Wednesday, June 30, 2010

"Does Anyone Really Know What Time It Is?"

I rarely listen to the car radio anymore.

I have CDs. I have an I-Pod.

This morning, David took my car and filled it up with gas.

Awww. Yes, he's sweet like that --- I was headed to the doctor today -- across town, and he made sure that I was gassed up and ready to go.

That's a little bit of a pun since I was headed to the gastro doctor.

*tee hee*

Anyway, David listens to the radio -- he loves Clark Howard.

Clark kind of gives me rickets. I don't know what it is -- his long-winded explanations?

When I got in my car today, the radio was on AM so I just switched it to FM, and it happened to be on an oldies station.

You know what was playing? --- "Does Anyone Really Know What Time It Is?" by Chicago Transit Authority, later shortened to Chicago, since the real CTA threatened legal action.

I love that freakin' song.

The song came out in April of 1969 -- and the summer of 1969, I was a rising, high-school sophomore, approaching a new understanding and appreciation of rock music, courtesy of my oldest brother who had flown the coop, gone away to college for two years at The University of Virginia, and come back with reel to reel tapes sporting ninety minutes of non stop rock music.

One of the songs on that reel to reel was --- "Does Anyone Really Know What Time It Is?" as well as others like "Easy to be Hard" by Three Dog Night (a song that made me fall in love with them -- even though they were unbelievably cheesy) and "Light My Fire" by the Doors.

Aside: When I was a junior in high school, our drill team, of which I was co-captain, did an award winning routine to "Light My Fire."

Okay, it wasn't award winning, but I still know some of the moves. LOL

That summer of 1969, we played that "reel to reel" over and over -- and I not only memorized the lyrics to all the songs, but the order that the songs came on the tape. I played it so much that my family was sick of it, but when they weren't home, I was cranking the stereo up and playing that tape and singing loudly.

I can't believe my parents allowed all that noise to be played on Daddy's stereo (they were pretty tolerant and good-natured about it -- I mean, I guess life could be worse -- we could have been at Woodstock) --but my dad loved that stereo, a RCA cabinet wonder complete with wood veneer, a record player, and FM radio.

Whooo wee. We were living high on the hog.

Another aside: My dad actually loved electronics and gadgets. I remember at one time -- he had this thing about clock radios. That, btw, has nothing to do with the Chicago song. Just sayin'.

The reel to reel that my brother shared was an eclectic mixture of the favorite songs of his current suite mates at UVA, and they named it after the dorm and room number (the name and number escapes me now) -- something like 214 Manget.

My daddy had fifty or sixty reel to reels as well -- his were mostly Mitch Miller and old show tunes. I liked those too -- until 1969 -- then I became an official rocker, and I gave up trying to sing like Julie Andrews or pretend I was in Oklahoma or Showboat or Porgy and Bess.

I admit I memorized a few of those lyrics too. They came in handy later, when my college sorority used them in a show that we put on during Rush.


At that time, tape masters stored reel to reel tapes in brown boxes, and most labeled them on the outside. My dad stacked his, nicely identified, on the bookcase next to his stereo. He had spent hours and hours moving his 78s and 33lps to reel to reel since they were "the way" of the future.

Ha. Ha.

Today, as I was headed to the doctor, I was taken back in time -- and just so you know, I still knew all the lyrics to that song.

What's up with that? It's like brain washing. LOL

At the time the song was popular, and it received a tremendous amount of air play throughout the 1970s, I just knew that the lyrics were profound, perhaps carrying a deeper meaning, and that if I thought about it enough, I could analyze and apply to modern life.

At some point, I came to the conclusion that they just rhymed.


BTW: Chicago, by the standards of the time, was a pretty clean cut band, made up of eight musicians, some of them classically trained, out of the midwest. My favorite was the trombone player named James Pankow. He had the best hair.

What can I tell you? I was fifteen.

That's all I got.

I had this album.

And that picture above -- is a poster than came with one of their albums -- I hung it on my wall --- and James Pankow, far right on floor. :)

Note to young readers of my blog: You are gonna have to Google "reel to reel" -- I ain't explaining that to ya. I ain't got the time. Muah.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Oryx and Crake

Recently, while on the phone with Edie, and after we had run through all the latest gossip, we chatted about what we were reading -- she mostly reads non-fiction, and I mostly read fiction -- both our interest perhaps left over from teaching school, but maybe not. It may be that the smarter people read non-fiction.


Anyway, I mentioned to her that I had just started Oryx and Crake (the first word of which I couldn't quite get my tongue around), and she said, "I started that book, but I think I put it down."

Me: I think I know why -- the opening scene has a guy named Snowman, sleeping in a tree, scratching his bug bites, and remarking that he is more naked than Adam. He's awakened by even more naked people, children, and then adults, also naked who bring him a fish wrapped in a lotus leaf.

Edie: Must have been why I put it down.

Me: I might not make it myself.

I did make it though, and all I can tell you is that I am not sure why. I don't enjoy dystopian literature for pleasure reading --- because, well, it's depressing and too thought provoking.

Who needs that in retirement?

Also, dystopian literature makes me think of teaching school. LOL

Literature teachers always loved the kind of novel that made students think about the future -- heck, we were always happy if we just got them to think.

*giggles* --

Well, you know the kind of book -- everyone reads at least one while they are in high school, don't they?

Brave New World
The Time Machine


Animal Farm
Harrison Bergeron (actually a short story)

Those kinds of books that students look up at you and say, while they are reading, "This book is weird."

Yeah, weird. That's Oryx and Crake.

As I was reading it, I was thinking -- I could use this in class (whoops, don't have one anymore) or Wingate could use this in Philosophy (oops, she's retired too) --but totally a book that could be discussed for its ethical, moral, and societal implications.

Is it the book for reading in a big, Adirondack chair on the deck?

Uh, no -- cause then, you have to think about it.

I chose to read this novel because Emily, a friend of mine's daughter who just graduated from UNC -- [remember our Lady Ga Ga discussion?], had just read it for one of her last literature classes for her English major.

I told her, "Man, I thought I had read everything by Margaret Atwood."
Emily: Apparently not.

As always, Atwood presents a good story -- full of well -developed characters, detailed settings, thoughtful, witty and ironic dialogue; she is no slouch.

Oryx and Crake - a scientifically, genetically altered future ---

*scratches head*

-- outlandish but realistic, perhaps whacky, but enough of society's underlying current problems to ring true as a possible scenario for the future?

*scratches head*

Let me pause here to say if we ever get this advanced, count me out.

In fact, I'd like to be part of the first blast.

I'm also good with being Raptured.

So, the novel begins in the world of Snowman. He lives in an environment that is the result of genetic engineering gone for a bad train ride.

Snowman searches for goods in a holocaust wasteland, where mutant wild animals hunt him, insects bite him, and periodically, he journeys back to a compound where it all went wrong.

As Snowman sets off on his quest to re-stock his dwindling supply -- the narrative shifts to Snowman's youth, about twenty years before, a time spent in self-indulgent pleasures, lack of human interaction, and a world already falling apart from within, and his inopportune meeting of a mad genius named Crake.

If you like this kind of stuff, have at it -- it's a good read, but if not, you're not missing anything that you haven't read before --- that is ...if you've read one of the above novels, but if you haven't -- then should have your first taste.

Just sayin'.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Smith-Gilbert Gardens

Right here in Kennesaw, Georgia, lies a hidden gem of a garden aptly named Smith-Gilbert after the owners who purchased the house and sixteen acres in 1970.

For the next thirty-five years, the two men renovated the house, now on the National Register of Historic Places, and added plantings that would provide protection and food for their new interest in the variety of birds they noticed on their property.

The result -- an Eden sporting 3, 000 species of plants with man made trails of dirt, gray slate, and rock that provides a sanctuary for man and bird -- and a place for the layman like me to go to enjoy how the "masters" put together a home and property that must rival the best.

Meadows, conifer gardens, woodland walks, two ponds (with koi) with a waterfall, a Japanese Maple grove, rose and camellia gardens, cedar field, and a bonsai garden are just a few of the many places to gaze and gawk and ooh and ahh, and just as much time will be spent bending down to get a better look and to ask, "What is this?"The good news -- hours have been put in to label these trees or plants.

I had never seen a giant dogwood. There it is, nicely labeled for me to read.

True story -- I didn't know that tree existed.

The Smith-Gilbert Gardens relies on volunteers to not only work in the fresh vegetable garden patch (the produce from this, donated) but to maintain the masses of beds of roses and perennials that need pruning and babying in order to keep them looking their best.

As my friend and I were leaving, a nice-looking gentleman in a plaid shirt and khakis asked us if we enjoyed our walk, and we exclaimed enthusiastically that we did. He said, "Please tell your friends to come by -- we need the visitors." We passed by him a few minutes later knee deep in a mulch bed giving a shovel a good workout.

So, I decided to give them a shout out on my blog.

They are open Monday through Saturday from 9 to 4. So if you are bored or hot, take in Smith-Gilbert gardens on Pine Mountain Road for a mere seven dollar donation -- and bring your lunch -- they have a fabulous picnic area under a canopy of trees.

Aside: In 2008, when I was still teaching at KMHS, a plane crashed in a nearby neighborhood. It was so close to the school that the students who were out on the playing fields came in the building talking about the many helicopters who were circling and the smoke from the fire. The plane crashed on the Smith-Gilbert property and took out a considerable section of woods. A sign on the property begs for donations to restore that part to its original splendor.

ETA: I felt like I just got a job writing copy for a brochure. LOL

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Palace Council

The second book I have read by Stephen L. Carter, The Palace Council is a five hundred page thriller with enough twists and turns to keep the best reader guessing.

Spanning twenty years -- from Brown versus the Board of Education to the resignation of Richard Nixon, Carter tells the story of Eddie Wesley, a writer out of Harlem, who when his younger sister, Junie, disappears, postpones his own life as he expends time and energy into solving the mystery.

The novel weaves politics, race, radicalism, and intrigue into a suspenseful story of a delicate time in U.S. history.

Long -- but good.

The Train Case

In the the late 1950s through the late 1960s most people I knew who traveled, other than by car, did so by train or bus.

My family did both, but we mostly traveled by train. By age seven, I had traveled alone in the summer to visit my mother's family in Virginia. My mother had gone back to work when I was five, and I was too young to be left in the care of my sister who was three years older. The last summer I spent in Virginia, I was twelve years old.

Only rich people flew in airplanes -- which was a glamorous way to travel and took them to far-away places like Disneyland or Europe. I don't know that I knew anyone who flew when I was a child, and I took my first airplane flight when my brother got married in Connecticut in 1980. I was 28 years old.

No laughing. :)

In 1963, my aunts gave my sister and me "train cases" to carry our personals back and forth on our train trips. We were so stoked that summer that we carried 'em everywhere we went. My sister at far left -- my adorable self left. :)

These train cases, hard little leather square boxes with flip latches, opened to a mirror, adhered to the inside top of the case, had a soft, quilted interior with ruffled pockets for storing toiletries.

My sister's case was a pastel pink, and mine, a baby blue.
I loved that case. :)

Train travel, much more enjoyable than by bus, which had no room to move around, featured cool toilets and allowed movement about the coach by single passage aisles.

We could also have seats facing each other, which allowed us to ride backwards. Totally awesome! A drawback to all train seats were the rough upholstery, the nappy fabric left its imprint on the bare legs or face, if I fell asleep against it.

When the train was en route and moving sometimes as fast as 70 miles an hour, the adventure for us kids was to chase each other between the coach cars, also called passenger cars. Probably a dangerous activity and not encouraged by the conductors, we made up reasons to go to the train toilet -- so that we could cross between the passenger cars for scary fun.

I'm not sure how much our parents suspected that we made up reasons to get up out of our seats and move around, but they had four children --- at some point, I guess, they conceded to our need to move about -- I'm not sure how many times they actually allowed it, but enough for me to remember the trembling nervousness of going from car to car.

When we opened the door to move from car to car, we stepped out on an open air platform with a mesh, wire bottom, where if we looked down, we could see the laid out tracks moving quickly beneath us. The platform was shaky and rickety, and the steps on either side, blocked with a hooked chain from side to side, prevented passengers from inadvertently falling to the tracks or even resting on the steps at all when moving between cars.

This open air platform was also a popular place for smokers to light up -- either discreetly as a closet smoker or out of respect for their fellow passengers. I even think there was a smoking car, also called the lounge, which allowed passengers to smoke freely and allowed them to enjoy an alcoholic drink to complement the smoke.

The lounge car also served Coca Cola and ginger ale at thirty-five cents a glass, a luxury that I never enjoyed. These fizzy drinks had "crushed" ice. I loved crushed ice. LOL

We, of course, being the children of Depression survivors, did not partake of the lounge or dining cars. We took food with us -- sandwiches, wrapped in wax paper, Nabs, and fruit that we carried on the train in brown bags, and we got water from a packed thermos or the drinking fountain on the train. Those bags always reeked of rotten fruit in a few hours -- its pungent smell mixing with the other odors of the train -- sweat, dust, and machine.

We moved between cars just so we could dare each other to move to the steps, especially if the train were lurching or swaying or rattling, which it always was. We had to yell loudly at each other when passing between these because the noise of a train with its electric turbine locomotive, pistons, cylinders, and valves putting out psssssing noises, and the steel wheels hitting the steel tracks was pretty deafening.

In order to move to the next car, we did a little leap. Not that far -- but definitely dare devil like. I remember having to really build up the courage to make that leap -- a leap my brothers easily pulled off. (See picture of my fearless brother Kenneth at right -- that face makes me giggle).

I remember on more than one occasion that the whole family traveled by train to see my grandparents in Virginia.

In 1964, when my grandfather was ill, our family only had one car.

When my aunts called to tell my mother that he was near death and perhaps "not live" the night, we rushed my mother to Union Station (pictured at left) in Atlanta to take a train to see him. (In 1972, the city of Atlanta razed Union Station to make way for a more progressive era and left the lone Brookwood Station to the north for train travel.)

My grandfather died before my mother arrived, a timing that haunted her later -- my dad, siblings, and I followed a day or so later, also by train, to attend the funeral.

I'm not sure why we took the train -- maybe because our car was unreliable or because my dad had hurt his back -- maybe it was the hurry to get there -- but I remember the trip well.

We took a night train to Virginia; Daddy moaned each time he moved or the train lurched, which it often did, throughout the night.

He sat up the whole way as he couldn't move well, and I lay across from him on two seats, unable to sleep with the excitement of the trip and the idea of my grandfather's death.

My grandfather, an old man as I remember him (79 when I was born), was deaf as a post, and when I visited him, offered me sardines and Saltines for breakfast. Gross!

He was an formidable figure, hardened by a long life as a farmer, who when he moved to the city took ten-mile daily walks to "stretch his legs."

The train wasn't crowded so we each had a double seat to ourselves, and I know that we ran up and down the aisles and took turns using the restrooms just so we could flush the toilet and see the waste and water hit the tracks below. Mostly, we flushed water.

Of course, they quit allowing trains to deposit the waste along the tracks, but then, the world was a little less concerned about the environmental hazard.

The only time we couldn't flush the toilet was when the train was in station. We obeyed the rules, but I remember standing on the platform on occasion, perhaps waiting for a family member to alight, while a train was stopped and hearing the water splash.

The trip to Lynchburg, Virginia, by train was somewhere around eight hours. Along the way, the train made numerous stops --Brookwood station in north Atlanta, Gainesville, Ga, Spartanburg, SC, Greenville, SC, Charlotte, NC, Greensboro, NC, and Danville, Va.

It may have stopped more than that -- but it never stopped for long and had a steady clip.

Notoriously late, trains rarely arrived on time.

Many times we went to the station to pick someone up and ended up sitting and waiting for the train to arrive. It was okay with me as train stations were lovely buildings with interesting people to watch and tons of phone booths to check out the coin slots for change, left behind by a harried traveler.. .. or even to sit in with the door closed and pretend to have someone to call. I hated it when we found out the train was so late that we returned home to wait it out. I liked waiting inside the cavernous building that was Atlanta's train station.

Lynchburg was close to 500 miles away -- so the trip was long -- and the trips relatively uneventful at night when little could be seen from the windows.

I know that I used to rest my head against the cool of the window and wonder about the lives of the few lights of houses I did see.

Train travel seemed romantic, adventuresome, and fun ... with lots to stimulate the imagination.

When we pulled into the Klemper Street Station in Lynchburg, Virginia, and my Aunt Eleanor met us with the car, I remember her saying to Daddy, "We can't believe that Papa's dead."

I loved how my aunts and mother called him "Papa" as if he were some literary figure, father to more than them.

When I took that train trip, I am sure that I packed my baby blue train case with silly things that a nine-year old girl would need for her grand papa's funeral -- perhaps a comb, barrettes, a small package of Kleenexes, and buffalo nickels. I don't imagine that they held much -- but now, when I look back, the train and the train case packed a lot of memories.

ETA: My mother called "pre-packaged cookies and crackers for snacks" -- Nabs.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Too many hyphens

Tired of looking at a baby bat?

It's all kinds of alien, isn't it?

How about some gorgeous pictures from Jerusalem, taken by my soon-to-be nephew-in-law? ----->

Over in Israel for business, he took some fabulous pictures.

Does it matter that I don't know what they are pictures of -- but I am enjoying for their artistic eye and beauty?

Where beauty is worshiped for beauty' sake?

So enjoy....

I don't even know which one is my favorite --

and soon-to-be nephew-in-law? Too many hyphens..... I'll be glad when it's just three instead of six....


Thursday, June 17, 2010

That's Just What They Do

God keeps man busy so that he doesn't have time to observe nature.

Nature defined for this blog -- as in the illustrious, and well known, black ducks.

As I was cleaning the shutters this morning, I noted that the crows were messin' with something in the cul-de-sac.

I decided to check it out since obviously whatever it was wasn't dead, for as the crows poked at it with their beaks, it flapped around and scooted away or tried to get away -- it was live.

I thought at first it was a small bird -- and I was worried about the baby wrens who have made their first home in the Boston fern hanging outside the French doors that lead to the deck.

No. No. No. You stupid, black ducks are not gonna eat those babies that David, Keats, and Tallulah (with different agendas) have watched momma feed and daddy stand a little ways off and chirp security. No. No. Not OUR WRENS.

I went out to the cul-de-sac in Rescue 911 mode -- like an overweight wren grandmother about to go psycho.

When I got close to it, I saw it was a baby bat with a broken wing.

*makes sad face*

I came back in the house to call my nephew, the Eagle scout, since they are trained for stuff like this, and before I could get him on the phone, the stupid crows were back -- and flew off with the baby bat.


I called David to tell him.

Me: The stupid black ducks just took a baby bat with a broken wing from the cul-de-sac.
David: You saw that?
Me: What? You think I'm watching this on Animal Planet?
David: How do you know it was a baby bat?
Me: I went out there. I was gonna rescue it from the crows.
David: Don't touch it.
Me: Why?
David: It may have rabies.
Me: I wanted to rescue it -- take it to Dr. Jim.
David: Don't do it. That's what they do.
Me: Who?
David: Crows. They rob nests. That's just what they do.
Me: Well, I could have intervened.
David: Then what would you do?
Me: I dunno. Nurse it back to help like a Hallmark movie?
David: That's just what they do.
Me: I hate nature.
David: Go clean the shutters.


What kind of answer is -- "that's just what they do?"

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Tallulah, a Wasp, and a Wonder

I love pictures like this of cats -- where when I clicked, Tallulah was in the picture.


These were taken this past weekend in the mountains of North Georgia where our "retirement" home is... it was hotter than Key West during Fantasy Week.

See that yellow, Adirondack chair in the background of that picture? I got stung by a wasp that had built its nest under the left arm rest.

Figures it was on the left.

I haven't been bitten by a bee since I was a kid.

It hurt like heck. At first I didn't know what happened? I was sitting there, and then "thwack" a wasp stings me.

*ouch, ouch, ouch, ouch*

I hadn't moved that fast since I got my official retirement papers.

My hand is still swollen, btw, in case you are worried.

It smarted.

Since Tallulah is normally an indoor kitty, she loves the mountains where she gets to go on the deck unsupervised since it's two stories up, and she knows that if she jumps from that height, no more tuna. Evah.

This is a bloom on one of the butterfly bushes at the mountain house.

Purty, ain't it? The bush was given to David and me in memory of his dad by the faculty at Kennesaw Mountain HS.

This last picture is of one of the day lilies that came up out of nowhere -- we didn't plant it, and there are no others like it on the property.

Ain't that wonderful?

Take us to Lady Ga Ga.

I had a conversation recently with a graduate of The University of North Carolina, a savvy young lady with all kinds of smarts and a degree in English.

She's headed to Mississippi to do a stint in a program like Teach for America except it's Teach for Mississippi.

Okay, that's not the name of it -- but it's that type of program.

She and I chatted about Lady Ga Ga.

I called her Lady Gag Gag.

Her: She's a performer -- she's our Madonna.
Me: I'm assuming that you mean Madonna as in "Like a Virgin," only not.
Her: Yes, that Madonna. Lady Ga Ga is out to shock and get attention -- she doesn't claim to be a singer.
Me: She's not "my" Madonna, btw.
Her: Semantics, semantics -- you know what I mean.
Me: You're about to teach school -- there is no such thing as "you know what I mean."
Her: *rolls eyes*

Well, Little Miss Teach for Mississippi -- this cartoon's for you -- cause it sums up how I understand Lady Ga Ga.


ETA: My nephew sent me a link to an article written about Lady Ga Ga in June of 2009 -- if you're interested ---

Thursday, June 10, 2010

A Few Thoughts on Walking....

Today, when I left to walk, since it's hot, it was before seven, and I had to wait for four ducks to cross the road.

BTW: These were not black ducks.

These were mallards -- or "teals" as David called them.

These ducks took their time -- in fact, one waddle butt just stood there daring me to honk or run over him.

He walked up and back, quacking and quacking, before he decided to walk off the road -- then he and his cronies, flew off together like a toddler had just been let loose with stale bread, all low to the ground and over a fence. One of them must have had "easy food" sonar.

Wildlife. They can do some strolling -- reminds me of the bison in Yellowstone.

Except bigger.

Since I have been deliberately walking in circles for exercise, I have been thinking about "walking."

Yes, when I was in elementary school, I walked to and from school.

When I was in high school at Sylvan High School in Atlanta, I rode the bus, or my dad dropped me off, but if I stayed after for clubs, drill-team practice, or to get a gander at the boys at sports practice with their shirts off, I usually walked home. Two miles.... up and down and around Brewer Boulevard....

No, not five miles in the snow uphill both ways like my parents generation scoffed when we balked about walking to school.

They weren't exaggerating too much, my parents. They did, in fact, walk a long way, and it did snow. In fact, my daddy liked it when it snowed cause he got to ride a horse. My mother always claimed that my daddy was spoiled [an only child] because there was a horse "free" to take him -- since she said, "All we had were working horses."

I went to Perkerson Elementary School in southwest Atlanta, and the school was less than a block from my home. It was like a tenth of a mile, if that.

I don't think anyone measures distance by blocks anymore. At least no one who lives in suburbia, but since we walked many places, including in downtown Atlanta, we measured by blocks or gave directions by blocks. My daddy distinguished it as "city blocks." He grew up on a farm in Missouri -- maybe something in his head was left over from the Homesteaders.


The problem was -- to me -- not that my elementary school, Perkerson, was that far, but that when I got to the fence that surrounded the school -- I still had to cross a huge, I mean HUGE playground to actually get to the building.

The blueprint of the school and the school grounds can be compared to that of home plate (as in baseball).

Imagine that the curved part of the plate was the playground -- next to my house -- and the playground faced Brewer Boulevard, a street that ran through the neighborhood where I grew up. The school itself faced Perkerson Road, which was a "bit" farther.

BTW: I love the old terms for directions -- "down a ways," "a bit," "not too far," "a little on down,""long ways," and "blocks."

The top of the plate in the squared part was where the school sat -- the parking lot to the right of the school that sat next to the building, where teachers parked, was gravel -- and a gravel one way road for cars cut through the school connecting it from the top of Brewer Boulevard (its north entrance) to Fleet Street that emptied out to Lakewood Shopping Center, the first open air mall of its kind in Atlanta -- but that's a blog for another time. The public library was also at the foot of that street. See blog -- The Library Then and Now.

In fact, my elementary school was at one end of Brewer Boulevard, and my high school, Sylvan, at the other -- and the distance to the high school? Like I said, "maybe two miles?

So walking places as a child, the directions all had to do with how they related to Brewer Boulevard. We lived at one end -- and the kids who lived at the other went to a different elementary school.

Literally, directions went like this:

To go to the grocery store -- go right on Brewer.
To church -- cross Brewer.
To go to the library -- go left.
To go see my grade school friend --- on the other side of Brewer.

And I didn't go anywhere else. .. or at least anywhere else where I might have walked.

At the time, it was such a big world -- but when I visited the area -- many years later -- so small. You guys know this who have visited the elementary school or gone back to the old neighborhood.

It is relative to the times, my size, and the fact that we walked most places. The late fifties and early sixties, even with the automobile, was still ambulatory for the kids I knew and with whom I grew up.

It's hard for me to know how big the playground was -- but it was the biggest playground of the three elementary schools that fed into my high school: Sylvan(just like the high school), Capitol View, and Perkerson.

Surrounded by a chain link fence, tall enough that we couldn't jump over it, not even the biggest or oldest of kids, the playground had two entrances to the street. Both opening to Brewer -- one to my street, Oana, and the street that ran parallel to mine, Bader.

Lots of the wild kids lived on Bader.

I guess I'd better not call any names here.

*waves to Van Wing*

The playground had two full sized baseball fields, a basketball court, two slides,two sets of monkey bars, two-see saws, and four gigantic swing sets with four swings each. The swing sets, encased in cement, were at least fifteen feet tall and made of steel. They were beasts -- we used to swing as high as we could and then get airborne jumping from them. I'm pretty sure it was against school rules, but after school -- many a kid walked away from there with broken wrists or arms.

The entrances did not have gates, but they had two openings -- a hard right or a hard left with a piece of fence in the middle to block the road - the fence, I guess, protecting children from accidentally running out of it while they chased a ball. I don't know why it was like this -- perhaps it was expedient -- as kids could flow through it better than what a gate would do -- again... it may be a playground gate.

We also had crossing guards to help the younger children to cross from Oana to the school sidewalk and then to the school. They were members of the elite "Safety Patrol."

This job of crossing guard or the Safety Patrol, reserved for the upper grades --fifth, sixth, and seventh, required that the wanna-be take a course and master the secret handshake and went to the most astute and responsible of these patrollers.

I don't remember these young people being juvenile delinquents or freaks --just nerdy boys and girls who enjoyed badges, a white elasticized strap/belt like thing that crossed the chest to join with a white strap around the waist -- all with a complicated, adjustable buckle.

Cool attire --- oh yes, and power.

The Safety Patrol strutted the halls and playgrounds like the gestapo.

The members of the Safety Patrol, after all, did control when we got to cross the street.

There were only so many crossing jobs available -- so I don't know what other jobs the safety patrol had. Did they line us up at the milk machine at lunch?

Help us cross the gravel parking lot?

Remind us to dive under our desks during the "the drills" associated with the age of the nuke?

I just remember the crossing guard and his power at the crosswalk.

Big power to a first or second grader.... and a strange combination of "cool" and "nerdy."

My oldest brother was a crossing guard, and he enjoyed holding his hand up to stop the traffic and then nodding his head to allow us to cross the street -- of course, not acting or acknowledging in any way that he was related to us.

Our street probably spit out about fifteen children who had to be "guarded" on their way to school... and it's not like there was tons of traffic.

The other entrance was at the top of the street that ran parallel to mine -- the Bader entrance, since that was the name of the street.

The kids who lived on the opposite side of the school -- the side the front of the school faced actually crossed "The Bridge," which was built when the freeway came. I don't remember before "the freeway," but my brother sort of did who was five years older than me. I suppose they were the only students who came through the front door of the school -- the rest of us -- the Brewer side came in the back door.

Even though we had a huge playground, Perkerson was a small school -- one kindergarten class (since kindergarten was an option) and then two classes of each of the subsequent grades after --- at one point, Perkerson had either a banner birth year or a year of students who were "held back" because we had two fourth and fifth grades, and a fourth and fifth grade combination.

We knew everyone who went to school there.
And we walked.

It is hard for me to fathom the mega, elementary schools of today that have fifteen and twenty first grades alone. No wonder they have to be bussed -- if you had to let all of those kids in by the crossing guards, school wouldn't' start till ten.

BTW: I remember that my next door-neighbor, Marcie, whose family had two cars [they were rich!!!] --- if it were raining, her mother would drive her the 0.2 tenths of a mile to school to drop her off. I'm telling you -- it was "fer." Sometimes, I got to ride too. Big times. Big times.

What a different time -- the time of walking -- and if we lived in a town or a place where walking was encouraged -- you know -- sidewalks, no hills (LOL), and not these huge neighborhoods tucked miles from the nearest grocery, we might walk more.

Eh. Probably not.

But there is to me, in my strange thinking mind, a little irony in driving to a track to walk in circles.

Just sayin'.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

The Allure of the Automobile

Today, David and I went to the High Museum of Art in Atlanta to see an exhibit of eighteen cars from as early as 1930 and as late as 1965.

When David told me he wanted to go, I kind of rolled my eyes.

All right, I really rolled my eyes, but I was willing to go since I knew it meant lunch in Atlanta and time in the gift shop at the museum.

The gift shop at the High Museum has great refrigerator magnets and cards.

Lame. But I know these things.

After church today, we set out today for downtown Atlanta, and we ate lunch at Einstien's, a cute little urban restaurant on the corner of Juniper and 16th.

Our waiter's name was Justin, and he was like twelve and prissier than a five-year old ballerina, but a very good waiter who knew what falafel was.

David ordered the Veranda Breakfast --- eggs, bacon, potatoes, and a sprig of parsley which he could have gotten at Cracker Barrel, minus the parsley.

I ordered the Fried Green Tomatoes Benedict.....OMG -- manna from Heaven...... goat cheese, poached eggs on fried green tomatoes, topped off with remoulade, scallions, and Parmesan grits.

So good. So good. Yum.

See, I will go see anything (except Slasher movies and NASCAR) if the man feeds me well.

The exhibition at the High is called The Allure of the Automobile.

We could have had valet parking for $15.

Or we could park at the High Museum for $12.

I mean, I know, this is an automobile exhibit -- but was I missing something here about my 1998 Volvo? $15? $12? To park it?

We parked on the street behind the High, scraped quarters from the ash tray, and spent $4.75 at a meter. It gave us an hour and a half. I would need a calculator to figure out what that was a minute, but I knew it was a better deal.


We climbed the stairs to the High Museum, and then in a very complicated and unnecessary procedure to the exhibit --- five different museum employees -- even though we had tickets we had to stand in line to get a sticker - -- David and I waited in line for the elevator.

When we got to the exhibit, even more museum employees (must be the stimulus package) told us not to do this, not to do that, and to stay behind the lines and not take pictures with a flash.

Me: David, why can't we take pictures with a flash?
David: You don't have your camera.
Me: I know. But why couldnt' I take pictures with a flash if I wanted?
David: It would, over time, discolor the paint.
Me: How do you know that?
David: I just do. Don't touch anything.

The crowd was preppy and middle-aged. Women, carrying Coach bags and wearing flip flops, and men, in khaki shorts and Polos, read the blurbs on the cars, took pictures with their cameras and cell phones, and cruised (no pun intended) by these surprisingly spectacular cars.

I was impressed. I wished I had taken my camera.

The eighteen cars, built from the 1930s to the 1960s, are rare and limited editions --luxurious, one-of-a-kind designs from car makers like Alfa Romeo, Bugatti, Cadillac, Duesenberg (owned by Clark Gable), Ferrari, Jaguar, Mercedes-Benz, Packard, Porshe, and Tucker (LOL -- I could only think of that lame Jeff Bridges movie.).

The cars were just wow.


The cars were blindingly beautiful.

I really walked around in awe.

At one point, I stood in front of a 1954 (my birth year) Dodge Firearrow.---- turquoise in color, with turquoise and white leather seats, enough chrome to make Elvis jealous, and whitewall tires.

Dang, it was pretty.

As I was staring at it, and David was off looking at some kind of Ferrari, a woman next to me was taking photos.

Me: That was my birth year.
Her: Mine too.
Me: I remember cars looking like that .. but of course, we didn't own one.
Her: Us either. We drove Fords.
Me: We drove Ramblers.
Her: That makes our Fords sound good.
Me: Tell me about it.

I have to tell you -- I was surprised at myself for being fascinated by this exhibit. Shame on me for rolling my eyes.

Weirdest people I saw: A woman with a t-shirt that said, "I'm the Wicked Witch of the North; Don't Mess with My Compass."


And a young kid with yellow crime scene tape around his head like a headband.


There was something magnetic about these cars --- and after I saw them, I understand the title of the exhibit.

Americans love their cars, but the cars of this time period really seemed the golden age of the automobile. The cars we viewed were built for the privileged -- they embodied style and elegance -- and they were examples of cars that we could never own -- not then -- not now.

I can understand why those with money -- Jay Leno, Reggie Jackson, Paul Newman, Steve McQueen, Ralph Lauren -- might chose to put their bucks in these cars.

They must be like owning a Renoir or Shakespeare's First Folio.

Really. :-)

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Humans on Demand

Before we adopted Tallulah, Keats was on only cat.

Spoiled beyond all that I am willing to admit, she demanded breakfast and dinner on a schedule and water from not only her bowl, but the tub and sink, and meowed loudly if she was removed without her permission from the lap, the newspaper, or the front or back door -- especially if it was shut prematurely, in her humble but accurate, cat opinion. She is the cat. She is the queen. She had her expectations. She let us live with her.

We are her Humans on Demand.

With the arrival of Tallulah, Keats has had to adjust. Even though she still has those annoying scheduling demands, Tallulah added her own expectations to the list of things that have to be done every day.

Every day.

Every day.... or we have unhappy felines. No one wants to live with an unhappy cat -- it's like living with a wolf in the basement.

Tallulah added a sport... the toss and fetch morning and evening routine -- if one of us sits at the desktop computer in the office where the scratch paper is -- that means -- Tallulah gets to play.

Aside: My students would recognize the scratch paper -- I was notorious for my saving of one-sided used copies to be cut in fours and used as scratch paper. Yeah, nerd that I am -- I brought it home to use when I retired. I have a box full of it. NERD. Occasionally, as I use this paper I come across students' names (one time from 1982 -- Hello Mike Smith) from an old "attendance list" or questions from a quiz on "To Build a Fire." [sounds like another blog topic]

*rubs hands together gleefully*

Back to the cats ---

If one of us sits down, Tallulah runs from wherever she is in the house, leaps to the back of the office chair, and then over our heads to the desk, and meows until the paper is wadded and thrown into another room for her to fetch and return. Don't think that you're not a part of this -- forget checking email, online accounts, the blog, or Yahoo News -- it's Tallulah Time. Now.

Like I said, Humans on Demand.

The other cat demands around here, especially in the summer, are for the doors to be open and for them to be allowed to lay in front of the full view storm doors for a peek at the world of the "free" animals.

Note earlier blog: Bird Down.

Yep, according to Keats and Tallulah, those darn varmints and birds are "Freakin' free," and since they (K and T) are held captive here in the land of heat and air-conditioning, freezed-dried pellets of food tasting sorta like fish, chicken, or beef, and clumping litter, they (K and T) like to see how the third world animal kingdom lives.

This morning when I got back from walking, both cats were in a huff and puff -- a kind of cat stand off -- you know, Tombstone, Arizona, and the Showdown at the O. K. Corral.

Only the back door was open, and Keats, squatting there like an activist, held Tallulah off with her "bigger than you" status and a full body extension. Tallulah paced behind her relentlessly. When I came in, they both looked at me and Keats hummed a little "Born Free" and Tallulah sang a little "Free Bird."

Human on Demand.

Me: Okay, okay, I'm opening the front door.

So, when I am here, the doors are open -- and their version of "Lifestyles of the Wild and Free" or "Survivor: Small Suburban Animals" is available for their viewing.

K and T never know when a snake will slither onto the porch, a chipmunk might commit hari-kari, a bird will fly head first into the glass, or a raven will hang on the bird-feeder -- Keats and Tallulah have commercial free "breaking news" live feeds most days ---doesn't matter if they take a snooze in between the action. There is little difference between K & T snoozing in front of the door and David, remote in hand and finger on the channel button, snoozing in his big easy in front of the tube ------- the only difference I can think of is that K & T only have two channels -- front or back --unlike David who has -- I dunno -- 6, 548.

*tee hee*

Friday, June 4, 2010

"In there stepped a stately raven..."

only not really... but a crow did land on my bird feeder this morning, and he looked like an elephant sittin' on a tricycle.

I went to get my camera to take a picture because this crow guy was steroided up like he was trying out for the Yankees -- but by the time I got back, he was "nevermore."


What's the difference between a raven and a crow?
I'm sure I don't know, so I called Dr. Jim, my retired vet on call, and he told me this: Not much.


Jim: They come from a group called also jackdaws or the rook -- or the now famous "black duck."
Me: Very, very funny.

David shared with Jim my calling of the crows in our neighborhood "black ducks," so that's a running joke.

IMHO, it's wearing thin like a cheap tennis shoe, but these two, David and Jim, manage to get their jabs in on my "black duck" comment at every possible opportunity. (no pun intended)

Jim: BTW, I'm having trouble with the black ducks eating the vegetables in my garden. I'm thinking of making a scareduck. You got any suggestions?
Me: [dead silence]
Jim: You there?
Me: I thought they were carrion eaters.
Jim: The American ones aren't picky.
Me: Figures. If you fry it, they buy it.

Jim: Crows are incredibly smart.
Me: What intelligence test were they given?
Jim: You called me about the "black ducks." There is no need to be smart.
Me: I'm listening. [drums fingertips on table]
Jim: They come from the corvidae family along with rooks and jackdaws and jays.
Me: Spell "corvidae."
Jim: B- L- A-C- K - D - U- C - K.
Me: Too bad you and David are not naturally humorous, like me, or you'd have managed to say something else witty by now.

Jim: Apparently, some genus of crows are smart enough to know how to eat toxic toads.
Me: How smart is that? Eating toxic?
Jim: They know how to avoid the toxic.
Me: Well, so do I.
Jim: Then you are smart as a black duck. They actually flip the toad over -- and penetrate the skin with their beaks in an area where the skin is thinner..
Me: Eww. Eww. Eww. Stop talking.

Jim: Well, I'm glad you saw a black duck on your bird feeder, but he's probably not interested in the bird seed.
Me: What's he interested in?
Jim: He's probably resting from playing too much "air chicken."
Me: I'm done. This conversation is bordering on insanity.
Jim: They are intelligent creatures, I'm telling you -- they protect their nests from other birds, and they fight in the air like daredevils. You know what's bad for "black ducks" -- the West Nile virus -- killed 50% of them a couple of years ago. I need that in a spray bottle for the garden.
Me: Well, as much as I like your bringing me tomatoes. I think I'll pass on them this year. Thanks for the information, Jim. Talk to you later.


So, Poe knew he had a raven.
I knew I had a crow.

I just didn't realize that if we had known how smart they were, Poe and I could have challenged them to a good round of checkers.

Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a stately raven of the saintly days of yore.
Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door -
Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door -
Perched, and sat, and nothing more.

Perched upon a bird feeder just outside my kitchen door-
Perched, and sat, and nothing more. [and escaped before I could take his picture]

Little teaching story -- when I was first teaching, I taught ninth grade, and ultimately, Edgar Allan Poe's The Raven showed up in every ninth grade anthology. I assigned the students to read it one night, and the next day, I gave them a simple reading check over it.

Here was one of the questions:

Where did the raven sit when it came in the room?
Student answer: On the boobs of Pallas.


I loved that answer.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Year of Wonders

Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks follows the plague year 1666, in a small isolated mountain village in England.

When the recently widowed Anna Firth takes in a boarder, a tailor from London, little does she know that the cloth he works with carries the plague.

As the small town struggles with the reality of the disease, not only do the struggle with their responsibility to their neighbor but with their faith.

Held together by a young and passionate clergyman, the villagers try every possible cure to forestall the spread of the disease. In an attempt to be noble, they quarantine themselves and meet the pestilence head on, but as villager after villager succumbs to the disease, they begin to question their decision and mistrust one another.

Brooks spares no details as she vividly depicts the horrible ravages of the disease -- its high fever, bulging boils and tumors, and the horrible suffering of its victims.

Yeah, it was gross.


Typical of Brooks' style, she weaves a story full of memorable characters and suspense, and as a reader, you keep turning the pages to see what happens.


BTW: It will so be a movie. Just sayin'.

Who Will Run the Frog Hospital?

In Lorrie Moore's Who Will Run the Frog Hospital, Berie Carr nostalgically remembers the summer of 1972, when she was fifteen and inseparable from her best friend, the beautiful Sils. Berie, a late developer, looks twelve, while Sils, fully developed, looks twenty. Berie adores Sils and basks in the closeness of their relationship.

Berie's well-meaning, but slightly naive parents, give her a wide berth as she takes a summer job at the local amusement park, Storyland, and goes and comes from her parent's home with little supervision. Berie's smarts give her the job of cashier and Sils' looks the job of Cinderella.

This lack of vigilance allows Berie and her equally unsupervised best friend Sils to flirt with all the dangers of restlessness and boredom in two teen girls: cigarette smoking, drinking, hitching rides with older boys, and staying out all night. Since these girls work together, they take cigarette breaks and plot ways to have the best summer of their lives.

Just as the summer is at its height, Sils finds herself in a life-changing situation, and Berie makes a decision that alters her life forever.

A great coming-of-age story, Morrie understands adolescence -- especially the power of friendship -- and she couples this with a wry sense of humor and a keen eye for the details of the age ... from the music choices to the over-the-counter makeup that the girls share. I grinned as I remember these little items of my own past.

I also like this passage at the end of the novel: "You can wake from one dream only to find yourself plunged into yet another, like some endless rosary of the mind. When that happens, it is hard to glimpse what is not dream; the waking, undreamed world flies by you, in rushing flashes of light and air, in loud, quick, dangerous spaces like those between the cars of the train. There is nothing you can do. You walk in the sleep of yourself and wait. You wait for the train to pass."