Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Aliens [Will Still] Be There

Wow, it's the Thursday before school starts for teachers. This is the week that television ads for back to school shopping, places like Office Depot, and the word "back pack" used to make me froth at the mouth.


Next week is pre-planning which actually means a whole week of "OMG.. meetings!" I've always wondered if the business world felt the same way -- I know that I have been at meetings for church where I thought to myself: "I don't think Moses needed this long. He had those ten rules, and then everyone was out of there!"

I have never understood meetings that seem to be for the sake of saying "we've met. Now let me go and do what I was gonna do anyway."


The first day of pre-planning [maybe the first two hours] is like the first day of school for students -- you're happy to see your friends, you're happy to have a schedule after a summer of freedom, and you're in air-conditioning paid for by somebody else.



Reality sets in...

The students are coming
The students are coming


you get this little bitty ache in the pit of your stomach -- it's the combo platter of fear, anxiety, dread, and "I've got to get up in the dark again" -- all wrapped up in an enchilada... an enchilada that can't be digested with Diet Coke and lots of salsa. It stays and stays and stays....

Then, there are the meetings -- the re-reading of the teacher's handbook (out loud in some places), the new "rules" for the year, and then the dreaded meetings for the sake of meetings where you sit under the tutelage of someone who has gone to some educational symposium lead by specialists who haven't taught for decades who will tell you HOW to do it better cause you really do HOOVER at it -- and then ...

You get packets of handouts with agendas, and procedures, and then the DREADED new evaluation model for teacher observations. This year's evaluation model is, of course, bigger and meaner and longer and more convoluted than the last.

That's when I used to look to the sky and say, "Beam me up, Scotty, the aliens are still here."


The good news is that -- this year -- for the first time in fifty years, I will not be going back to school.


I will be ...... doing something, I'm sure.

PS. I will miss the office supplies. That used to be my favorite part of back to school -- NEW PENS!! Oh look --- Sharpies! Post it Notes! Rolls of cellephone tape! Big Gem clips....

Eh. Once a nerd, always a nerd --- it's genetic and was an occupational hazard.

Monday, July 27, 2009

"Talk not to me of blasphemy, man!"

Oh, I just finished Richard Russo's Bridge of Sighs.

Russo also wrote Empire Falls, which won a Pulitzer in 2001, and Nobody's Fool, a novel made into a movie starring Paul Newman. Empire Falls was one of the best books from 2001, in my humble but accurate opinion.

Russo's an old fashioned writer who draws you in with his attention to detail, his rapt story-telling, and his unforgettable characters.

Told from the point of view of Lou (Lucy) Lynch, a man who has lived in the same small town in upstate New York his whole life and has been married to his wife for forty years, Lucy and his wife Sarah are about to take a much anticipated trip to Italy, and for some reason, this propels Lucy to scribble away at his memoirs in the upstairs bedroom.

His best childhood friend lives in Italy, and Lucy hasn't seen him for over forty years. As he thinks about Bobby Manconi, the memories dredge up a traumatic event that determined the man that Lucy would turn out to be and gave evidence of why Bobby and Lucy had not be in touch for forty two years.

Russo gives you not just Lucy's point of view, but his wife Sarah's, his son Owen, and, of course, the expatriate Bobby.

One of my favorite scenes has Lucy and Bobby's senior English teacher, Mr. Berg, acting out the crazed Ahab's (from Herman Melville's Moby Dick) monomaniacal rant about pasteboard masks.

While in the middle of his Ahab rant imitation, Mr. Berg faced his students as Ahab would have "mutinous seamen, " and one student, obviously unread, says, "Mr. Berg? Can you at least tell us what chapter you're on?"

Mr. Berg practically flew back down the stage to stand in front of a student who dared to not remember this scene from his assigned reading ... "Talk not to be of blasphemy, man!"

LOL --

I relate -- it is blasphemy that students won't read. That used to be so frustrating as a teacher.

Mr. Berg was an Ahab himself or even perhaps, a Jay Gatsby, as Lucy recalls, he was a "frustrated dreamer."

Is that what I was as a teacher? A frustrated dreamer?

I was known to swing my peg leg up and down the front of the classroom and try to get students to just read an excerpt from Moby Dick. My goodness, Lucy and his peers read the whole novel.


Tallulah Falls Twice

David and I just got back from the mountains. No Internet up there, so we are left to the old-fashioned resources of tv and books, and, if he so desires, conversation.

Him: I can't wait for the asphalt on the driveway. [looks down driveway that is gravel]
Me: I just finished this really good book.

Him: I'm gonna have to deter those dang deer.
Me: This book had a reference to Ahab.

Him: I wonder if I can move that evergreen tree to the back?
Me: Yes, this character Lou met a whale and killed it with his bare hands -- sort of like David does in the Bible with that lion.

Him: Look! A turkey buzzard.
Me: Did I tell you I have a boyfriend?

See, this is marriage, a good one, in a nutshell. You have your own private conversations, and it doesn't matter if the other person is listening or not.


We took Tallulah to the mountains for the first time.

Keats rode in my lap in the front passenger seat since she refuses to ride in a cat carrier, so Tallulah rode in the cat carrier that belongs to Keats who inherited it from Kitty Moose.

The cat carrier with Tallulah sat on the back seat. Tallulah was one unhappy passenger. I tried to play road games with her -- you know, alphabet bingo, try to guess the story of the five huge people in the Mini Cooper, or "boiled peanuts, who thought of that?" but she wanted no part. She just wanted to be angry and loud.

She just wailed and wailed - -and oh my goodness, she was mad. She bit the cage with her teeth like it was alive.

Keats is oblivious to the dangers of the road -- and the idea of being vulnerable does not phase her. She hates the sounds of motorcycles and big trucks, and when they pass or we pass them, she opens her eyes and gives them a "hairy." When Tallulah got particularly noisy, Keats would meow back and then hiss. Twas really fun. Only not.

By riding in the front seat, Keats accidentally learned how to open the power windows. Since she has traveled to the mountains a hundred times, she recognizes the change in the road as well as the speed, and when we are close to our house, she stands up on the arm rest and puts her paws on the window and purrs.

Since she's just randomly putting down her paws, she has hit the power button more than once. She and I both jump back when she does it. She also bats the window with her paws. Since our driveway is unpaved, sometimes if it has rained, we have these huge ruts in it, and when we climb it, it's like a Nantucket sleigh ride. Many times, it has slung the normal surefooted Keats to hit her head on the glass. She looks like a cartoon kitty when that happens. Tis sort of funny...

Once we were all in the mountain house, Tallulah took off like a torpedo. She ran from room to room, jumped on furniture, and up and down the stairs like the mad woman in the attic. I particularly enjoyed her on the steps because she would stick her head out between the rails like a mountain goat.

The house in the mountains has a loft -- with a nice railing. Tallulah discovered that she could walk on the outside of the railing, precariously, but she mostly did it to taunt Keats. Keats was all "zen" about it, but Tallulah was showing off like a Wallenda.

She fell twice. Thankfully, she fell on the sofa which is beneath it. Both times, David and I didn't want to look -- when we picked her up, she was purring like a Porshe.

New meaning to Tallulah Falls. Heh.

Speaking of water, her biggest fascination up there was the Jacuzzi tub's faucet. She spent lots of time trying to figure it out. I enjoyed making it more complicated by turning it on and off when she least expected it. You know, she would almost touch the water, then I would cut it off. She would have her whole head under it, then I would cut it on.

It was some funny stuff.

She rode home in the cat carrier with a better attitude -- this time, she wasn't angry, meowed less, and didn't sharpen her teeth on the bars.

Cats, by nature, do not like to travel. They want the familiar. I, however, am of the mind that you have to train a cat to do what you want.


What am I smoking?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Cat Wars, Target Talk, and Coffee Mugs

1. Cat Wars --- well, there is no doubt that Keats is Darth Vader and Tallulah is Luke Skywalker, and so far, Darth seems to be winning even though Luke is quicker.

I put a bell on Tallulah so at least Keats knows she's coming. I've been thinking that the sneak attacks are not good for Keats' heart, mind, or litter box.

2. Target talk --- when I was in Target today, I ran into Caroline, a former student, somewhere in cosmetics or health and beauty. Heath and beauty? You gotta give it to Target -- that's a good euphemism for Advil and cheap lipstick.

She didn't see me, but I saw her, and I said, "Uh, look chickadee, I need to get at the Oil of Olay and you're in my way."

Caroline: Oh, ma'am, I'm sorry.

She immediately backed up and I cackled.

Then she took a look.

Caroline: Mrs. Gillham! Hey. (big hug)

I asked her why she was so polite when obviously I was being so rude.
She said, "I don't pick battles with random people at Target."

Me: Good. Smart girl. There's a life lesson for you. Obviously, a successful graduate of the Academy.

Later in line at Target, which was long since they always seem to be two cashiers short of what they need, I had the pleasure of listening to the guy behind me personal monologue on his Bluetooth.

He was purchasing two huge storage bins and was talking loudly on his Blue Tooth -- you know, how that is -- and at first, I thought he was talking to me.


Me: [Yikes, someone has his house]


Me: Bwha.

3. Coffee Mugs -- I have lots of coffee mugs. Too many -- but I can't get rid of them because most of them have some kind of sentiment for me. Now that I have the time to rotate the mugs in the cabinet, I'm paying attention to each mug and thinking about the person who gave it to me.

Retirement - time to think and ponder and rotate coffee mugs. Heh.

Today's mug was Princeton Mom. It was given to me by Andrew, a former student of mine who, obviously, went to Princeton. When I drink from it, I think of him. I also think of how I am glad I'm not his mom and paying for him to go to Princeton. I also think had I been a mom my kid would not have gone to Princeton. He would have gone to Yale.


Yesterday's mug was one of those mugs sold at Barnes and Noble and given to me by Jessica. The mug has Emily Dickinson, Shakespeare, Sylvia Plath, Dante, and Walt Whitman caricatures on the side. If you turn it fast enough, you can make them dizzy. LOL -- like Sylvia Path needed to be dizzier. I try to avoid the side with Walt Whitman; I'm afraid I'll break out into free verse about squirrels or grass.

Tomorrow's mug -- The Legend of the Dogwood -- belonged to my mother. She drank her morning coffee everyday from this mug. It must have had some sentiment for her. *sigh*

Gotta go -- Tallulah just got herself stuck in a kitchen chair. She's mewling mad.

Lawd, as my Alabama girlfriend likes to say.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Meet Tallulah

David and I are certifiable crazy.

We hear a sad story about a kitten found in a construction trailer, her side adhered to the floor with carpet glue and her paws stuck together in between the pads. We hear about how she is this miracle story - -she could have starved to death -- and we are like, "ah. That's so sad."

Dr. Jim: You need to see this kitty. She's been shaved, her paws unglued, and she has the best personality. You need to adopt her; she needs a good home. Plus, she's a red cat.

David: [who has a soft spot for all animals, but especially loves red cats] What do you think?

Me: I dunno.

Keats: Uh, hell no.

Dr. Best: We want this kitty to go to a good home. She needs to be a Gillham kitty -- pampered, spoiled, catered to, and allowed to run the house as her own.

David: I'm tempted; what do you think?

Me: I dunno.

Keats: Uh, I don't think you are listening. Hell no.

So, we adopt a kitten -- about three months old, and I pick her up Saturday. I bring her home all wrapped up nicely in a cage.

Keats: Hisssssssssssssssssssss.

New kitten: Hello, big fat black cat, I'm here to stay.

Keats: Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo. Hissssssssssssssssssssss. I hate you. I'm gonna hide in the basement and make THEM pay....... they will live to regret this..... Noooooooooo.

So, now, Keats and Tallulah, new kitty's name, have been in the house for four days together. It is not going well. If they happen to cross paths, David and I play hockey referees. It's like -- you get Keats.. and I'll get Tallulah and we'll put them both on PENALTY. When they are in the same room, Keats and Tallulah -- as we say, no likey each other.

I have given Tallulah all the toys that Keats has rejected. Two stuffed birds, little plastic balls with bells inside, and wads of paper that Keats used to bat like Venus Williams.

Keats got too cool for toys. We've been lucky if she will react to a laser light on the end of a tape measure.. ..

Keats: Eh. [about toys]
Tallulah: LET ME AT THEM. WHAM! This is fun. Give me more. SLAP. [run like mad] YAY! All righty! WHAM. Slide.

Keats has no claws. Tallulah has hers, small, but she doesn't realize that Keats is basically paw friendly even if you're being swatted like an annoying fly.

Yesterday, Keats and Tallulah had a stand off in the hallway like the OK Corral. Keats gave Tallulah two swift swats to the face, hissed at her like an adder, and slinked off ticked into the kitchen to watch out for Tallulah, eyes all aglow, like the Secret Service.

Meanwhile, Tallulah runs from one side of the room to the other carrying the stuffed birds, chasing the laser, or attacking the fireplace utensils.

And Keats?

Keats sits with her nose out of whack and waits for us to return Tallulah to wherever she came from...

Me: David, what are we gonna do if they continue this way?

David: I dunno.

Keats: I guess I'll have to kill her.

I'll keep you posted.

BTW: I made Tallulah a toy with an old sock, some catnip, a Christmas bell, and tied up the whole makeshift thing with twine. Today, while Tallulah was napping in the trash can, Keats showed up and carried off the sock. Cats -- LOL

Monday, July 20, 2009

Union Hill and Nephews

Okay, NSB, this blog's for you.

Saturday night I picked up my youngest nephew (he's 18) and headed over to his cousin's Eagle Court of Honor. The trip was long -- well, fifty or fifty five minutes, so my nephew spent most of his time texting Christy, who was headed to see Harry Potter.

I dunno, what movie it is -- the current one?

Harry Potter Grows a Mustache?

What disturbed me is that he texted Christy back and forth all of this useless information. Each time his phone made an electronic texting? noise that he had received a text, I asked him: Well, what did she text?

Him: She's going to the Harry Potter movie.
Me: And what did you say?
Him: How many times have you seen it?
Me: And what did she say?
Him: That I couldn't count that high.
Me: And?
Him: That's it. It's the kind of stuff we text all the time.
Me: Interesting. Why don't you just call her?
Him: That's annoying.
Me: And this isn't?
Him: Nope.

So, that's what the texting fuss is about?

Later, I called my oldest nephew who lives in Houston and told him that Him was texting an older woman.

Old Nephew: Put him on the phone.
Me: Don't hurt him.

Him: Yo, whatzza up? ................Dude, she's only a year older. No. .........................No gory details on Facebook. bwhahaha ......I promise I will not be the family member telling those kinds of stories. ............. Dude, why haven't you accepted me to play Left for Dead? ....................... I've asked three times........ I'm feeling like a loser.. bwhahahahahah..................I'm just 18, dude.................. No kids table anymore..... Pretty tight.... Yeah, later, dude.

Me: See, isn't that better than texting?
Him: *rolls eyes*

My other nephew's Court of Honor was off Exit 19, down Cumming Highway, right on Union Hill Road to AJ Land Road... about 11 miles off the Interstate....

Union Hill Road was old farm county. One home had four or five farm instruments up for sale and three John Deeres. Made me sad.

The sun was low in the sky as we drove, and at times, the land around us had me wondering how long before somebody uglied it up with a spanking new subdivision -- after all Exit 19 has a whole strip mall of the latest "gotta have" stores.


The Union Hill Community Center was the old Union Hill Church. My brother greeted us in the gravel parking lot under four or five huge elm trees. This was Saturday night in July, and it felt like spring or fall. Low humidity, gentle breeze, and temperate weather --- the atmosphere of the place was so "country." Cars crunched in the lot and looked to park anywhere -- folks walked up and greeted each other with "hi's" and hugs.

Inside, the community center was set up with about 75 folding metal chairs, and the stage at the front was set up with a candelabra made of wood (Boy Scout style -- like made by the troop kind of candelabra) and two folding chairs and a pulpit that was ready for the ceremony. Draped over the pulpit was leftover 4th of July festive ware --- as well as flag bunting across the bottom of the stage. As the ceremony progressed, the bunting fell one piece at a time -- the tape that adhered it to the wood giving it up after two weeks.

The Eagle Scout court of honor ceremony is rather dry -- this is my fifth nephew to become an Eagle Scout; my other nephew somehow didn't get those pledges of loyalty, duty, and honor.

He told me, "I was in the IB program."

I spent my time in that hard folding chair taking in the rugged beauty of that small, old church. The walls were painted a stark white enamel contrasted with green chair rail at the bottom. On either side were four huge windows just high enough so that you could only look upward. (I guess, if I'm gonna gaze out a window at a church, it should be heavenly.) Big trees on either side -- more elms I think -- shaded the windows, and the breeze stirred the leaves as the ceremony went on and on --

After the level of Eagle Scout was officially given to my nephew with the presentation of the Eagle Scout scarf, we lined up for a soft drinks, some pretzels, Goldfish, fruit and cake -- pretty good fare, I guess, for driving so far.

When I stood up at the end (I don't know why folding metal chairs are so uncomfortable -- I used to could sit in them -- but now they seem kind of "government issued" to keep one from sitting too long), I glanced out the window and I could see a pavilion with about six or eight picnic tables in pretty good shape --

That view took me back to church suppers when I was a child out under the trees and right next to the cemetery at my grandparent's church .. Salem Methodist Church, Appomattox, Virginia. There's ya some history, brothers and sisters, just miles from where Lee surrendered to Grant after the "War." I remember some great fried chicken, watermelon, and peach cobbler. Food that still conjures up old memories for me.

As I drove out of there, it was that smidgen of a time right before dark.. that blue to black that comes on quickly -- like the pulling down of a curtain or a veil. It had this magical, mystical feel -- and as I made a left on Union Hill Road, I thought -- wow, in so many ways, the past is always right there with us -- even when we are looking at the future as we live in the present.


ETA: Those cakes where they scan a photo in and put it in the icing totally crack me up for some reason. I think my nephew looks like he's running for office....his face plastered on that Scouting paper plate. LOL

My niece and I .... at the ceremony. She's the Eagle's sister.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Love Shack, Bay-bee

Last night, David and I joined our friends, Marilyn and John, on their boat, and we tooled around Lake Allatoona. I don't know if folks were frightened away by the thunderstorms or they were all at Turner Field watching Greg Maddux retire his number, but it was pleasantly uncrowded.

We put in at Three Rivers Marina which adjoined a honky tonk aptly named Three Rivers Marina Bar and Grill, and Friday night was karaoke night. I was tempted to put some time on the water and then perhaps come back and sing a bar or two of Janis Joplin or Pat Benatar for my friends, but then I realized -- only not. That was thirty year old ago stuff -- nobody needs to hear that, but hearing it would be better than seeing it.. if you know what I mean. LOL

The lake was rough as the wind had kicked up more waves and we bounced as we flew across the water. John, wearing a yellow shirt and Tommy Bahama shorts, looked like a Don Johnson wanna be as he whipped the boat around from cove to cove. John is a Florida boy; you can take the boy out of Miami, but you can't take the Miami out of the boy. He's bright yellow was a contrast to the denim shorts and plain white tees of the men we saw fishing in those coves. As we flew past them in our "Winner," we did the courtesy wave that seems to be understood on the water, and hoped that our wake didn't keep them from catching whatever fish it is you could possible catch in Allatoona and still consider eating it.


As dusk grew on us, we were entertained by all kinds of clouds. Marilyn, a retired elementary school teacher, has acclimated well to a no teaching zone. Kicked back in the boat in her black and white cover up, black sunglasses, and matching black flips and toe ring, she educated me on stratus, altostratus, cirrus, and cumulus, of which we seemed to have each of -- she laughed as she sounded so smart -- as in so smart in a fifth grade teacher kind of smart, but she knew more than the other three of us. LOL

At one point, we drove slowly through different coves -- Victoria's Landing and Kellog Landing -- and oohed and ahhed over the houses that folks have built along the water. One house had a huge catfish on the roof of its garage -- it looked like an inflatable from the water, but as the light was dim, it could have been made of wood. It was huge -- big enough to go over both sides of the garage. Many boat houses and docks featured Georgia flags, one even boasted a USMC flag.

David: I bet that guy's armed.
Me: *rolls eyes*

When John wasn't driving like he had a bee in his Bahamas, we cut the engine and listened to music from the aptly named radio station, The River. We heard Allman Brothers, Rod Stewart, as well as Eric Clapton's "Layla." How appropriate to sit in the middle of water and go back in time.

Out there -- time seems to stop.

We did see one of the most beautiful night skys that I have seen in a long while -- that pink and baby blue sky that sailor's noted in the old saying, "red sky at night sailor's delight." This was breathtaking and as I have said when seeing such sights, "so perfect only God could make it."

As we rode back to Little River's, we saw flashing red lights on the water. At Victoria's Landing, an ambulance and fire truck was pulled up to the marina's parking lot. Folks in boats had pulled up to stare. It was one of those moments for the "uh oh" crowd. We didn't know what happened, but the way the lights flashed on the water was eerie and the silence that matched it even spooky.

At one point, Marilyn said, "I feel like I'm in a movie."
I said, "Well, David can be played by Hugh Jackman" and Marilyn finished, "And John by George Clooney."


We never asked our men who they wanted to play our parts as we were pretty sure in their movie, we would not be featured at all.

As we pulled into Little River, we do what we always do. We looked frantically for keys, picked up coolers and towels, asked each other if we could see where to step, and then clamored up the steep dock to make it back to the cars. From the Marina bar and grille, we heard a really bad karaoke rendition of "Love Shack." It clamored out of the bar and down to the water. It gave me the giggles.

"The Love Shack is a little old place
where we can get together
Love Shack baby, Love Shack bay-bee.
Love baby, that's where it's at,
Ooo love baby, that's where it's at

Sign says.. Woo... stay away fools,
'cause love rules at the Lo-o-ove Shack!
Well it's set way back in the middle of a field,
Just a funky old shack and I gotta get back"

Baybee, indeed.

Retirement looks good on Marilyn -- I hope it will look that good on me.

Thursday, July 16, 2009


Bird watching.

David (hubby) and I do a lot of this. We spend money on feed, feeders, and how to keep off the squirrels who show up for the feed and hang upside down like bats on the feeders. We spend thirty bucks on two baffles and hot sauce seed even though the very knowledgeable girl at Bird Watchers Supply said, "Squirrels. Can't stop 'em."

I thought -- Clint Eastwood could do something about them, but I digress, as usual.

We have 14 feeders (three of which we inherited from David's mom), and David religiously fills the feeders so that we can watch the birds. David also washes out the bird bath each morning, and since it's hot, he adds ice cubes to cool it down. Our back deck is the freakin' Ritz Carlton for Birds.

Each Christmas, someone in my family gives David a bird feeder. Thus, the 11 we have accumulated over the years. Last year, my niece gave David a bird feeder that glows in the dark. The birds hang out there at night like it's a disco.

I have no idea when we got "old" enough to enjoy birds and their antics -- whether it's the bully bluejays, the "I'd rather walk than fly" Carolina wrens, the downy woodpecker, or the run of the mill mousy brown birds that we can never remember the names of..

Me: Why are those birds so plain?
David:What birds?
Me: Those brown plain ones with the plumage of bark.
David: Plumage? Who says plumage?
Me: I do.
David: I can never remember their names, but if this were the debutant ball for birds, these guys would be sitting in the chairs around the dance floor waiting for a starling to ask em to dance.
Me: Why starlings?
David: Cause there are more male than female starlings.
Me: What? You made that up.
David: I don't know what those brown birds are called.

Anyway, I have told many squirrel stories in my day since I find squirrels so annoying and neurotic. David throws ice at them(not the same ice that he puts in the bath), and they dive from the second story deck into the ducia or the azaleas like Olympians. Well, scared Olympians who freeze right before they take the plunge...

We are bird watchers.

This afternoon I came home from running errands, and I open the back door for Keats, who likes to stare down the birds like she's a big bad serial killer, and I happened to glance at the bird bath. In the bath is a dead bird -- flat on his back -- stick figure legs straight up in the air, inert beak, lying on its back in the water like its on a pneumatic.

I called David at work.

David: Whut? (that's how he answers his phone -- caller ID has brought that to us)
Me: Dead bird in the bird bath.
David: Okay.
Me: You're gonna have to move it -- bird flu and all.
David: Whut?
Me: Well, I don't know what it died of -- could be the flu, could be drowning, could be birdcide, could be a blue jay hit -- you're gonna have to handle it.
David: Are you done?

This is what retirement has brought me.
Time to wonder about the death of a bird and to blog about it...

Did you guys read this far?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Who plans pain?

I need, my readers, to comment on my blog.

I have no idea if my three friends and one or two former students are the only ones reading it, or if I have one friend pretending to be all five.

So, comment. Please. I'm lonely.

1. I had no idea that there was such a thing as a Miss Hooters International Swimsuit Pageant. It involves small bikinis, some plastic, and glue. The judges are, or have been, John Salley and three old men. The girls are from Brazil as well as Newnan, Georgia. The website for this admits to being unrefined and tacky and calls itself The Mayor of Wingville. Satellite tv is a mind field of enlightening information.

Only not.

2. I went to Kroger to get a prescription filled today because I can get three months of that prescription for ten dollars. My doctor informed me that I should purchase it at either Wal-mart or Kroger cause they "have the deals." "Deals"? On drugs? I felt like a junkie looking for the best corner.

I don't do Kroger -- I'm a Publix girl -- it's mostly geography and Howard. I haven't been in a Kroger since 1995 when I used to shop there for my parents. I like Kroger.. I like it that I had a friend who made it a verb. "I'm Krogering today."


You know that there is nothing more interesting to me than people I don't know. People I know, not so much -- people I don't know, fascinating...

I watched the woman who had put her prescriptions in ahead of mine. She was pretty in that suburbia housewife put together from head to toe kind of way. Cute little khaki pants, designer Flip Flops, diamond studs in the ears, processed blond hair slicked back in a pony tail, expensive watch, and a pressed t-shirt that blazoned Cannes.

She was wandering around in the cosmetic section looking at Herbal Essence shampoo and Breathe Right. Quite the variety of browsing as she waited for the druggist, Danny, to fill her prescription.

With one eye on "perfect woman at the grocery store" and one eye on the freebies, I spent some time taking my own blood pressure (120 over 70, 71 heartbeats per minute) and looking at the wrinkled, dog eared magazines provided by Kroger -- Health Today and Prevention. No People magazine for the old fools picking up their Metamucil and Zantac 150.

I was trying to look interested in my own blood pressure, Soft soap, and "How to lose three inches of belly fat in three weeks" until I hear the "perfect lady" discussing her five medications with Danny. (You have to check a form that the pharmacist "counseled" you on the drugs you were having filled.)

I wasn't eavesdropping, really.

I was only interested in why she was getting five medications. I didn't want to miss a sale, you know.



She told Danny that she was having "surgery," and she didn't know why she needed all of these "meds."

Danny proceeded to explain that she had a "sleep aid," antibiotics, a antibiotic creme, a drug like Valium, and some kind of narcotic for "pain."

She said, "I'm just having a little liposuction. I wasn't planning on being in pain."

Me: Weren't planning? Bwha.

Then I noticed the sign that stated: "Please stand back in the line as we do not wish to invade any one's privacy."

I peeled off like a oboe playing band member performing a half time show. I felt sheepish and embarrassed, but once she said "liposuction," I was no longer looking at the article on belly fat.

What is she having lipoed?

Those are the kind of things I had to ponder.

Meanwhile, it looks like I'll have to work off my thirty inches of belly fat by cutting carbs and sugar and circling the track at Boots Ward. Yeah, I wasn't planning on any pain either.

"scratches head*

I had a coupon for Blue Bell ice cream. After Danny counseled me on my need to take my meds with food, I sauntered down the freezer aisle and looked for some Moose Tracks. It's food, and I had a coupon.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Anthony Bourdain, Brenda Starr, and Pistol Pete

1. My friend, NSB, sent me some news that I could blog about, but I am holding those for another day.

2. Husband is watching Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations in Spain. I find Bourdain arrogant, goofy, and kind of annoying in a television kind of way. He says things like food is "smokin' hot" or "gastric grateful." or "nosebleed expensive." I do believe he just said "this is an old man bar -- I'm unimpressed." RMEs, Anthony, I think you need to check your date of birth on your own passport, dude.

3. I saw the obituary for Paul Hemphill, the journalist and writer.

He died yesterday. It made me nostalgic for the sixties when he worked for the Atlanta Times, a newspaper that tried to rival the Atlanta Journal and Constitution. Hemphill wrote honestly and frankly about some of the current issues of the day. He recognized Atlanta for its "raw" feelings on race. Rest in peace, Paul -- you wrote well.

My parents got both papers; they were readers and loved politics. The Times did a great hurrah and then died with a rather pathetic gasp. They were no match for the AJC, a monster newspaper backed by loyal subscribers and advertisers who knew it as a friend. The Atlanta Times was fresh and innovative, but no match for the staid reliability and familiarity of the AJC.

BTW: The AJC was actually, for a long time, two different newspapers owned by the same people.. The Atlanta Constitution was the morning paper, and the Atlanta Journal was the night one -- at some point, they combined to one -- I don't remember if has been five years or twenty years ago that they combined.

I myself had been a 43 year subscriber to the AJC and just recently stopped the newspaper. Why? Because it had turned into an agenda based, subjective mess of poor writing, and driven by petty, local politics, lame celebrities, and lousy "feature" stories. I was bored. I don't need to order boredom to the tune of 110 dollars every six months. Why do I care about the latest "bleed" story of Dekalb County -- the wild, wild east of Atlanta?

The newspaper is dying .. and I can wax and wane sentimentally about it.

As a child and the youngest of four, my siblings and I would fight over the "funnies" on Sunday. I liked my paper pure -- and you young people will not understand some of these memories I have.

I liked to be the first person with the paper -- where it is still creased, unread, and pristine. I liked to be the first to get that beautiful six pages of color funnies that came on Sunday where I lost myself in the romantic reporter Brenda Starr and her nebulous but obvious boyfriend with the patch, the puzzling nature of Pogo, or the signature yellow hat of Dick Tracy.

The paper continued to be a part of my life.

When I was in high school, Pete Maravich joined the Atlanta Hawks. He was this cute, long-haired, floppy socked basketball sensation who once averaged as a college player 47 points per game. A friend of mine saw Maravich play a basketball game as a senior player at LSU where he came in the gym at the University of Georgia and owned it. Even Georgia fans recognized that this player was different, historical, and rare.

As a teenager, I became obsessed by Maravich -- I would open the door to the newspaper on winter mornings to see how "Pistol Pete" performed the night before.

I saved every picture of him printed in the AJC sports pages. I memorized his stats, grimaced when he did poorly, but celebrated when he showed his stuff. When he was traded to the New Orleans Jazz, I mourned and felt "jilted."

When he died in 1987 at the age of forty, I was shocked. Pistol Pete dead? Not possible.

As a young teacher in the late 1970s and early 1980s, I became enamored of the Atlanta Falcons. Each Sunday I would watch their games faithfully -- once when the Falcons made their famous "Hail Mary" pass, I jumped so high and got so excited, my cat at that time, Taylor, who liked to sleep on the top of the tv, fell from the tv, and was so traumatized, he hid in the closet for 12 hours. I coaxed him out with real tuna and lies.

I saved every front page of the sports page to hang on the bulletin board in my classroom. My male students were shocked at my knowledge of not only football but almost every play in the game. It didn't hurt that the Falcons had drafted themselves some players who made me swoon. I loved Billy White Shoes Johnson, Steve Barkowski (who married one of my high school classmates), Buddy Curry, Gerald Riggs, and I once met the kicker, Mick Luckhurst -- which is a story for another blog. The Falcons had themselves a team of hunks -- and the uniforms, tight, helped my cause.

By the time I was married, I moved to other aspects of the paper -- the editorial page. I still read the sports page first, but I eventually moved to the editorial page. At one point, the editorial page was balanced -- a conservative view and a liberal view -- but somewhere sometime, all of a sudden, the editorial page became single focused. I got to where it would make my blood boil, and I would tell my husband: "I need to read the sports and living section and ignore the editorials."

How can you be a newspaper and cover "Dixie like the Dew" (their old mantra) but become so one-sided?

Needless to say, two months ago, I let the paper go. I miss the feel of it in my hands; I miss the morning ritual of flipping through it. I miss the idea of it -- the tradition of it -- but I don't miss its agenda.

I read today that the New York Times is considering dropping its Crossword puzzle.


What's next? Are they gonna drop their marriage announcements?
BTW: Those suckers are hilarious.

I told my brother recently that I had stopped reading the newspaper, and he said, "Reading? You're kidding, right? Newspapers have not been readable journalism since the sixties."

I said, "Well, heck, why didn't you tell me?"

He said, "I thought you knew."


*rolls eyes*



Pistol Pete.
Ain't he cute?

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Who needs "ammo" on Tuesdays?

Well, I've been out of town for five days...hubby and I were in the mountains. We have tv, but no Internet. I felt cut off from the world.

I missed the Michael Jackson "closing" ceremonies -- I heard they were, to quote Robin Roberts, " not what [the media] expected...." and I can't interpret that at all -- cause the media and I have different expectations on just about everything...

I didn't see a single moment of the memorial -- but I do have one question.

Did the LA taxpayer foot the bill for the Staple Center to be used for a celebrity's funeral?

Just wonderin'..

*rolls eyes*

I had a crazy dream this morning and hubby wouldn't listen to it --

but it involved tree art, Jerry Pece ( a high school friend), lounge chairs, and my old neighborhood -- it was so weird I wanted to tell someone..but never mind...

Hubby and I went to Cafe REL in Franklin, NC, to eat last night. The restaurant, which is very good, is actually in the same building as Hot Spot, a type of Race Trak.. in fact, the Hot Spot and Cafe REL customers share a public restroom. If you use the restroom while at Cafe Rel, you go through a door, and you are in the back of the Hot Spot, about fifteen feet from the cracker aisle. It's like passing from one world to another. Not quite like The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, but.... different.

Anyway, the food is really delicious, and the chef makes his grandmother's three layer chocolate cake -- which is like crack on a plate. Next door to the Hot Spot is the Gun Brokerage. There were some interesting people who needed "ammo" on a Tuesday night. That place was busier than Bill Clinton's Twitter.

Another good eating place in Franklin is Fat Buddy's.

It serves "clotting of the arteries" on a plate. They have potato skins to die for or, techinically, from, I guess. They double bake em and serve them with Ranch dressing with chipote spice. A place like this to eat is why they make pants with elastic waistbands. I would say that Fat Buddy's is no misnomer. Heh.


More randomness...

I read three books and three New Yorkers in my five days.

The best book I read was A Free Life by Ha Jin. I really enjoyed it even though Jin is one of those writers who practically gives a day by day, year by year description of his characters and their lives. Somehow, Jin manages to pull this off without tediousness or repetition.

This novel told the story of Chinese immigrants who came to the US to work on a Masters degree, but after the massacre at Tienanmen Square determined not to return to China. The main characters, Nan and Pingping, embraced the American dream and embraced the values that America was founded on, especially those of hard work and perseverance. I can't believe anyone believes in that darn work ethic anymore.

Once settled here, they sent for their four year old son, who had been kept in Beijing with the grandparents until the parents had a place for him; even though the parents tried to keep him immersed in his Chinese heritage, the son Taotao was Americanized pretty quickly. Most of the story was set in Gwinnett County. Many of the places mentioned in the novel were real places.

An extra bonus to me was that at one point, Jin quoted Faulkner -- as well as W.H. Auden, Robert Frost, and John Steinbeck.

I totally enjoyed it and my five days away from "celebrity memorials."

Thursday, July 2, 2009

"I'm not gonna be shooting them at anyone, silly."

There is nothing better than real dialogues with your former students, your friends, or your family members; I have one of each -- note what follows:

Sarah W told me: "You should really watch Sixteen and Pregnant on MTV."

Me: "Because it's...."

Sarah W: "Really funny. I watched it with my dad. He called it Knocked Up, but I told him -- noooo that's a movie and that's so different. This is real."

Me: "Wait. Wait. You watched it with your dad?"

Sarah W: "Not every time, just this once."

NSB told me: "That guy had many snakes, none of them legal."

Me: [this was after the news story of the python killing the two-year old in Florida -- NSB lives in Florida and they had much more coverage] "There are 140,000 Burmese pythons in Florida right now. I read that in a magazine. That's not counting the ones they don't know about. "

NSB: "And I needed to know this.....why?"

Me: "Cause you are my friend."

Nora told me: "I'm working for the government. I have an "issued" phone. No camera. They don't want me taking pictures of the submarines or the nuclear part of them and putting them on the Internet."

Me: [this was after I asked my newly graduated niece about her new job] "You're gonna be working with nukes?'

Nora: "I'm not gonna be shooting them at anyone, silly."

Real conversations are awesome.

Blog correction: Apparently on my blog titled "Former Students Only," I wrote that I had taught my most recent students 4 of the works listed in Newsweek's top 100. Jessica let me know that actually I only taught 3 of them. See, I told you Newsweek wasn't much of a magazine. I noted that they had left off Scarlet Letter and was letting them pass. Not any more -- what a crank list that was after all.


Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Former Students only...

Attention my former students, especially those of the last years..

Dr. Parrott just sent me this link:

Newsweek's 100 books --


Yeah, four out of six of the assigned books from American Literature, taught by me -- made the top 100.

*does a little rumba*

Dang. I knew I was good.

And this is Newsweek -- just imagine if it was a real magazine.


I'm kidding.


Do something! Quick.

July 1st, if you are a teacher or a student, is the day that you usually get up and think to yourself:

Oh no! It's July 1st. Only one more month till we go back to school. Quick. Do something you wanna do. Make plans. Stay up late. Watch that movie. Read that book. Go out to lunch! Quick. Time's running out. Eek!

Over the thirty-three years that I taught -- I had that little panic attack moment in my head about the first of July.

Of course, I'm not talking about when we used to go back after Labor Day, which might have been during the second world war, but in the last years when the school system kept bringing teachers back earlier and earlier and bringing back students earlier and earlier until the parents began screaming: Stop! The first of August is too early to go back to school. Stop the madness.

Yes, kids need to go to Disney World. Let's never go back to school in August. Let's go in September when the rest of the Western world goes back to school. Then, of course, you can have the same scenario in your head about August 1. LOL

Guess what?

I got up this morning and flipped the calendar over and noted to myself:

Uh. Hmm. July 1st? I got a raise. I'm not going back to school. I'm here at home -- air conditioner is on -- books are on the table -- Internet is running -- and all is well with my world. *tee hee* .. but my teacher friends? Bwha. They are so in a sweat.

Each year, when I was teaching, I would have this conversation or one similar to it with my husband:

Me: Argh. It's July 1st. I only have a month left before I go back to school.
Hubby: I hate that.

Me: Noooooooooooooooo. You don't understand. I only have one month left.

Hubby: One month? What a shame.. you have already had one month off and now you only have one more. Why do I not have tears in my eyes?

Me: Your sarcasm is not appreciated.
Hubby: When is it ever?

Me: Good point. I've got to do something today.
Hubby: Why?
Me: CUZ. I only have one month left.

You get it, right? It was similar to that every year. BUT.. not this year....

To all my students out there and, of course, to all of my teacher friends out there:

Bwha. One month. You'd better do something. Quick.

*files nails*