learn there's a reason for the chicken legs:

A "cabin on chicken legs with no windows and no doors" in which Baba Yaga dwells sounds like pure fantasy. In fact, this is an ordinary construction popular among hunter-nomadic peoples of Siberia of Uralic (Finno-Ugric) and Tungusic families. This was an ingenious invention to preserve supplies against animals during long absence. A doorless and windowless log cabin is built upon supports made from the stumps of 2-3 closely grown trees cut at the height of 8-10 feet. The stumps, with their spreading roots, give a perfect impression of "chicken legs". The only access into the cabin is via the trapdoor in the middle of the floor. Bears are strong, smart and stubborn enough to break into any door, but they cannot use a ladder or climb a rope to reach the trapdoor. A similar, but smaller construction was used by Siberian pagans to hold figurines of pagan gods.

I'm going up in my treehouse now, and pulling up the ladder to keep out bears. It's time to start preparing for the June 17th DSO concert featuring
Stravinsky: Firebird Ballet Suite (1919)
Mozart: Divertimento in D major
Vivaldi: Violin Concerto in C minor "Il Suspetto"
Tchaikovsky: Sérénade mélancolique
Debussy: Prélude à l'Après-midi d'une faune


Where's Nedda when you need her?

Neveah was the 70th most popular name for baby girls last year, according to yesterday's New York Times and the Social Security Administration. It seems 4,457 newborns were named for heaven spelled backwards. Those little girls will still be explaining their name to people in the year 2070.

I grew up in Nebraska during the Lawrence Welk "Champagne Music" years. This made me strongly opposed to things spelled backwards. Lawrence Welk's television show was sponsored by Serutan fiber laxative. "It's natures spelled backwards." My colon still clinches whenever something is spelled backwards! Nebraska, of course, is Ak-Sar-Ben spelled backwards. Ak-Sar-Ben was the rodeo and horserace location in Omaha, as well as the royal court for Omaha's elite debutantes. The Knights of Ak-Sar-Ben were created in 1895 to promote family entertainment in Omaha to compete with the Nebraska State Fair sixty miles away in Lincoln. The crowning of a royal court of debs in the Cornhusker State was pretty distant from the real life of workers at the Omaha stockyards and meat-packing plants, the Storz and Falstaff Brewery Companies, the brickyards and railyards, or the minimum-wage telemarketing cold-callers of the late-Twentieth century.

Verismo is "razor-sharp psychological realism," according to Fred Plotkin in his book, Opera 101. Opera in the late Nineteenth century was moving to a new kind of subject. "Audiences no longer could create a psychological distance between themselves and the gods, kings, queens, dukes, and great literary characters portrayed onstage. What they saw in verismo was a re-enactment of real life."

The 2005-2006 Dallas Opera season kicked off with Leoncavallo's verismo "Pagliacci" from 1892. The centerpiece of the Dallas production was a tiny pink trailer, home to a traveling clown Canio, his young wife, Nedda, and the rest of their troupe. The opera opens with a prologue delivered directly to the audience by the hunchback Tonio, one of the actors in the troupe. Tonio reminds the audience that beneath the theatrical facade, artists harbor genuine emotions and real passions. Instead of theatrical tricks, he says, the opera will present a "slice of life" with real laughter and tears. He then orders the curtain to rise, and the action begins.

"Pagliacci" is a violent, tragic story of the working poor. Nickel & Dimed: (On) Not Getting By in America holds plenty of material for stage-adaptor Joan Holden to create a work of art as tragic as "Pagliacci", as comic as "Working Girls", or as powerfully verismo as a Mike Wallace expose. Unfortunately, the adaptation does not use that material to create art or even convey the results of Barbara Ehrenreich's undercover experience. Beneath the didactical facade, the profiled workers harbor genuine emotions and real passions. I wish Holden had loosed the reins on those emotions and passions. The people struggling to live on wages from WalMart, franchise restaurants, chain hotels, and housecleaning services jobs are much more interesting than Holden's version of whiny writer Barb. They should be the core of the play with their tragic stories, their stoicism, and their humor.

I applaud Kitchen Dog Theatre for providing the regional premiere of the play. I wish "Nickel and Dimed" had been as moving as their "Cloud Tectonics" earlier this spring. If your job is not heaven, try spelling your name backwards.


I Like Skype

Calling people on Skype is totally free to landlines and mobile phones within the US and Canada until the end of the year. I like Skype (and I'm old enough to remember Irving Berlin's "They Like Ike" song from "Call Me Madam"). I like putting on my groovy headset to make a call. I can pretend to be my grandma working at the Pierce Telephone Co., or Britney Spears, or Lily Tomlin.

...But there's Ike
And Ike is good on a mike
And they know
The votes that he can carry-
But don't forget there's Harry
But they like Ike

[2nd verse:]
They won't take Saltonstall and Stassen's chance is smal
lThe same would go for Vandenberg and Taft
And Dewey's right in line with William Jennings Bryan
There isn't anyone that they can draft

[2nd refrain:]
They like Ike
And Ike is good on a mike
They like Ike-
But Ike says he won't take it
That makes Ike
The kind o' feller they like
And what's more
They seem to think he'll make it

Alas, I am old enough to know about Harold Stassen and William Jennings Bryan. I can't really picture either of them using Skype, though.

Ethel Merman and Irving Berlin had exclusive contracts with different record companies, so Call Me Madam had two cast albums – Merman on Decca, and the rest of of the cast with Dinah Shore on RCA. We had both.

Give Skype a try. It's easy, and my son says I hate technology.


Forklift needed

My youngest is many years from enlightenment, and I'm not just saying that in a snobby metro chic Berber carpet Buddha way. He is not ready to travel light or live nomadically. He has attachment-to-material-possessions issues. We had to rent a Chrysler Town and Country with fabulous stow and go seats to haul his belongings back to swampy Dallas from the UNM dorm. This summer I hope he'll spend time in his creatively-visualized mental Mongolian yurt contemplating what is actually NECESSARY for life on campus. Yo, mom, w's'up? I'm om om-ing on the Gobi range.

His older brother went to Italy for a school year with his necessary possessions in one duffel and one backpack. This is a good example for the Lobo. Alas, when he returned from Europe his belongings reconstituted and took over three rooms of the condo. I'm thinking that's a lot like sea monkeys.

On the drive to Albuquerque we took the Texas Plains Trail scenic drive from Silverton to Claude on SH 207 down into Palo Duro canyon and climbing back out. I was afraid to risk it on the way home because we were so heavily loaded. The canyon bottom is a nice place to visit, but I wouldn't want to be marooned there forever with all my son's dirty laundry.

The geneaology hobbyists in my family have traced our ancestors back to the Unknown Liska, aka Liska, unknown. The Unknown Liska is alleged to have walked from Kiev to Prague with all his belongings in a wheelbarrow. In some versions of the story the Unknown Liska also toted his cabbage-eating mama in the wheelbarrow. Who was that masked Liska? He left a silver bullet! The Unknown Liska did not have a computer, monitor, and printer. The Unknown Liska was lucky if he had a pair of socks. The Unknown Lobo had a large mesh bag full of dirty socks.
The Lobo's father often waxed poetic about the glory days when he could carry all his worldly goods (including both the twelve- and six-string guitars) in the backseat of his puke yellow rusty 1970 Chevy Nova. In those days my favorite books were the two volumes of Nomadic Furniture (How to Build and Where to Buy Lightweight Furniture that Folds, Inflates, Knocks Down, Stacks, or is Disposable and Can Be Recycled) by James Hennessey and Victor Papanek. Alas, in tough times I sold those two volumes at the used book store.

If the Lobo can't find a job for the summer, maybe he can volunteer his services constructing brick and board shelves for clueless college students.

The final Frontier

No, it's not outer space, or even the depths of the ocean. The final Frontier is the last meal of the college year at the legendary Albuquerque restaurant on old Route 66 across the street from the University of New Mexico. After loading the van with the dorm room contents, we chose to boldly go where the Lobos go. My son had just realized that his exchange semester in Massachusetts will be in a galaxy far, far away, without Hatch green chiles at every meal.

The departing Lobo made sure we were introduced to Frontier Restaurant's fresh squeezed orange juice, which is truly the nectar of the gods. One glass and you will wish you could just sit in the Frontier drinking OJ for the rest of the day. We tried the breakfast burrito, the Western hashbrowns, tasted the green chile stew, and the famous Frontier cinnamon roll. We watched our tortillas being made in the semi-automatic tortilla oven. Roadfood.com reviewer Michael Stern writes, "Breakfast at The Frontier in Albuquerque is a gas, especially if you haven't been to bed the night before. Located on old Route 66 across from the University of New Mexico, this landmark eatery has been open round the clock for forty years..." I'm sorry I wasted so much of the last forty years not being there!

To aid the Lobo during this difficult Dallas reentry period, I'm trying to brew up a passable version of Frontier's green chile stew. The Lobo says it needs more chiles and fewer potatoes. I'll keep trying. And being a sympathetic mom, I'll probably mail an emergency green chile supply to Massachusetts.


Climate Readjustment Issues

"It's ten p.m. Why is it soooo HOT!?," asks the returned Lobo while unloading the van. "What's up with all these mosquitoes?"

Welcome back to Plano, O ye sunshine-spoiled boy. Your reentry into the swampy humidity of the DFW metroplex was at 81 degrees with 61% humidity. At ten p.m. the night before we were sitting on the patio of the Outback Restaurant on I25 and Jefferson in Albuquerque where it was 79 degrees with only 9% humidity.

We asked the Lobo if the weather in Albuquerque is always so perfect. The Lobo son explained that it is only perfect from late August to Thanksgiving, and from early February through May (he hasn't been there in the summertime). In December and January it gets a little chilly. The sky is always blue. There are no mosquitoes, so it is fun to be outside. If it rains it's a fluke, and doesn't last five minutes. If it snows, the flakes evaporate before they hit the ground. Nearly every night of the school year he could sleep with the window open under his heavy blanket.


The Unbearable Lightness of Traveling

Heading to New Mexico soon. I'm all packed. Everything I need is in my favorite butterfly canvas bookbag and my purse*. Being able to travel light is such fun! I may be toting more wobbling arm flab than I used to, but I don't have to haul any of the following on a road trip:

1. Diaper bag with toys and blankies
2. Cheerios and Goldfish crackers
3. Dictionary
4. Vaccination records
5. Asthma inhalers
6. Raffi cassettes with a million songs about ducks
7. The travel tape from hell a.k.a. "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory"
8. Barf bags
9. Tampax
10. Dramamine
11. My ex
12. Howard Stern
13. A heavy cloud of resentment about my ex exploding yet another six-pack of Diet Coke in the freezer before the trip.
14. A snow shovel
15. A duffel of anxieties too large to fit in the overhead storage compartment

One son went to Italy for nine months carrying everything he needed in a backpack and a duffel. When he returned and unzipped the duffel the contents instantly expanded to take up his room, his brother's room, and half the living room. It exploded more neatly than the Diet Cokes my ex always wanted chilled for a trip.

*By the way, the world traveler son says he really likes my purse. "It's so Italian, Mom," he says. And it doesn't have enough room for the wet wipes!


Litton Farewell

This week I've been saying good-bye. Breakfasted with a dear, crazy art teacher friend who will soon be living in a cute college town and undoubtedly scrounging for interesting recyclables back east. Said good-bye to a incredibly talented young teacher I've had the joy of working with for three years. She's also moving to the right side of the map, taking my enormous respect (and her cute husband) along.

Last Sunday I said good-bye to Maestro Litton of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. True, I didn't know him personally. Andrew Litton and I shared just a few afternoons in the last year, but they were powerful aesthetic experiences.

On Sunday Litton introduced me to Elgar's Enigma Variations, and my world added many friends. In January he gave me the transcending gift of Janacek's Glagolitic Mass. Last fall he transformed me to glowing particles of pure energy with Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 5. During the winter his youthful excitement before conducting Ives: General William Booth Enters Into Heaven made me feel like a co-conspirator in a raucous, colorful scientific experiment (or a bar joke); Red Barber, Red Skelton, and Red Grooms Go Into a Symphony.

I sit in the cheap seats behind the orchestra when I go to the DSO, or else up in the cardio workout section known as the Grand Tier (or K2). I love sitting in the Dress Circle Loft's eight dollar seats because I can look down on the orchestra members and straight into Maestro Litton's face. I consider those cheap seats the Catbird Section. The Grand Tier has its visual moments, too. Sunday's violin soloist, Gil Shaham, looked like he was trying to kick down trousers afflicted with horrible static cling without missing a note! On the drive home I wondered what that spray stuff was that we used to fight static cling.

Saw in the newspaper that the Littons are moving to the right side of the map to be near Andrew's father. I hope three generations of Litton males will head on out to some ballgames!

Catbird seat/empty nest catbird 1731, common name for the North American thrush (Dumetella Carolinensis), so called from its warning cry, which resembles that of a cat. Catbird seat is a 19c. Dixieism, popularized by Brooklyn Dodgers baseball announcer Red Barber and by author James Thurber (1942). " 'Sitting in the catbird seat' meant sitting pretty, like a batter with three balls and no strikes on him." [Thurber, "Stories from New Yorker"] According to my bird book, a catbird is a close relative of the mockingbird, the Official Texas State Bird.


Irritable Owl Syndrome

My first baby owl said, "'Whooooooo's undressed and whooooooo's in bed? Whooooooo's awake and whooooooo's asleep?'" That was the owl in my Little Golden Book, Baby Animals, by Garth Williams. When I was a baby animal in the mid-Fifties a Little Golden Book cost twenty-five cents.

There are four Little Golden Books completely imprinted in my brain. They must have been among my very first books, read to me over and over by loving parents. The other three are the profound and beautiful Pussywillow by Margaret Wise Brown, with lush collage illustrations by Leonard Weisgard, the instructive Little Red Caboose by Marian Potter, illustrated by Tibor Gergely, and My Teddy Bear, illustrated by Eloise Wilkins, with a little girl who had a dress just like mine.

When last I wandered in the public library a book jumped off the shelf into my hands. It is The Happy Owls, by Celestino Piatti. The wonderful illustrations inspired several different art projects in combination with Owl Babies, by Martin Waddell.

Happy, contented owls.

One irritable owl!

Sarah, and Percy, and Bill, of course.

The owl mother flies home.

Best wishes to all of you this Mother's Day.


No Man is a Minivan

For Mothers' Day I'll be hauling my youngest's belongings back home from the dorm. It seems fitting, somehow. When this son was born, the two of us came home from the hospital on Mothers' Day. Now he's nineteen, and I don't need the diaper bag and zinc oxide any more. He won't fit in the stroller. In fact, if I take another son along to help with the toting and carrying down three flights of dorm stairs, I can't fit all the belongings and two sons into my poor, suspension-challenged Buick. And dang, I do hate it when important or expensive parts of the Buick fall off while I'm driving down the highway!

On another front, a friend's old spring-operated garage door opener crashed this week, narrowly missing both her and her car. Although I sometimes miss having a garage, I never miss the headaches of repairing garage doors. In my experience, garage doors only break when your husband is out of the country and you have twenty-six dollars to your name.

Shortly after I got rid of the husband and the garage door, but before I got rid of the Mazda minivan, I eked out part of my living teaching kindergarten readiness classes at the local rec center. The students were an incredible assortment. I taught twins, triplets, autistic kids, deaf kids, kids who were terrified of everything, kids who brought popsicles in their lunchboxes, kids who spoke no English, kids who took the baby dolls hostage, kids who acted out Lamaze labor and delivery, and a few kids who were ready to sit on their own chairs, listen to stories, learn to use scissors, and play well with others.

A favorite memory is of twin boys who spoke no English at the beginning. Their favorite toy was the Fisher Price house with all the little people, furniture, cars, and garage. Every week I listened to them converse in a combination of their language and twinspeak babbling. After many weeks I suddenly realized they were speaking English. They were saying, "mee-nee vahn," "ga-hadj door," "uppan-down." Minivan, garage door, up and down!

Thank heaven I have a whole team of brains assisting me! My friends helped me see the automotive options for the upcoming dorm retrieval trip. I could rent a bigger vehicle! We will be conducting the special ops mission in a rented Chrysler Town & Country mee-nee vahn. There may be some moments of sibling rivalry uppan-down as my sons begin to forge an almost-adult relationship of friendly equals. At least the Buick will stay out of the mechanic's ga-hadj.

No man is an island
No man stands alone
Each man's joy is joy to me
Each man's grief is my own

And remember, no mom is an island, either. Each son needs to phone!


Revolving doors and escalators

I learned so many things at the Miller and Paine Department Store in downtown Lincoln as a kid. It wasn't exactly All I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, by Robert Fulghum, but it was major life skills. I learned how to go through a revolving door all by myself because my mom and my younger siblings were in the next compartment. I learned how to step onto an escalator, and how to pay attention and step off. I learned that I probably wouldn't be flattened and sucked down into the underbelly of the escalator if I forgot to step off, but that it wasn't worth risking since I was very skinny and easily flattened. Grown-up ladies had to stand on tippy-toe to ride the escalators so that their high heels would not be caught in the stair treads, and they would not be trapped for all eternity and sucked down into the underbelly. Somehow when the third grade Sunday school class sang out "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" each week, I thought He was trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath were stored in black patent leather high heels. My mom helped me learn to step to the back of the elevator, and to tell the elevator attendant sitting on her fold-down stool, "Three please," in a loud and polite voice. I learned that if you know that you like the macaroni and cheese with two cinnamon rolls it's okay to order that every time you go to the tearoom.

My sons are in revolving door and escalator mode this month. One son is finishing grad school, receiving the light blue hood for education, and moving to his new job in Ohio. Another son has zoomed in from Italy with barely enough time here to sell his diggity dawg Dodge Intrepid before zooming back to Germany. My youngest will pass through the Lone Star State for a crash course in the nomadic virtues of traveling light. I can't push the elevator buttons myself, but I can step to the rear of the elevator and go along for the ride!


The Birds and the Bees

Welcome to seventh grade Home Economics class at Millard Lefler Junior High School. This is the talk you've all been dreading and anticipating. I'm sorry to say the film strip projector is broken, so we won't have much in the way of audio-visual enhancements for this lecture.

Ahem. I trust I have received signed permission slips from all your parents and adult guardians. Well, then...

It is time you knew the whole, unvarnished truth about cross-Swiffernation. Don't do it! Don't even think about it! Go wash your hands!

You can't successfully substitute Pledge Grab-It Wet orange sheets for Swiffer Wet sheets. The Grab-Its keep detaching from the Swiffer mop, and trailing off impotently somewhere between the laundry room and the kitchen floor. A higher power is letting us know that cross-Swiffernating is an abomination and an anathema, and won't get that spilled juice off the linoleum.

Thank heaven we've got Dubya in charge on the bridge of the Enterprise! He won't deviate from his course due to a few minor cobwebs in the sunbeams. He knows the sacred institution of Swifferage is at stake in these murky cultural floor wars. Swiffering is only for the union of one Swiffer mop and one Swifferette (or Swiffer Wet):

To encourage right choices, we must be willing to confront the dangers young people face -- even when they're difficult to talk about. Each year, about 3 million teenagers get expensive Nike shoes stuck on their cross-Swiffergenated kitchen floors... In my budget, I propose a grassroots campaign to help inform families ...Decisions children now make can affect their health and character for the rest of their lives. All of us -- parents and schools and government -- must work together to counter the negative influence of the culture, and to send the right messages to our children. A strong America must also value the institution of Swifferage defined under federal law as a union of a Swiffer mop and a Swiffer Wet (Registered Trademark)...

"Birds do it. Bees do it. Even educated fleas do it. Let's do it, let's fall in love." Cole Porter

Nickel & Dimed

I still haven't made it to see the Kitchen Dog Theater's production of "Nickel and Dimed" down at the MAC, but I will. Barbara Ehrenreich's 2001 book by that title about going undercover working minimum wage jobs was fascinating. It reminded me of Stud Terkel's powerful book, Working, that I studied in college.

I read Working for a course called "The Work Project" in University of Nebraska-Lincoln's Centennial College, a living/learning community. Centennial College was pretty out there on the educational innovation edge in 1975. Our seminars were self-motivated, and also self-evaluated. The question on the evaluation form that stands out in my memory was:

How likely are you to continue being interested in and reading about the subject of this project? 1 2 3 4 5

It's been over thirty years, but I'm still interested in work as a concept. That doesn't mean I leap out of bed when the alarm clock rings. What makes work meaningful? What gives it dignity? What about being called to a "vocation"? How should a society value, treat, and pay workers in every type of employment? What happens when being employed is not enough to provide for basic needs? What if I have to live in a box down by the creek and eat cat food?

My walking buddy scopes out hypothetical sites for her future corrugated carton abode during our thigh-busting power walks. A corrugated carton in a ravine is not the same as a gated condo community with creek views. I worry about people trying to cross the ravine to work for the ultra-privileged sprinkler-system/SUV set in Texas and in Congress.

Meaningful work, affordable housing, living and learning... My oldest son is finishing his masters degree and job-hunting in the field of living/learning residence hall communities. He may have the key to affordable housing. His potential job includes a furnished suite, meals, full benefits, and a zero mile commute. I hope he finds it meaninful!

Harding, G., (Ed.). (1974). The centennial experience-Faculty perspectives of a cluster college. University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


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