Tuesday, August 30, 2011

and there was cake...

David and I went to his 40th high school reunion on Saturday night.


Yep. 40 Years. Have we been wandering in the wilderness that long?


I knew it was Biblical.


[See Moses.]

Enjoy the pictures .... and the commentary.

David and I did not attend the same high school, but we did live in the same state... and, btw, I have no intention of attending my 40th whenever it is...in the distant future.


David greets one of his peeps at the registration table. Ellen? Elaine? Eunice?
David and she worked on the committee that put this Shindig! together.

David tries to remember people's names.


Me: Who's that guy?
David: I have no idea.
Me: What about him?
David: I dunno.
Me: Her?
David: Theresa.
Me: I see.

We have our picture made with these two -- we knew them -- Larry and Teri. David told Teri how he saw her one time with her hair on top of her head and wrapped around two orange juice cans.

Man, what we women did for beauty.
I only remember using a single can.

But, maybe, I wasn't as advanced.

Larry did not go to school with David and Teri, but I knew Larry before Teri and David.

Ain't that weird?

Another girl there told David that when he was in kindergarten, he took his mother's wedding ring and gave it to her.

David: I did?
She: You did.
Me: So, how many times have you been married?

A few of the class members stand around and try to wait patiently for the food bars to be open. I just took a picture of the sign. The food was good --- better than the dancing.

*tee hee*

Me: It's like Dance of the Living Dead.
David: Totally not nice.

I asked David to dance; he claimed his knee ached.
Just so you know, David took disco lessons.
Thankfully, this wasn't the disco era.

I'm not sure what era it was, btw.

It was early.

This is what these people used to look like.


I think I had a dress like the girl on the left. Plaid jumper.

The guy on the left is the same guy in the background [in the red shirt] of the picture below of David.

This is his letter jacket, as he was apparently a basketball star.

According to David, WHS didn't give Varsity letter jackets for the sport in which he excelled.


*rolls eyes*

It ain't a real party unless there is cake.
There was.


Friday, August 26, 2011

"Gotta Make It, Gotta Make It, Gotta Make It."

My sister and I disagree on the year that my mother went back to work; she believes it was when I went into second grade, I thought it was when I went to kindergarten. What I do remember is how her taking a full-time job affected summer time.

I have a few memories of my mother as a stay at home mom, but most of them are blurry: sitting in the kitchen with Mrs. Wing, a neighbor, and drinking coffee late in the afternoon, hanging clothes on the clothesline, or listening to the radio in the kitchen as she cut up potatoes or made other preparations for dinner.

When she went back to work, my parents conspired and made no fail plans to ensure that their four children were not unsupervised -- we were not latch key children {totally unheard of}, and they would never pawn us off on a neighbor; for one or two of those summers, my Aunt Lois stayed with us and helped.

My parents were big proponents of productivity and did not advocate in any way, shape, or form the idea of hanging out or lying around with nothing constructive to do. Also fearing that if we were left to our own resources, we would fight, burn down the house, or commit felonies, my parents constructed, designed, and occupied our summers with a combination of any or all of the following:

Vacation Bible School
YMCA camp
Summer school.

Yep, mother and daddy enrolled us in free activities or ones in which you had to pay minimally to be a part of ---- and what that price was, I can’t remember.

Of those three activities that occupied our summers for five or six years [until we were old enough for summer work], I remember the YMCA day camp as if it were yesterday.

Located in west Atlanta at the Southwest Family YMCA on Campbellton Road, the trip to camp took us close to an hour. We caught one city bus and then had to transfer to another. How I envied the fellow campers whose parents drove them to camp and deposited them at the front door like precious cargo. My parents used our one car to get themselves to work -- there was no time in the morning to drive us in the opposite direction to camp.

These other children were not children that we went to school with, but a hodgepodge of kids from all around south east and south west Atlanta. Occasionally, we'd run across a church friend or school friend, but most of the other YMCAers were strangers.

My siblings and I had to get up at the crack of dawn, pack our swimsuits and towels and probably lunch, and then trudge the ½ mile to the city bus stop to catch the bus that would take us to camp. Along the way on the bus with it stopping and starting as it loaded and unloaded passengers, we longingly looked out the bus windows at the world [I remember that we passed a Shoney’s and I would stare at the Big Boy statue outside the restaurant -- that term restaurant used loosely] and wished that we were still sleeping, not attending a lame camp where we made macramé pot holders, competed in serious badminton or dodge ball games, and learned to literally sink or swim at a nearby pool.

I know that on that city bus ride we sat rows apart and tried to ignore one another, but we were perfectly aware of what the other was doing. We liked to pull the bus bell cord that would ding to let the bus driver know that the next stop was ours, and we eyeballed each other from wherever we sat and tried to best one another as who got to pull it. If that wasn’t enough of a competition, then we would jump to the aisle and race one another to see who got off the bus first -- the back door being ideal in some unwritten rule of "cool" bus riding. I was the youngest, and therefore, the slowest in the latter, but I could anticipate the appropriate time to pull the bus bell cord.


bus bell cord


We were highly competitive as siblings, and our contest to beat one another out carried over to every aspect of our existence.

Led by one somber “in charge of it all” adult and many questionable teenage counselors, the YMCA day camp placed us in groups according to age. In those groups, where we had been given lame names to identify us with our counselor, perhaps associated with birds or flowers or maybe even Indians, we took nature walks into woods [totally not deep woods] that bordered the back of the YMCA property, learned camp songs that we sung sometimes rather half-heartedly and at other times loudly just to get on each others‘ nerves, and constructed throw away crafts that we brought home, ultimately damaged on the bus ride or that gathered dust in some remote dark place in our childhood rooms. Occasionally, we presented our mother with our crafts -- some lop-sided clay ash tray or crookedly glued Popsicle stick picture frame made with our less than artistic hands.

Camp lasted all day -- from eight in the morning to three in the afternoon. After a long day of manufactured fun, we would load ourselves back on the city bus, laden with a camp hangover, and make the seemingly long commute home where we dragged ourselves up the hill from the bus stop.

BTW: It wouldn’t be a good childhood story without the "walking up the hill" stories.


All aspects of that day camp were organized, but my favorite memories of camp are the trips to John A. White pool, which we made twice a week on a camp bus. The pool, located several miles away and at the top of a hill, was a major haul for the coughing, hacking, slow moving, rickety bus that took us from the YMCA camp and dumped us at the pool in order to be instructed in basic swimming. Driven by some underpaid, frazzled adult, the bus strained its way to the top of the hill in front of the pool, as we rowdy, over-excited to be going to the pool campers chanted at the top of our lungs over and over increasing in quickness and volume till we got to the top: “Gotta make it. Gotta make it. Gotta make it. Gotta make it.”

It was on those bus rides to and from the pool that I learned -- “ninety-nine bottles of beer on the wall.”

The idea of a bunch of elementary aged children singing that bar song still cracks me up.

As we climbed that hill on the bus was the only time as campers that we jointly bonded together in the spirit of conquest. The rest of the time grade levels and groups tended to pit themselves against one another in some kind of battle to out do the other: the competition intuitive and the score kept somewhere in our heads. The youngest kids couldn’t wait to be old enough to give their enemies a real defeat.

The trips to the pool took every enrolled child and their counselor for an afternoon of swimming lessons and free play. There at the pool we began our basic lessons categorized as “Minnows,” and as the swimming instructors led us gradually through the lessons, we learned to hold our breath, tread water, swim with our eyes open, do a mean breaststroke, and dive. Those who excelled at these skills moved through the program and could eventually swim well enough to be deemed a “Shark.”

When we had free time, we sat on the bottom of the pool, dove for pennies, did handstands, and played a pool game called Sharks and Minnows as well as Marco Polo. We were indefatigable in this, and when the whistle blew to pull us out of the pool and back on the bus, we groaned, and some of the more rebellious kids defiantly took one more dive.

This was the days before sun screen, and our red sun-burned faces and shoulders worn with a badge of honor. The best sunburns were the ones, when pressed, left a white fingerprint.
Aunt Eleanor, brother Hunter, Uncle BW, Aunt Nancy, and brother Ken in his Southwest YMCA t-shirt

I don’t remember how many years we attended YMCA day camp, but long enough to be good swimmers, but at some point, my older brother Hunter and sister Margaret moved on to summer school or part time jobs, and just my closet brother in age, Kenneth, and I would ride the bus to Campbellton Road and enroll in yet another year of crafts and songs and nature walks, of riding the camp bus up the hill and looking forward to screaming “gotta make it, gotta make it, gotta make it” till we were hoarse, and of course, the familiar ride past the Shoney’s big boy statue.

YMCA camp took up a few weeks of the summer, but the other weeks, my parents filled for us with Vacation Bible Schools that we attended at every church, regardless of denomination, in geographical compatibility to our home, but that, folks, is for another blog.


Monday, August 22, 2011

The View from Castle Rock

When I first taught school, my daddy gave me an anthology of short stories that he had come across in his vast collection of book seller samples. In those days, educational companies sent out tons of free materials to possible buyers, and my dad, a curriculum director at Douglas County Schools received them and could not throw any of them away. He brought me boxes of unwanted materials when I took a job as an English teacher, and I spent hours reading through them searching for stories that I thought might peak the interest of the reluctant readers in my ninth grade classroom.

I gave away many of those books years ago, but I kept an anthology that had a short story that had been a successful teaching tool for my students. The work generated great discussion and provided the perfect format for teaching almost any element of fiction. The story, "Boys and Girls" by Alice Munro, remains one of my favorite short stories to read and teach and Munro one of my favorite short story writers; but, of course, I have many favorites. :)

The View from Castle Rock, a 2006 collection of short stories by Alice Munro, takes its basics from Munro's delving into the history of one side of her family, the Laidlaws. The first story, titled "The View from Castle Rock," begins in the late eighteenth century when Munro's earliest known family member takes his young son to see the "new land" of which they would travel to and ends with a story called "What Do You Want to Know For," where the narrator returns to her paternal home to visit and her father falls gravely ill.

What Munro does in these stories, that run chronologically, as she writes in her Foreword, is "put [her family's history] together over the years, and almost without [her] noticing what was happening, it began to shape itself, here and there, into something like stories. Some of the characters gave themselves to [her] in their own words, others rose out of their situations. Their words and [her] words, a curious re-creation of lives, in a given setting that was as truthful as [the] notion of the past can ever be."

The result was a rich, powerful, interesting, and wonderful collection of short stories with strong narrative, realistic characters, and a true sense of place and time.

Loved all of them...:)

Friday, August 19, 2011

Scribbling the Cat

If not for Alexandra Fuller's tight prose to propel this memoir of a journalist who travels with an African soldier, I might have put this book down, chalk it up to "nah,"and not pick it up again.

Scribbling the Cat [scribble is African slang for "kill" -- euphemisms of which they have plenty] begins with Fuller returning to her parents' home in Zambia, a place as primitive as could be imagined for a continent racked by war after war and poverty on top of poverty. There, she wishes to engage her father in discussion about the Rhodesian war, but his reticence, and actual refusal to do so, sends Fuller in another direction.

On a nearby farm lives K, a former soldier with the Rhodesian Light Infantry, who fought for five years in an apparent "killing field" in Mozambique {I had to get out the Atlas}. Apparently, K's reputation for being a lethal machine filters down to and affects those who work his farm who thereby hold him at a distance and with quiet respect. What makes K interesting is that he is a born-again Christian and believes that the tragedies that he has suffered outside of his soldiering [death of his son, mother's illness, wife's infidelity] were punishments from God for his ruthlessness during the war.

Fuller befriends K in hopes of getting him to share his war experiences, and even though he first shows nothing but reluctance, an unexplained change of mind occurs a year later, and he agrees to take Fuller with him on a trip to Mozambique to visit the places of his war horribleness [what other word could there be for it?]. She accompanies him with tape recorders and notebooks and...

so it goes.

I liked K -- but Fuller and her journey not so much, but I appreciated her tight-lipped prose.

For example, when she returns home to America disappointed that she couldn't get her story, she illustrates poignantly the difference between America and the Africa she had just visited:

"... I went home to my husband and to the post Christmas chaos of a resort town but instead of feeling glad to be back, I was dislocated and depressed. It should not be physically possible to get from the banks of the Pepani River to Wyoming in less than two days, because mentally and emotionally it is impossible. The shock is too much, the contrast too raw... the real, wonderful world around me ... felt suddenly pointless and trivial and almost insultingly frivolous. The shops were crappy with a Christmas hangover, too loud and brash... There was nothing challenging about being here, at least not on the surface..."

And this description of an African evening:

"It was the time of day that hurries too quickly past, those elusive, regrettably beautiful moments before night, which are shorter here than anywhere else I have been. The achingly tenuous evening teetered for a moment on the tip of the horizon and then was overcome by night..."

Scribbling the Cat manages to capture how ugly war is --- I only hung in there to read about this one because Fuller can write.


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Human Busy. I Blog.

Human went a long way in car.
I ride.

In cage.
No likey.

Get there.
Too much furniture to smell.


Always on bed.
Leave my hair.


One day.
Shutters shut.
I clawed.


Trees are weird.
Lamps to smell.

Me likey.

Look good here.

Big, loopy dog.

No likey.
At all.

Water bowl is here.

Come outside.
He know no I watch.

Carries toys.
Bat toys.


Bat toys with paw.
Not carry.

Bat toys.

After all.

Love Lizards.
Come here, little comrade.
We get big dog.
I carry you in mouth.

Like dog.


Don't go!!!!!!




Big cat is fake.
I smell much times.

Maybe it lamp?

Daddy's kite.
Also silly.
Smell it too.

No move cat.

My same food bowl.


Did it ride in cage?
I eat.

Why did the dog not run for the fences?
Stand on table.


More. Lizards.

Gotta go.

Maybe in mouth?

Human Busy.
I blog.

AKA: Tallulah Goes To Florida.
In Cage.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Heaven's Landing

Last weekend, while David and I were in the mountains, we met up with his pilot friend, Gordon, who has property near our mountain house.

Gordon and David

After lunch at Grapes and Beans, [I had vegetable pita; Dave the special -- Tofu Turnover?] we followed Gordon to his "hangar" at Heaven's Landing, parked the Volvo, and took a tour of this 635 acre gated community.

View from the clubhouse -- that's Gordon's hangar with the door open.

Random Hangar Dog

Heaven's Landing, noted for its "private" runway, has 5, 069 feet of paved concrete that can accommodate most personal aircraft, a perk established for that elite class of folks who not only own an airplane but can fly it right into their own backyard. Surrounded by National Forest Land, this exclusive community nestles restfully and beautifully between the mountains.

Gordon said that "flying into a closed space like Heaven's Landing is a little tight."
Me: Looks big to me.

David and I had nosed our way around Heaven's Landing when they were first under construction, [and the private gate was not locked]; we had walked through many of the houses in the early stages of their building -- and imagined their magnificence [never tire of it!] and their beautiful views when completed.

Gordon told David about a particular new, log house under construction and how incredible it was gonna be when finished. After stopping by Gordon's hangar on the way in, we hopped in Gordon's big truck [they all seem big to me], rode around the huge property, and walked through that house.

I guess, I can see that --

"Heaven's Landing" is not a misnomer.

BTW: Random Hangar Dog is a great name for a rock and roll band.


That's all I got.

Different Day. Different Chair.


Thursday, August 11, 2011

A Place Called Canterbury

Subtitled "Tales of the New Old Age in America," Dudley Clendinen's journalistic approach to his over four hundred days in a "geriatric apartment building" named Canterbury in Tampa, Florida, is a sobering read.

When Clendinen's mother Mary entered the facility in 1994, she walked into a new chapter of her life, one with a clear end. Part soap opera, part life opera, A Place Called Canterbury shares a glimpse of the fourteen years that his mother would live there.

Clendinen also introduces and becomes friends with the other members of the "Tower," the aptly named high rise that Canterbury was, and the many devoted and kind staff members who made sure that many aspects of the residents' lives ran as smoothly as possible, their care and devotion admirable.

With over 24 chapters of stories about Canterbury, the real people of this small village tell Clendinen their own stories of wars, the Great Depression, and the prime of their lives; however, the thrust of the work is about Clendinen and his relationship with his mother, who lived the last nine years of her life as the victim of a stroke in the "health" facility of Canterbury, a separate wing from the Tower. Even though he knew her wishes, "no tubes," Mary Clendinen lived for many years "trapped" in her own body, unable to communicate with others.

Dutiful son Dudley made the trip at least once a month from Baltimore to check on his mother and while there, he chooses to spend his extra, idle time developing relationships and interviewing the other denizens of Canterbury and what he deemed "the new old age."

In a chapter titled "War and Survival," Clendinen concludes that "[these residents who managed to live through some of America's worse times] were tested hard and early. They had lived long. Now, in the unexpected years of the new century, a millennium most of them had never expected to know, what they mainly wanted was to feel secure in their last years, and at peace. Surely, history was done with them by now."

Clendinen writes with tenderness about this generation, mostly women, who lived a long time, and who even though life was done with them, continued to live.

One woman tells him: "You can never be sure which of the things you worried about would actually come to pass or whether it would be one of the things you prepared so carefully for."

At times humorous, at other times tremendously sad, A Place Called Canterbury meets the reality of what old age looks like without apology.

Too Busy Being...

To blog?

BTW: That's my chair. Just sayin'.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

That's the Best Kind of Reading

When my nephew Chapman was born in 1983, and he was the first “grandchild” in the family, the whole McDaniel clan acted like we were having a singular experience. We were "ga ga stupid" over him, and we treated him like royalty, the golden child, or the heir apparent.

On spring break of that year, my sister and I, who were both unmarried and getting to be classified pretty much as spinsters, decided to travel to Washington D.C.,where my brother and sister-in-law lived and where his royal highness was approaching the ripe old age of three months.

We couldn’t wait to see him as mother and daddy, who had been up to visit their first grand child soon after his birth, raved about every coo, diaper change, and semblance of brilliance that Sir Chapman possessed -- and he was full of charm. We were pretty sure nobody else's kid could be quite so wonderful or show such promise.

He was golden for us. A prize. A joy. A great blessing.

Chapman was the first we owned. He was more than adorable [he still is -- he's just big], and I had bought him an Atlanta Braves' Onesie that I couldn't wait to see him wear. Now, he's not nearly as cooperative.


Spring break was the second week of April in 1983. I was in my seventh year of teaching at Douglas County High School, and my sister, who was a hospital administrator in physical therapy, could pretty much choose when she wished to take vacation time.

We packed my sister’s red, 1970 Volkswagen Beetle and headed up Interstate 85. We made an overnight stop in North Carolina at my sister’s former roommate's house. I have vague memories of her house being on a dark, two lane road on the outskirts of a small town -- but I remember little about it except that we had a flat tire on that road, and a man and his son changed it for us.

And it didn’t help on that dark road with strange men showing up out of nowhere to help us that I was immersed in a Stephen King novel at the time of that trip --- a scary, realistic, believable Stephen King novel.

Why did I ever read Stephen King?

He was not my genre. Horror? Fantasy? Post-Apocalypse?

Hello. I read literature. What was I thinking?

In the winter of 1976, I student-taught 7th grade English at Troup Junior High School in Lagrange, Georgia. My seventh graders were hilarious, well-behaved kids who seem to enjoy my sense of humor but not my devotion to English grammar.

We diagrammed sentences, memorized verb tenses and lines of poetry, and wrote all kinds of paragraphs: narrative, expository, description, and persuasion. Since my supervising teacher went down with an appendicitis two weeks after I came on board, I spent the whole semester teaching her classes [for free!] and with no “real” adult in the room. I was 21 years old. Egads!

What were they thinking? Wait. What was I thinking? I didn't have a teaching certificate. It was like -- who cares? LOL

At Troup Junior High, one of my seventh graders, an avid reader, handed me the first Stephen King I had ever read --- Carrie, a book that seemed so contemporary, so real, except for the events, that I found it amazing that he could write a book that seemed so current. I took the book home that night and read it and returned it to her the next day. It was such head candy. I couldn't believe it.

I have always been a voracious reader -- my whole family was -- but I hadn’t read anything quite like Stephen King until then. I guess I was used to more “tested” novels -- the stuff of English majors and as a young reader -- biographies of Daniel Boone or Florence Nightingale --and as I grew older, the likes of James Michener, Leon Uris, or T. H. White. I had little experience with “best sellers.” In fact, I don’t even remember being aware that there was such a list.

As a child and young adult, I just went to the library, headed to the fiction section, looked at titles, pulled the book from the shelf, and read the blurb on the inside cover. If I wanted to read it, I checked it out. Simple. Direct.

One time, when I was twelve or thirteen, I was reading a novel that I had checked out of the library by Harold Robbins, a popular writer of the time. My daddy, who didn’t police what we read, looked at the cover of the book, read the blurb, and as he handed it back asked, “Do you like this book?”

I said, “Yes.”

He said, “Okay.”

I don't want to think now of what he thought of my reading what essentially was "trash." He just let us all read.

The next Stephen King book I read after that was The Stand, that a fellow teacher at Douglas County loaned me. This teacher bought current titles like mad, read on all kinds of subjects, and willingly loaned them to me to read. He loved to talk about them and his range of interest ran the gamut: non-fiction, biographies [he loved the ones about old movie stars], novels, short story collections, and, yep, trash.

I took his hardback copy of The Stand with me on my trip to Washington D.C.

I don’t know if you have ever read The Stand by Stephen King, but here’s Wiki’s synopsis:

The novel is divided into three parts, or books. The first is titled "Captain Trips" and takes place over nineteen days, with the escape and spread of a human-made biological weapon, a superflu (influenza) virus known formally as "Project Blue" but most commonly as "Captain Trips" (among some other colloquialisms). While the base tries to shut down before any infected person can escape, a security malfunction allows a guard and his family to sneak out. Unfortunately, they are already infected, and release an epidemic, which quickly turns into a pandemic, that leads directly to the death of an estimated 99.4% of the world's human population.
King outlines the total breakdown and destruction of society through widespread violence, the failure of martial law to contain the outbreak, and eventually the death of virtually the entire population. The human toll is also dealt with, as the few survivors must care for their families and friends, dealing with confusion and grief as their loved ones succumb to the flu.

As my sister and I headed to Washington, I read The Stand in the front passenger seat. I hated it when it was my turn to drive. I was so engaged in it that my sister, who likes to talk, kept saying, “Quit reading that book and talk to me.” I read it on the trip up and on the trip back, and the realistic descriptions, contemporary places and time made me believe it was really happening -- so much that …

when we stopped for gas, I would get the creeps if a clerk or a fellow gaser at the next pump coughed or sneezed. When we toured around Washington DC., I looked out for the characters in the book as if they are real, washed my hands in every restroom we passed, and when we were in crowds, I tried to breathe behind my hand.

As I passed people, I speculated about whether they could be carriers.

LOL -- except then, it wasn’t that funny, and when I tried to tell my sister, a reader of romance novels, about it -- she was like, “why are you reading that? That’s horrible. Just quit reading it.”

BTW: She still doesn't understand my reading choices, and I still don't get hers.

But I couldn’t. I was scared, but I had to know what happened.

That feeling of getting lost in a book I hadn‘t had since I was a child.

The only other time I was that “deep” into a novel, with such a contemporary setting, was when I read in the late 1990s, Tom Clancy’s Executive Orders. That novel seemed so realistic that I would have to remind myself when I took breaks from reading [it was like 9,000 pages long, and I invested time in it like it was a part time job] that Jack Ryan was not president, Clinton was. I'd look around and orient myself and think, " That's right. Clinton. Yes. He's president." I’m actually still kind of shocked about Clinton, but he makes… never mind.

I used to immerse myself in reading. I would get so lost in it that when someone took me away from it, I would have to think -- “oh yeah. This is reality. I’m not Hester Prynne or Boo Radley or Conor Larkin or Scarlet O’Hara or Antonia Shimerda or Guenever.”

What an escape reading was to me -- and really still can be -- but I have to try harder because there are so many more distractions.


I liked it when books somehow captivated me, transferred me to some other place and time, or gave such depth of character that I believed they must be real -- even if they weren‘t my own time …

That’s the best kind of reading.


My nephew? He’s the best kind too, but we got over him pretty quickly --- as the family followed with seven more grandchildren.

Note to readers: I read a total of four Stephen King books -- Carrie, The Stand, Salem’s Lot, and ½ of Pet Sematary. I put down Pet Sematary because one night as I was reading it, I decided I couldn't trust my cat, Kitty Moose, who seemed to be, well, staring at me differently. That's when I decided I was done with Stephen King.