Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Birthdays, Bird Parties, Skype, and Sam and Dave

1. One of my former students, who currently holds the record for being the oldest who stays in touch with me, turned 46 yesterday. Egads.

*slaps him and his friends, DCHS class of '82, for making me feel ANCIENT* Mike's in the white shirt at right -----:)

Happy Birthday, Mike.

2. Over the last few days, the Atlanta weather makes me love living in the South.

We have had cooler mornings and evenings.

Near dusk, for the last week, David and I sat on the deck and watched the hummingbirds party around their feeders. They are so bold and full of vigor that they buzz our heads like we're in the Pacific theater with P-38 Lightnings and Grumman Wildcats.

At times, the other bird feeders boost ten or fifteen birds of varying species at a time -- cardinals, wood-peckers, sparrows, finches, wrens, and the occasional warbler, flitting to the feeder from the trees and back like sixth grade girls around the snack table at their first dance.

3. We take Tallulah and Keats, who are both indoor cats, to the deck with us. Their heads do 180s as they try to catch the air acts. When the birds fly low enough or close enough, they swat at them with their de-clawed selves. It's like the birds know they can't catch them and tease them with their proximity.

When we bring them in at dark, Tallulah and Keats plop on the hard woods, totally wiped out, like they have just done something exhausting.

4. The other night I talked with my nephew in Houston, my niece in Pittsburgh, and my soon to be nephew-in-law in California on Skype -- all at the same time --- when they said something, the border on the outside of their posted pictures pulsated. .. well, Nora, my niece, and I had pictures -- they just had coat hanger heads. LOL

Hmm. They both might be coat hanger heads. Symbolic?

Eh. You would have to know Skpe to know what that means. Anyway, it was cool. I have no idea of what we talked about other than spray tans, car alarms, and knitted plants -- but I concentrated on the conversation, and they multi-tasked. I could hear the clicking of their keyboards. I called it Family Conference Call About Nothing.

BTW: The Internet never sleeps which reminds me of the title of a Neil Young album -- Rusts Never Sleeps --------- Neil Young -- singing "Heart of Gold," his signature song.

5. David and I watch Memphis Beat, a cop show set in Memphis [duh!] and starring Jason Lee, of Almost Famous and more recently My Name is Earl. The best thing about the show is the music -- on the last show we watched, they featured --- "I Thank You" by Sam and Dave.

What a great song... take a listen. I downloaded it to my I-Pod.

Young bloggers -- you need to get in touch with Sam and Dave.

Just sayin'.

That's all I got.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Skip One. Throw One.

At 5:45 am this morning, I heard the distinct sound of the car that contains the man or woman who throws our newspaper. I usually am awake at that time, my body clock trained from years of rousing early to teach school. The paper carrier car circles the cul-de-sac and throws two papers to the four possible houses, hitting the sidewalks sometimes, sometimes barely making the curb, and then purrs off to throw wherever else.

Throwing papers.

Brings back memories.

Since I have written about my family before, you know that I am one of four children who grew up on the south side of Atlanta. I am the youngest.

My parents, who grew up during the Great Depression, believed not only in hard work, but in tithing and saving money. Our finances being tight, my parents drilled these two things into us as well as giving us an awareness of what things cost.

As we got older and took part-time jobs, our parents insisted that we tithe 10 percent and put the rest into a savings account, which they monitored. I don't remember being allowed to spend any money that I made. I, of course, might just be projecting a little Charles Dickens.

My parents expected each of us to save enough money to pay for our last year of college. Who knew what that would cost at that seemingly far-off time, so they had us right where they wanted -- in their pockets. LOL

In the early 60s, my brothers helped the family finances by throwing the afternoon Atlanta paper, then known as the Atlanta Journal in the neighborhood. In those days, we called them neighborhoods -- as we had never heard of that word "subdivision."

Our neighborhood was Sylvan Hills, an area of modest homes built in the post WW2 years, that lay west of I-85 and north of an area known as East Point, which had in its city limits --Hartsfield-Atlanta Airport -- and was so bustling that it had two runways.

Our home street was Oana, and the street that ran parallel to Oana was Bader; we sometimes identified our classmates to our parents by the street on which they lived.

"Oh, he lives on Bader, or Lisbon, or Brewer," we'd say.

In fact, it was boys from Bader who first enticed my brothers to help with their paper routes, as these Bader brothers had the "market" on the business but were renown for their extreme laziness. At times, they paid a nickel to my childhood friend Marcie and me to throw the newspapers on our street.

Marcie and I thought it was the coolest thing ever to don the canvas bag, that held the papers, over our shoulders and head down the street and carefully "deliver" the papers to the subscribers. We walked up to each porch and placed the paper neatly and flatly on the top. We thought we were awesome looking with our bags and papers.

Even though I can't remember their names now, I remember that the brothers from Bader were hulking, brooding boys with little interest in school, who intimidated younger kids and ruled boys their own age. They openly smoked on their front porch and played their transistor radios late into the night, the glow of their cigarettes burning from the dark porch and their raucous laughter heard up and down the street. They were not dangerous, but they had an rough edge, unknown but recognized from my innocent perspective.

The Bader brothers began to pay my brothers on a regular basis to throw papers on "that street," and that street could be one of many -- as their domain ran four or five routes.

The Atlanta Journal's afternoon route carriers ran a paper drop about two miles away. Here was a central location where the papers could be picked up by boys who threw them . They operated out of a store front, and according to my brother, it could be a place that provoked strong language and the occasional fist fight. After all, we're dealing with boys. At one point, one of the Bader brothers tried to pick a fight with my brother, a fight he refused, but remembered that those guys "simply did not like him."

The Bader brothers ruled that place with their posturing and veteran knowledge of being paper carriers. I'm sure that an adult actually was in charge, but somehow he fades into the background in the presence of the Brothers Bader and all their brawn and bravado.

The first route my brothers had was a circle of apartments, located about a mile from home. In the afternoon after school, they rode their bicycles to the "Paper Office" as they deemed it, and then with the papers piled high in a wire basket on the front of their bikes, they rode the mile to the route, teetering and tottering under their weight.

As my brother noted, "the papers piled so high that I couldn't see over them, and the weight would send the bike at sharp lefts or rights without warning." My brothers had many scrapes and bruises from running up on curbs or into bushes from trying to maneuver the bikes. At home, they fixed chains and flats on a regular basis.

Most days the paper could be folded for tossing, but at least two days a week they could not -- Wednesdays, the food section, and Sundays when the two Atlanta papers combined for one delivery in the morning.

Once to the route, they parked their bikes, packed the papers in a canvas bags, and proceeded to throw the papers. The apartments were a less desirable route as collecting the 52 cents a week from the subscribers more difficult as the transient tenants moved or worked odd hours. At one time, they made 1.5 cents per paper they delivered.


Each paper boy was given extra papers to sell if they could, and on November, 22, 1963, the day that John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, the newspapers were two and half hours late to the paper office, and people stopped my brothers in the street from their cars to buy the extra copies. For once, they sold out. A lot of days, however, they brought the extra papers home, and they piled up on the porch to be taken out on garbage days.

Eventually, my brothers picked up two more routes and because of their responsible natures became valued carriers --- they grew to know their subscribers -- and even took care to place the paper in between the door and the screen to keep it from getting wet on rainy days, an extra that drew them tips or Christmas gifts. They knew who was older, had dogs, and the houses where less than kinder peers lived who riled them for being "paper boys," and that they gauged to avoid if possible.

They also told tales of bad tosses -- ones that went over houses or landed in gutters. It was those times that those "extra" papers came in handy. LOL

In high school and sitting in class toward the end of the day, my brother gazed out the window to note the weather and how it would affect his delivery. At one time, he had as many as 100 houses on his route, and that task lay ahead of him each afternoon of every day of his young adolescence. Sometimes, he got home as late as six or seven, and if he was much later, my worried mother would get in the car to look for him on his route. Sometimes, he was late because of the weather, and perhaps other times, he may have gotten started late or just dawdled somewhere too long.

On Sundays, when the Atlanta Journal and Constitution put out one, thick paper, my brother had to do morning delivery. Daddy rose early to drive him to the paper office, and then to drive him on his route in order to get them out in a timely manner. They would come back from those mornings, have breakfast, and then we would all go to church. As far as I know, he did this every Sunday my brothers had the routes.

During Sundays of inclement weather, my sister and I would also help with the paper route. If it was cold, or raining, we were awakened before five, sleepy and grumpy, and blindly walk the route. One Sunday, the whole family helped because it was four below zero, and we had had an ice storm. We slipped and slid down driveways and across streets to put papers on porches with the sound of the car wheels grinding for traction behind us.

My brothers, who, of course, had the route memorized, made it simple for my sister and me to remember which houses were subscribers by saying to us before the street: "Skip one. Throw one. Skip two. Throw three. Skip one. Throw one. Skip One. Throw three."

They also recognized his subscribers in other places and would tell us -- "Oh yeah, that's 814 Melrose or 229 Langston." They knew folks by their addresses. LOL

My younger brother had the paper route for six years. He made about a 100 dollars a month, and by the time he was a sophomore in high school, had more money saved than any of his friends. Unfortunately, his paper route kept him out of high school sports, but as he said, "[it also] kept him out of trouble." His best friend lived on his route, and he would stop most days and shoot baskets with him in his yard for twenty or thirty minutes, and then he would be on his way.

It was a seven day a week job --- and he was thrilled one summer when the newspaper union went on strike, and he "got to go to the pool in the afternoon." But when we went on vacation, which was not that often, the route had to be covered.

I'm amazed now when I look back on what they did. Having a paper route was a less than glamorous job, and the money had to be collected door to door once a month. My harried mother, from time to time, harassed them to "collect" on their routes, as it was a less than a pleasant job to knock on doors and asked to be paid.

In April of 1968 on the evening after Martin Luther King, Jr. had been assassinated in Memphis, my brother went out to collect on his route. He remembered being greeted with anger, fear, and mixed emotions, as some on his route refused to open their doors to him -- many seemed concerned with the fall out from King's death in the changing race relations in Atlanta in the last years of the 60s. Surprisingly enough, Atlanta only reacted with grief and mourning as the violence came from cities like Chicago, Baltimore, and Washington DC. My brother said, "it was a weird evening."

At the end of my brother's tenure as paper boy, some of the more difficult aspects changed. No longer was there a paper house, but a woman with a car who delivered the papers to the street corners, and he picked them up there to deliver. The days of carrying the mounds of paper on the front of his bike long distances was over.

Within another year, the job would become one done by more adults and done by car.

When my siblings and I gather together on holidays and talk of our childhood and the things we collectively remember, the paper route always comes up, and we giggle about "skip one, throw one, skip two, throw three" and the boys who lived on Bader whom we can't remember their names. We groan about how much we hated those Sunday mornings when we all got up early to throw papers, and how we were less than happy delivers of the Sunday news.

Recently, my oldest brother used Google maps to refresh his memory on the streets of our childhood -- Brandywine, Perkerson, Brewer, Sylvan Place, Lisbon, and of course, Bader. Hard to believe that all those years with a paper route that those street names are not forever etched in his memory.

Somehow, I believe, that the work ethic associated with my brothers' paper route affected us all in a positive way. I think it made us good employees with a loyalty and a responsibility to whatever job we held. Maybe? Maybe not.

Regardless, it made some rather, lasting memories, mostly good ones --- even though the real details are lost... as well as the job of "paper boy."


ETA: I had these two great photos to include, but I couldn't get them big enough to post.

*cries* I hate that I am so inept at it.

ETA 2: I am also aware of the length of this -- thanks to my readers who could sustain it. :)

Monday, August 23, 2010

Alice in Exile

Piers Paul Read's 2004 historical fiction novel, Alice in Exile, combines all of the elements of a good read.

Eh, no pun intended.

Opening in 1913 in London, the novel sets its background during WW1, its aftermath, and the Russian Revolution that followed. Read takes the time to set the stage for even the most un-informed of history students and anyone, with his layman approach, can follow the complicated world politics of the time.

Alice Fry, the heroine, considers herself a new woman, perhaps a suffragette, but most certainty feels herself free from the moral constraints of the time. Her father, a progressive publisher, operates an independent book house and allows his partner the lead on what they publish including a pamphlet on women and their sexuality.

One night at a party, Fry meets Edward Cobb, a British soldier recently returned from Africa. Cobb sees a future in politics, and since he's the oldest son of a baron, is probably a shoe-in. The intelligent, yet radical and forward-thinking, Fry grabs his attention and attraction, and the two head straight into a serious love affair. Before long, they fall in love.

When Cobb asks Fry to marry him, she hesitates as she believed herself not in need of marriage, but her serious relationship with him and his earnestness causes her to accept. Before the two can announce their engagement formally, authorities arrest Fry's father on obscenity charges, and the scandal pushes Cobb to break his engagement.

Rescued by a Russian baron in need of a governess, Fry leaves England, and when Baron Rettenburg discovers that she is pregnant with Cobb's child, he encourages her to change her name and assume the identity of a French widow, whose military husband was killed in Morocco. Using this alias, Fry makes a life for herself on the estate of the Russian baron.

Meanwhile, Cobb makes a "good" marriage, but when the hostilities of Europe end in war, Cobb re-enlists and loses himself on the battlefields of WW1. After the horror of his experiences, he returns to England -- different.

Read's novel packs it all -- war, love, political and social commentary --but the real strenght is that he manages to balance a well-researched historical novel with a surprising love story.


David and I have been in the mountains, and when we came home, tree men were in our yard taking down two pines.

Tree men. LOL

We actually didn't know they were coming --- they said they'd call, but David didn't hear his cell, and they were already on their way.

Anyway, we opened the front door, and on the stoop were two empty boxes, previously housing plastic forks, and a threatening note. Or at least, it seems like a threat: "DO NOT CLEAN UP ANY FORKS."

What do you think blog readers?




You girls have got to get jobs, boyfriends, or arrested because you should not be out late at night carousing, trespassing, and leaving evidence.

I checked the note closely -- I know it's you -- I'd know your bad writing anywhere. I suffered through it/ read it for thirty-six weeks back in '08 and '09.

*tee hee*

Meanwhile, CSI-Marietta dusted the note for fingerprints, and since all of you gals have priors, I'm sure that one of those black Chevrolet Suburbans will be pulling up to your door any minute now to arrest you for being lame.

Yep. Lame.

BTW: The tree guys said when they arrived early this afternoon to take down the trees, they saw the forks in the ground and didn't intend to "disturb it. Since they didn't know what it was."


I'm sure they thought it was sacred.

Oh, and Emilee? "Carousing " is a Level F vocab word.

Just sayin'.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Sippican Cottage: Dad, How Do You Spell Upponna?

I loved this blog. While I am working on an essay, yes, an essay for a job, yes a job, I am focused on that -- and on my weekend trip to the mountains. I took a break today and did a little blog reading, and I found this at Faith, Fiction, and Friends. Enjoy. I did.

Sippican Cottage: Dad, How Do You Spell Upponna?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Travels with Edie: Field Trip 1

When Edie retired at the end of the last school year, we vowed that we would take day trips together to places we have always wanted to go but haven't. Because we worked in a job that meant when we were off, so were all the school-children in America, and who wants to go places at a time when we have to step over little people and knock them down to get in line for ice-cream?

On Tuesday, Edie and I went to Cartersville to see the Booth Western Art Museum, and embark on our first field trip.

When Edie presented the idea, I said, "Never heard of it."

Edie: Me either, but I have heard it's good.
Me: Count me in. I'm retired.

After following directions provided by the Booth Museum's internet site, I parked my car at the Tabernacle Baptist Church (I love when the word "tabernacle" is in the name of a church!) across the street from the museum, but turned the wrong way, mis-guided by a sign on a back of a red brick building that read "Bartow Museum of History." Not sure why I thought that said "Booth Museum of Cowboy Art," but I followed the alley beside it and arrived on a small downtown street, totally in the wrong place.

Was it because I was halfway paying attention to the name of the museum?


As I looked up and around me like a lost tourist, I heard Edie yell my name. I turned around a couple of times, expecting her to be right beside me, but she was up a ways and in front of the museum. It did take me a moment to find her since I was convinced that I was somehow standing in the right spot.


The Booth Western Art Museum, a commanding structure of white stone, sits atop a small rise behind a tall wrought black iron fence, and its contemporary design makes it a little obtrusive among Cartersville's careful preservation of older buildings in the same vicinity. Some of the buildings around the museum date back to the early twentieth century. Like most small towns now, Cartersville understands the draw of refurbishing and renovating old buildings to turn them into offices, galleries, shops, or restaurants.

As we approach the building, Edie says, "I don't know why we came. I don't even like cowboys."


We admire the building; it's beautifully designed, well-kept, and huge. Obviously, its benefactor has deep pockets.

I think that might be Mr. Booth.

We pay our ten dollar admission and receive a map of the facility from a pleasant, young lady, and we take a turn to the left for no apparent reason. We have to start somewhere.

The main level offers two galleries, a cafe, a store, and the "Orientation Theater," which runs a fifteen minute movie every twenty minutes titled "The American West."

Me: Look, we can watch a movie. Bonus points!
Edie looks at her watch: It starts again in eleven minutes. Let's go to this part first.

She points to the small sculptures in the atrium.

Me: Just keep up with the time. We don't want to miss it. LOL
Edie: I think, we could just catch it on its next loop.
Me: This is why I will go on field trips with you. You're smart.

We perused the sculptures, which were very good, but apparently by all the same sculptor. Not that that is a bad thing or anything.

Edie: Mmm. Lots of cowboys. Did I tell you that I'm just not that in to them?
Me: Yes, you did. I like cowboys. Wingate used to do a unit on them when she taught American history. I find them very interesting.
Edie: I'm all ready ready for the Presidential letters.

We saw the time neared for the movie so we headed to the Orientation Theater. As we opened the door to the theater, an elderly couple made their way down the steps, the only viewers of the previous show.

Elderly man: Hope you get a good seat.

The theater had no seats, just backless covered risers. Edie and I watched the fifteen minute movie all by ourselves. We sat on the back row, our backs up against the wall like a couple of teenagers skipping school, and propped our feet on the riser in front of us.

When the film began to roll, Edie quipped, "This looks like a movie for school."
Me: I'd hate for us to learn something.

"The American West" narrated mostly about what was in the museum -- and there was very little "new" information about the West. It had an annoying artist's pallet, I think, at the bottom that kept both of us trying to figure out what it was. We, of course, made comments throughout cause that's what we do.

BTW: We could never be quiet at faculty meetings or Power Point presentations during teacher in-services. We should have been separated by the principal. I also thought that I should have my own show like Mystery Science Theater, but whatever.

Edie: Well, okay. That was that.
Me: Let's go the "War is Hell" gallery. That sounds promising.

"War is Hell" gallery featured contemporary Civil War art. Good stuff -- but I don't think of that as "western," but I'm not a curator.

We crossed paths with a handful of other museum visitors in there, some surreptitiously taking photographs, even though the "Help Us Protect the Art" rules listed "Please No Photographs except in Sagebrush Ranch" as number 2, right after, "Please Don't Touch."


I would break rule number 2 myself when I got upstairs and came across a horse made from stuff my mother used to throw away.

*looks around*

I thought a museum guard watched me take the picture, but he was wax. Neither Edie or I knew that until we got up close, but I blame it on being married. I don't know what was her excuse.


When we came out of the "War is Hell" gallery, we almost ran into a contingent of retirees getting a museum tour. Apparently, their sagacious guide thought they were right off the bus from the local elementary school as she was using a white board to draw lariats and cowboy hats -- at one point she made a sound like a horse gallop and then proceeded to ask them "Do you know what that is?"

Edie and I stifled the giggles and pealed off in the opposite direction.

We headed up a stair case to the upper level, past a another pretty impressive sculpture, and six more galleries. These galleries ranged (no pun intended) from western illustration and movie posters to portraits, artwork of cowboys, and depictions of Americans on the move. The most jaw dropping item we saw ----an original 1865 stagecoach.

The stagecoach, restored and made of wood, metal, and leather, seemed unreal. Apparently, it spent its days running in between Kansas and Colorado.

Me: I wouldn't even want to do that on an airplane. I just can't imagine.

Edie and I circled the stagecoach like the Comanche, noting the small size of the seats, the skinny wooden wheels, the fact that it carried nine people -- astounded, we admired its condition and preservation. We laughed because we assumed it was a luxury model, since the passengers sat on leather seats and had foot stools.

We also saw a "medium" of art, paper casting. The artist, Allen Eckman, had several pieces in the gallery, but the one that amazed me the most was of the Plains Indians. The artwork, encased in Plexiglas about the size of a large fish aquarium, included twelve human figures, several horses, a dog, a campfire, trees, a cave -- all cut from paper.. in magnificent detail.

I followed the rules, and I didn't take a picture.

I was tempted though. A man, who saw us admiring it, told us all about that particular kind of art, but we had no idea what he was talking about as he used words like "porous," "wood molds," and "calicum carbonate."

Edie and I nodded politely, but after he was gone, both admitted we had "no idea what he was talking about."

Me: It's the way I got through Trignometry in high school. Nodding like I understood.

It was on this level of the museum that we saw a horse made out of --- well, let's just say I saw one of my mother's pewter platters.


I guess the exhibit that held our attention the most was the Presidential Gallery. In this room of dark wood, low lighting, and solemnity were original one-page signed Presidential letters and a photograph of each President. Included were four silly facts like -- "first president to ride in a car" or "only president who didn't have a dog in the White House." I found those little tid-bits quite humorous. They also reminded me of the fun-facts that Wingate used to pepper her American history lectures.

*hugs and waves to Wingate*

Each signed letter had beside it a typed version ---since on most of them, the ink was faded and words were illegible. These letters somehow made them seem so human as they responded to strange requests, answered questions, or wrote short thank you notes. I found their penmanship alone fascinating -- :)

Only the current president had no letter, even though the museum noted that he had been notified.

I'm sure he's busy.


Edie and I ended our tour of the Booth Western Art Museum with those letters. We were hungry, or we may have spent some more time there. Or not.

As we headed out, we did check out the museum store which was full of the usual -- mugs, key-chains, post-cards, and miniature wooden cowboys.

I wasn't even tempted to buy something as a joke. Usually silly stuff like that ends up in someone's Christmas stocking.

When we exited, the Georgia sun blasted hotly, and the air felt muggy. I regretted that I left my sunglasses in the car. We headed over to Appalachian Grill for lunch, and as the speaker system blasted blue grass, Edie and I grinned over our French fries and looked forward to September and Field Trip 2.

Blog readers: Oh, goody, I can't wait.
Me: What? Did I hear sarcasm?
Edie: I still don't like cowboys.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Interstate Musings

When I travel the Interstate, thank you, Dwight Eisenhower, I have to admit that I'm fascinated by many things, but today, for some reason, it was these two:

1. the remnants of tires scattered on the peripheral

2. tractor trailers

As I buzzed up Interstate 75 North today to meet Edie in Cartersville to visit the world famous Booth Western Art Museum, an earlier accident during rush hour slowed me down for about six miles. In that time, putz-ing along at under twenty miles an hour, I casually perused the Interstate, its scenes, and denizens.

1. Have you ever noticed how many pieces of tires there are in the grass, against the guard rails, hanging from trees, along the medians, and in the road itself? Pieces of black rubber, some the size of small snakes, others as large as a 2x4, slung all kinds of places ... are there that many blow-outs and flat-tires? Are people littering rubber?

Harvey: Look, Mabel, I got this piece of tire that I need to get rid of.
Mabel: Just toss it, Harvey.

Harvey buzzes down the window of his Mercury Marquis and lets it fly.


I wonder if its because it's been so hot?

Next time, you are on the road, blog readers, would you check out the number of pieces of rubber and tire litter there is on the road and get back to me?

I'd appreciate it. I just want to make sure that it wasn't just a theory I have about this particular stretch of I-75.

2. Tractor trailers always remind me of dinosaurs, most notably the apatosaurus.

BTW: Just so you know, I had to look that up -- apatosaurus -- as a child, I referred to that extinct animal as the Sinclair dinosaur -- thanks to their gas sign logo, or as "Dino" [pronounced "Deeno" by Fred], because of the Flintstones -- I'm pretty sure I have never known the scientific name.

As I recall, Dino of the Flintstones' fame was never more than the size of a Great Dane. I always thought it was harsh of Fred to flip dino burgers on the grill. Seems kind of insensitive to me...


Any who.....

When I see an overturned tractor trailer, the sight reminds me of a huge animal, lying dead on its side -- its wheels still and stuck up in the air, stiff like rigor-mortis has settled, sometimes its contents strewn along the highway like an overturned laundry basket or spilled groceries.

It's a sobering sight, always.. as something that large, once mechanical, but now, inert, perhaps at one point out-of-control and now fallen ... its damage done. Over.

Another tractor trailer sight that I always avoid examining too closely are those that transport chickens or cows. Somehow these are loathsome. Sad.

These chicken trailers usually pack the chickens in small crates that are stacked fifteen or twenty high and as many across. Crammed tight, their stark white, feathers fly out the back as the truck pushes against the wind down the road .... their red beaks at all kinds of awkward angles, and their plump selves indistinguishable one from another. I don't know why it gets me -- but it does.. I can't think too much about it -- I can't think about chicken. Period.

The cow trailers are even more difficult to view. Those animals seem packed too close to each other, their moony, sad eyes peering out, kind of frightened,[ but with cows it is kind of hard to know -- since they can do some staring no matter where they are], from the confines of the trailer. Their large bodies bounce and sway to the terrain of the highway --- on their way somewhere ...

I feel that wherever it is, it's not a bovine vacation ... with verdant, green pastures and good-looking stud bulls serving alfalfa-brome, timothy grass drinks complete with little umbrellas.



Clears head of images.

The size of the tractor trailer fascinates me the most, enormous and hulking, and full of mystery and intrigue as I never know what they are hauling. Pickles? Mattresses? Illegal immigrants? Big screen televisions? I know sometimes they are labeled -- but many times the cabs are just white and secretive.

One time at a restaurant, I overheard one guy telling another about a tractor trailer accident. The truck slammed into a abutment of a highway overpass at sixty miles per hour. The trailer hauled grain, and even though the driver lived, thousands of pieces of grain had to be tweezered from his body as the impact turned them into projectiles.

That story stuck with me. [no pun intended]. I remember listening unashamedly to it and wishing to ask questions.

To be behind the wheel of something that large that has a gas pedal must be, I dunno, scary? powerful? a huge responsibility?

The view alone from a truck driver's perspective, high above everyone else, allows the driver to see all kinds of things -- some perhaps not so pleasant, but also a perspective that brings him into the world of all people, both good and bad, ugly and beautiful.

When I traveled Interstate 80 through southern Wyoming, the wide open spaces, which allowed a vista of miles, amazed me. I could see the tractor trailers far away in the distance on the interstate, perhaps two or three miles, and they appeared like Matchbox toys on a child's toy track. Their huge cabs, painted bright reds and blues, lined up like a convoy or the cars of a train. Somehow, it seemed surreal.

Was all this musing worthy of a blog? Probably not -- but as I viewed these tractor trailers today, I wondered about the reasons for these added details:

"We only hire safe drivers"

mud flaps

those little diamond shaped plastic things on the side or the back doors

Air-Ride equipped

"Owned and operated by Sylvia and Doug Wyatt, Enterprise, AL"

Studio sleeper

"Fire extinguisher inside"

the double cab ones

"Humpin' to Please"

the necessity of 53' brandished on the side

the loudness of the horn

those huge red and blue coils

all those axles

.. as well as the drivers, only identifiable by their left arm.

How many tractor trailers are on the Interstate? I saw at least a 100 in my 15 mile drive up I-75.

After creeping along, I finally passed the scene of the accident, mostly cleared of the after effects (no emergency vehicles), but just enough left to show its physical impact.

The guard rail next to Lake Allatoona was torn asunder. Long black marks scarred the aluminum, and tire marks twenty or so car lengths long marred the right lane. Ahead about forty feet sat a tractor trailer, pushed to the side, with its cab sheered in half: the front sitting all kattywompus, one wheel missing, its engine nosed to the ground and the back half exposing and spewing its contents, indeterminate, but large.. and looking vulnerable.

Blog readers: Uh, I'm not sure why I just read all that.
Me: I'm not sure why I posted it.

*hums Styx's "Too much time on my hands"*

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Two For Four --- Not Bad

Waiting to Surface by Emily Listfield tells the story of a New York magazine editor whose husband disappears. Sarah Larkin, a cautious, anxiety-living mother of a six-year old, finds that her worry has been misplaced -- instead of some disaster for her child, it happens to her husband. While her husband is vacationing in Florida, he simply vanishes. No body. No crime. No evidence. As one detective speculates, Todd Rankin seems to have walked away from his life.

Left to deal with her daughter's grief as well as her own, Larkin stumbles to her job, struggles as single parent, and tries to right herself and her life. Based on her own real-life experience, Listfield must know the emotions of such a heart-wrenching loss, but she simply fails to move me to vicariously feel it.

Sharyn McCrumb's Once Around the Track dives into the world of N.A.S.C.A.R. A group of women investors hires hot-looking, race driver Badger Jenkins to drive their pharmaceutically sponsored car on the circuit. As a way of drawing buzz and publicity, the investors determine to man (no pun intended) an all female crew. Lack of experience from the beginning seems to daunt this venture, but, of course, the predictable outcome is just a matter of time.

I usually love McCrumb's work (Ghost Riders was an awesome book), but even though she determined to get inside N.A.S.C.A.R. with this fictional tale, I kept waiting to feel invested in the "inside" track -- to perhaps learn something.

Normally, a good story-teller, McCrumb just couldn't keep me caring whether this team won. With meandering sub-plots and relatively under-developed characters (perhaps having too many characters was one of the flaws), the story does not come to a screeching halt but to a sputtering and puttering end, leaving me wondering why I hung around for the finish.


Anne of Avonlea
by L.M.Montgomery does not disappoint in any way. In this second in the series, Anne, "with an E," entertains with her shenanigans and scrapes and her two-year tenure as teacher at the school at Avonlea. Again, Montgomery mesmerizes with beautiful description of nature and food, of course, humor, and couples it with the introduction of new characters. Who can't love Davy and Dora and the quirky, yet luminous, Miss Lavender and her Charlotta the Fourth? There were times when I wanted to clap my hands in delight. :)

*claps hands*

There is something about A. Manette Ansay's prose that keeps me returning to her works. In the second book that I have read by her, Midnight Champagne, she sets her story during a snowstorm on Valentine's Day weekend in the tacky, but successful, wedding chapel, Great Lakes and Hideaway Lodge, at the wedding between April and Caleb.

Even though April and Caleb had been living together and fully intended to elope, her mild mannered, but insistent father Elmer, wishes for his daughter to have a ceremony. Perhaps as a way to mock her father's need for "tradition," April chooses the less-than-stellar, kitschy, rumored "prostitutes to your room if you want one" chapel for her nuptials. LOL

What unexpectedly unfolds is a close look at family and marriage... and an even closer look at the expectations, fears, desires, and agendas that go into those relationships.

One midnight toaster to the bride and groom sums it all up this way: "Oscar Wilde said '"men marry because they are tired, and women because they are curious, and that both are disappointed.' He was right about the disappointment. You will be disappointed. Not just in each other, but in yourselves. It's inevitable that you'll each fall short of your own expectations. But you will also exceed those expectations, again and again, and in ways you can't possibly imagine. And my wish for you both is that there will come a time when you'll look back on this day and realize that -- in spite of the disappointments -- even the best of your old expectations seem pale in the face of the actual life you have lived together."

Ansay creates characters and then cuts them loose. What results is a laser examination, sometime painful, of who we are and how we treat those we supposedly love best.

So for the last four books I have read --- two for four -- not bad -- in baseball, it's batting 500.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Lunch with Pip

There is nothing like a lunch out with a friend and her five-month old baby.

When I met Danielle at a local, Mexican restaurant with Reed, I noted how big Reed had gotten since I saw him two months ago -- two months means a lot when you're only five months old.

Blog readers: Ya think?

At 11:45 and right before the slam of the lunch crowd, we met at La Parilla, our favorite haunt, and sauntered in and secured ourselves a booth.

Danielle and I look at each other and grinned: Booyah!!!! Score!

Booths are important tables to secure at this particular restaurant -- trust me -- tables are a high traffic area -- and you find yourself rushing your taco.

She put Reed (whom I call Pip -- long story -- and kind of lame, anyhow -- but I'm sure those of you who know anything about high school English classes -- know Pip), still instilled in his baby carrier, complete with dangling stuffed toys, beside her on the seat, and we proceeded to order.

We come here often enough that we hardly look at the menu.

Danielle: Lunch special number three.
Me: Two soft tacos and a side of sour cream.

After the waiter took our order, Danielle asked me if I'd like to hold Pip.

Me: Sure. Pass him over.

She handed him over the table, and we talked about how babies are all about "poop and puke." I had meant to bring my camera, but Danielle fished hers from her roaming luggage (the mess of stuff a mother has to carry around in order to transport a baby anywhere) and proceeded to snap photos of Pip and me.

As if I could be more entertaining than a couple of dangling stuffed toys on his baby carrier, I was playing with Pip like he was bored... poking him in the belly, making noises at him, and trying to amuse him with faces and gestures. When he didn't seem particularly impressed, I decided to hold him up in the air over my head, an act of babysitting that I learned from my limited time with my own nieces and nephews, who never failed to gurgle and grin when they were held aloft.

As I swung him high, Pip decided that this was so much fun that he would share his most recent meal with me. He's that kind of guy.

Pip (grinning like a fifty-cent drunk): Blech. Hurl. Blech. Hurl.

It was like sitting under a large bird .

White and wet and sticky, Pip's puke landed on my shirt and in my lap -- but thankfully, not in the salsa or on the chips.

Pip: Burp. [grins wickedly]

Danielle, who had been clicking away, looked up and said, "Oh no, did he throw up on you?"

Me: Yeah, a little, but I shouldn't have swung him like he was a baby ape.

Danielle reaches into her bag and gives me a nice, clean cloth diaper to clean up myself, but when she comes around the table and sees the extent, she's all "Oh no. Oh no."

Me: It's okay. Just let me skedaddle to the restroom and use some disposable paper to rid me of the chunkiest.


Yeah, that's what happens when a woman, who has only been an aunt, decides to crank up a baby to make it giggle. I should have just told him some jokes.

We enjoyed our lunch, and Pip, feeling pretty good after such a satisfactory blarch, took a long nap.

I love babies -- such a great size -- and they don't talk back -- but, you know, I forgot that particular side effect. :)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Hubris: Part 2

The climb back up was ahead of me, and I thought to myself:

Self: You can do it. You walk. You go to Curves. You try not to eat bowls of ice-cream late at night. You really aren't in bad shape for a fifty-six old, retired English teacher.

But I looked up at all those steps -- straight up -- with little resting platforms and thought again:

Self: How hard can it be? You just walked down them. It made your knees ache a little. You can do it. Besides, what goes down, must come up.

David: Let's go. Let's get started.
Me: Okay, I'll follow you.

So, I climbed the first set of twenty steps.

Me: David? Yo. This is harder than I thought.
David: Just keep going. Don't stop.
Me: Don't stop. Not gonna happen. Slow down.

So I counted the next set of steps. 1 to 32.

Me: I'm not gonna make it -- I just climbed fifty steps, and I can't breathe.
David: If you're talking, you're breathing. Come on.

*breathes in, breathes out* (times 50)

I climbed some more.

Self: Nope, not gonna make it. I'm gonna die here. Step 74 of the Tallulah Gorge North Rim walk. I can't do it. What was I thinking? I had no idea this would be so difficult. I mean, people do this all the time. People in worst shape that me --- maybe? Maybe not?

*slaps self in head*

Self: Neener, neener.. oh, I walk three miles a day. Oh, I go to Curves. I'm in good shape. Only not. Only not. Not preparing me for climbing 500 steps on the steepest climb in the freakin' world. OMG, I think I am gonna die. Yep. I'm gonna die. I can't believe I'm gonna die while going for a walk.

Me: David, I am gonna rest here. Really.
David: Okay, but not for long. It's hot.
Me: Oh, it's hot. I hadn't notice. I was trying to keep my heart from bursting out of my chest.
David: Quit talking. Save your energy.

Self: I wonder if thinking uses energy?

I rested a bit, and then counted the next set of steps. 34?

Self: What's with 34? Is that some kind of code for just enough steps to kill somebody?

I rested again on a platform. This one had a seat.

Me: Good place for a seat. I think I would just rather throw myself from the steps here and get it over with.
David: You'll make it. Don't be ridiculous.
Me: Uh. I'm not being ridiculous. I think I am dying. I'm breathing like a bull -- what's the word? I can't think. I'm delusional. I was thinking I could walk up as good as walking down. I'm seeing little white dots. They're floating.
David: Be quiet. Focus.
Me: No, really. I think this is what people mean when they use the term "her lungs exploded."
David: What? Lungs exploded?
Me: I can't think. Look. Kiss the cats good-bye for me.
David: Get up.

So we walked up some more steps. I could see the suspension bridge in the distance.

Self: Wait. Distance? The suspension bridge is half way. I'm gonna kill Paul and Angie. Oh, you're in good shape. You can make it. Argh. No Christmas gifts for them. No more birthday money. No more calls. No more bagels for breakfast. I'm gonna die. Right here. Folks will say -- whatever happened to Gillham? She died at Tallulah Falls -- she went down, but disappeared. Folks say her lungs exploded... bam. Deader than dead.

*sweats profusely*

*sees stars*

David: Come on. There's the bridge.

So, I count more. More. More.

I huff. I puff. I huff more. I puff more.

Self: I see trees. Water. Little dots. Is that heaven? Doves? Mist? Do I smell popcorn?

David: Let's get across the bridge, and then you can rest.
Me: Rest. Yes. Rest.

We pass a couple on the bridge, looking off in the distance as if this is the most romantic spot in the world. They gaze at each other -- at the view. I stare straight ahead -- longing for the other side where I can rest. Rest.


David: Stop here, but just for a minute.
Me: I'm not kidding. I don't think I can make it.

Self: Let's see. Who would they send to rescue me? Those whimpy park workers who are like sixty years old? What are they gonna do -- fret with me? Oh no, they will call 911 and send in the paramedics -- of couple of pimply-faced nineteen-years old who will carry me out? They can't carry me out -- they're not pack mules. I'll need air rescue -- a helicopter, a harness, news cameras. Will my insurance cover this?

*dreams of air rescue*

David: Snap out of it. Let's take some more stairs.
Me: *cries* I can't do it, David. Just let me die. *cries*
David: Come on.

So we go up some more -- I count 23 before I think of just sitting on stair 24. My heart racing, my head, light, sweat pouring from every pore, and I think ... OMG, I think I am gonna faint.

Me: Uh, David?
David: Whut?
Me: I think I am gonna faint. I'm not kidding.
David: Not on the steps. No fainting on the steps. Come up to this resting platform.
Me: 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30.

Self: Wait. There's a bench. I think I'm hallucinating. I'm gonna get to sit.

*brain lifts up, up, and away*

Self: Ah. Bench.

David: You all right?

Self: I wonder if this will make the news? I wonder what the air rescue people will look like? I'd like a cool blond with the muscles of Sly Stallone circa 1980 and the accent of Jason Statham. I hate that I am all sweaty....

*drifts off*

David: Let's go.
Me: I can't. You have got to wait a few more minutes.
David: The longer you wait -- the worse it will be?
Me: Who writes your material?

*dreams of never moving again*

David: Here we go. Only three more sets. We're almost there.

And I do make it, but seriously, I didn't think I would.

*slaps David*

*slaps Angie and Paul*

*slaps Curves*

*slaps self in the head*

As we rest at the top where the sign says, "Strenuous walk.. blah, blah, blah" -- a middle-aged couple are standing and taking in the view.

David: You guys want me to take your picture?

The Man Tourist hands sweaty David his camera

I'm heaving on the overlook bench. Objects are spinning in my head -- mostly white ones with feathers.

Man tourist: You guys been running?
David: No, we just went to the bottom of the gorge.
Man tourist: Really?
David: Yeah, it's not that bad.

I'm huffing on the bench. Head down. Can't breathe. Trying to believe that I can make it to the parking lot -- then to the car -- then to air and water -- and a house with no stairs.

Man tourist: I don't know. Honey, what do you think?

She has on Birkenstocks.

Female tourist: I don't know. [she glances at me as I search for oxygen] She doesn't look so good.

I shake my head no. More things slosh around in my brain -- these are duller, kind of gray.

David: Aww. You can do it. No big deal.

I shake my head no.

David takes their picture, and they head for the stairs.

Me: Are you crazy? Did you see what happened to me? I can't believe you told those two it was no big deal. Yep, they'll be on the local news -- in the Clayton Tribune .. and they'll come looking for you to blame. You. Only you.

When we get back to the parking lot and the car, I sit in the front seat like a survivor of a disaster, disoriented, incoherent, delusional, and on the brink of losing my breakfast. Cars pull in around me, young-people hop out, eager to see the sights, and stomp off to walk the gorge.

I wonder what they thought as they saw this "victim," dazed and drooling in the front seat of a Volvo and waiting to die. When I get back to the house, I have to be treated like the stereotypical female in a Victorian novel --- cool compress to the forehead, a cool room, and a do not disturb sign on the door knob.

I think the Greek name for this is hubris.

Man, it was just stupid. S-T-O-O-P-I-D.

Come on. You can do it.

This past weekend, my nephew and his girlfriend came to spend a couple of days at the mountain house so that they could "chill" with me and then do things that active, young adults like to do ---


You guys weren't getting dirty, were you?

Stop it. This is family.

*clears head of images*

I packed up my car on Friday and headed to the mountains so that I could be there when they arrived (they were coming from Carrollton) all unpacked and ready to act as hostess -- instead, I got to the mountain house, and "BAM" house problems -- the air-conditioner upstairs was not working, and there was a leak in the basement.

Since I was all by myself -- David still here in Marietta -- I had to try to rectify the problems before the arrival of my company. I mean, if Paul and Angie, wanna "chill" with me -- then I think I need the air blasting upstairs....

Egads. I did some scrambling on the cell-phone with David; the air-conditioner folks promised to be there before sundown, and one of the neighbors "up thar," one of David's friends, came over to assess the leak.

The neighbor, who will remain nameless, is one of those talkers. He shows up in his pick-up, window rolled down, and before he exits his truck, already chin waggin' at me from the window .... and it goes something like this.....

Nameless Neighbor: We had a hard rain here last night. Gully washer. Could have done something to your septic. We don't wanna think about that yet. Show me where it is, will ya? Yeah. you got a leak all righty; you know the saying, if you don't use it, you lose it. I was telling the wife -- poor Harriett and David, up here, weekenders, problems to deal with, grass to cut, money pit, money pit, money pit. You just got to move up here. When is David retiring? He needs to come to the board meetings. I tell him all the time that. I was over in Tiger yesterday (adjoining town) talking to Andy. Andy is my porch friend. We sit on the porch and talk about the weather. Andy's retired -- former Army man -- he's worried about our borders. He just worries, worries, worries -- Anyhow, I told Andy that I was at the board meeting, and that I ran into Kevin. Kevin and Andy do not get along -- I think it goes back to a meeting in Tiger at the courthouse over easement issues. Makes me crazy to think that someone would build on a property with an easement; does that make any sense to you? Now where's that leak? Didn't Atlanta people build this house? I wouldn't take a nickel for an Atlanta builder -- bunch of rich fellers trying to rip us off. Look. I see the water there. Is it coming from the supply line? I told the wife I was coming over here to check your leak. She asked me if I was gonna fix it -- I said, "No. Honey. I'm not a plumber. I'm just gonna look at it." If you need a plumber, I got a good one. He lives over there. [points to mountain] -- and he's good. He's retired -- an engineer -- can fix anything that has to do with water. Except the well. You're gonna have to get you a well man for that. I have his name here -- can I borrow your cell phone? It looks like this leak could be coming from there. Man, look -- somebody took a claw hammer and just punched a hole here. Now why would he do that? Particle board. Hmmmm. Trouble. Trouble. It's great until it gets wet. Yours is wet. Not good. Why would someone poke a hole like that? Couldn't they just cut it out? Don't use that bathroom --- but I think you are fine mostly. Hopefully, we can get that plumber [points to mountain] over here today. Or tomorrow. I'll call him. I have his card somewhere in my wallet. I'm gonna get a ladder and take a closer look. Man, this is wet. I think you have a leak......

No kidding -- this is how this guy talks --- but he, at least, calmed my fears by assuring me that the leak was minute, and hopefully, "the plumber wouldn't have to rip into the sheet rock and pull out the tub amongst other things..."


When Angie and Paul arrived, I told them of the house problems, and like young people, it just rolled from them like water off a duck's back --- no pun intended -- and Paul said, "I can do heat, and I don't have to bathe." Angie said, "we're good."

I told them that the air-conditioner man was gonna come that day, but that we might have to share a bathroom.

They shrugged. No big deal.
I love young people -- if I had arrived somewhere, having to share a bathroom, I would say, "I'll come back another time."


The air-conditioner man, Kenny, did show up -- and did fix the air. Kenny had his stories too -- at one point when Paul was sharing music of an artist named Andy McKee with me from his I-Pod, Kenny popped in the conversation and said, "I like him too."

The mountains are full of folk who love to talk -- must be the air -- or lack of it.


*sweats a little*

All's well that ends with a thermostat on cool. That's what I'm saying....

The next day after breakfast, Angie and Paul decided to go to Tallulah Falls to hike -- they left about 10:30, and returned about 1:30 -- I asked them about the hike:

Paul: It's cool. Beautiful. You climb down steps to access the different points of interest.
Angie: Not bad -- we rested on some of the platforms, but we walked both the north and south rim.
Me: Well, David and I will have to do it.
Paul and Angie: You totally should -- you and he are both in good shape. You'll love it.

So, with that said, we spent the rest of the afternoon seeing the city of Clayton and going on a short walk at Black Rock Mountain. Paul is a forestry major, and he identified all kinds of foliage for me -- at one point, he bit a leaf to show me that tasting is one way to identify them.

A little barbaric, but effective, I'm guessing.

Paul and Angie had to head back to Carrollton on Saturday night, but before they left, they promised to come back another time to hit some more local attractions.

On Sunday, David and I did the mountain house chores, and then I suggested ----

Me: Let's check out Tallulah Gorge tomorrow for our walk.
David: Totally. We've been meaning to do that since we built this house eight years ago.

So, on Monday, David and I headed over to Tallulah Gorge, t-shirted, shorted, and tennis shoed up to walk the gorge.

We arrived there at 8:30 am and headed for the North Rim Trail.

David: I know you're used to Kennesaw Mountain, but this is kind or rocky so watch your step.
Me: I got this; no problem -- I'm no rookie.

We headed down a nature trail that veered to the left to a black topped wider trail. A sign told us that this trail had been made from 600 recycled automobile tires. After being on the natural trail, this was like gliding.

Me: I totally love this.
David: It's like walking on sponges.

We trotted on --- we reached a look-out point that hung over the gorge.

Me: Wow. What a view. It's a little scary -- so far down -- it pulls you.
David: Let's take these stairs.
Me: Okay.

We walked down two flights of stairs. We came to another look-out point -- a sign said, "Strenous Walk.... blah, blah, blah, blah."

David: Come on.
Me: You think I can do this?
David: Oh yeah.

So we headed down some stairs -- some more stairs and inched our way down the north rim of Tallulah Falls.

Me: Dang. This is a little like the Washington Monument -- that I climbed back in 1965. Of course, I was nine. I think it had 900 steps.
David: Come on.

So we climbed, down and down, and down and down.

Me: Man, this is hard on the knees.
David: The hardest part on the body is going down.
Me: I'm not so sure.

We climbed down. We got to a suspension bridge -- a little like Indiana Jones it was -- and David and I both paused.

Me: I'll go first. No rockin'.
David: Don't worry -- and I'm not stopping.
Me: You think I'm stopping on this to take a gander?
David: Who says gander?

I walked across. David walked across, and as I walked across, I looked up.

Me: Man, those are a lot of steps.
David: Ya think?
Me: Should we stop here?
David: No. Come on. Look this takes us to Hurricane Falls. Only 200 more steps.
Me: 200?
David: You can do it. You've made it this far.
Me: But we've been going down.
David: Come on.

So we climbed down some more. And some more. More. More. More.

And finally, we reached the bottom -- and the view was gorgeous.

But the climb back loomed.

....to be continued...