Tuesday, October 31, 2006

All Hallows' Eve Afternoon in Derbyshire

Lovely Halloween afternoon here in Swanwick, Derbyshire. Here are the day's photo offerings. (But no jack o'lanterns.)

Missing Halloween

Well. No Halloween here. Guess it is just an American thing. This is the first year in my recollection that I haven't carved a pumpkin, roasted pumpkin seeds, and out-and-out decorated for All Hallows' Eve (though I did give it a tip o' the hat at my NY office, with little plastic jack o' lanterns that light up). But I'm in England at a conference and there is not one - not one - jack o' lantern in sight. Sigh.

Y'all celebrate for me, eh? Happy Halloween!

Sunday, October 29, 2006


This is a Distress Blog.

I should be blogging about the wonderful lunchtime afternoon spent in Weybridge with blog buds Pete and Jo, Kathleen and young Thomas, but that will have to wait. Suffice it to say, there were lots of laughs, good conversation, one spider, and a dearth of geography knowledge by someone at the table (ahem, PT).

Now, back to the distress. Rewind 29 years to the Ashley Park Hotel pub in Walton-on-Thames. I had finished at Oxford and wasn't quite ready to go back to Atlanta, so I was pulling pints at the pub in exchange for free room and board, plus 19 pounds a week. Jean and Aubrey were regulars and sort of took me under their wings since their daughter had just married and moved away. They became a second set of parents for me.

Sunrise view from my bedroom window at Crisdene

Over the last three decades there has been a lot of back-and-forth visiting - they would come to Atlanta or we'd meet them in Florida; we'd crash on their doorstep when in England. Seems to me, their house in Ashley Road is as familiar as any I've lived in and always a great home-away-from-home.

Fast forward to a month ago when I found out I'd be attending the conference in Derbyshire. The first thing I did was pick up the phone to call Jean and Aubrey. No answer so I left a message - woo-hoo! coming to England, will come down to say 'hey' one afternoon, etc. I also sent an email to Aubrey. And I waited. Nothing.

Hm. Maybe they're in Scotland at Daughter's house. I'll wait a week. Did that, still no answer. I left another message for Aubrey's birthday a couple of weeks ago. Still nothing. I was getting a bad feeling, but perhaps they were off to Barbados, one of their favorite haunts. Except that Aubrey, in particular, has had a bad run of leg-back-circulation problems over the past year, serious enough for a couple of extended hospital stays. Bad feeling grows.

I was determined to go by the house today after my lunch with Pete and Jo, just to see if everything was OK and shove a note in the letterbox if no one was home. Jo kindly drove me from Weybridge to Walton (they're right next to each other) and let me off in the very familiar High Street. Jean and Aubrey's house is just a few minutes walk - it was a beautiful afternoon - so I set off toward Ashley Road.

I saw the sign before I rounded the hedge. "Sold." Sold. "Crisdene" sold. They've lived there for over 30 years. Sold. Aubrey loves his real estate. This is not a good sign. Anyway, I rang the bell and waited. Then knocked and waited. No answer. Thomas had kindly given me a sheet of his notebook paper for just such a need, so I scribbled a note saying I'd come by and to please, please call or email me. I slipped it into the letter-slot in the front door, walked to the road, and looked back.

Lilacs in the back garden

And here's what I saw: all the sunny afternoons in the back garden downing gin and tonics; the slap-up full English breakfasts greeting me when I came down the stairs in the morning (thanks, Aubrey); all the late afternoons coming through the front door and getting a delicious whiff Jeannie's curry or roast lamb (with homemade mint sauce); the years of piling on the couch for "Coronation Street," "EastEnders," or some war documentary; all the Sunday mornings being awakened by Jeannie's "hoovering" with some Welsh choir cranked up full-stop on the stereo; all the talks, all the laughs, all the love.


And where are Jean and Aubrey? What has happened that they would sell Crisdene? I pray it's nothing but a search for a more practical house for them. But I don't have Daughter's contact information with me, so I won't be able to find out anything until I get back to New York. I am distressed (and not in the fashionable furniture kind of way).

What a year of endings this has been - I'm almost overwhelmed by them all. And while it's also been a year of incredibly wonderful beginnings, I don't know how many more grand finales I can take right now. I just feel sad.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

A foggy day in Londontown

OK, no fog, but Gershwin didn't write: "A cloudy day in Londontown," hm? Before I go out again, I'll toss you some pictures. (I think a see a theme developing . . . ) Prose later on. Cheers!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Things Done, Things Left Undone

Ah, the never-ending battle between my sins of commission and my sins of omission.

While I have lots of marks against me concerning not-so-good actions committed, the stuff that troubles me most falls squarely in the "left undone" pile.

Deeds not done. Good intentions cast aside and forgotten. Phone calls not made. Promises to self not kept. Turning a blind eye when I need to look straight on. Well, you get the picture.

Guess that "to-do" list is getting out of hand. I reckon if I did all the things I should do, it wouldn't leave me time to do the things I shouldn't.

Am I allowed to tear up the list and start over? Ah, me. So much to do.

This time tomorrow I should be in London. I'll try to keep in touch while I'm gone.

Oooh. That reminds me that I need to pack. Things left undone, as it were.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The Spooklie Awards

(Not to be confused with the Spoolie Awards, which I shall have to dole out at a later date.)

Scary things are all around us - not just in October - so I am hereby instituting awards that hold aloft the everyday creepy, spooky, and downright blood-curdling stuff of life - past and present, personal and collective, specific and general. Since I'm making them up as I go, no one will be tagged (whew!), but please feel free to add your own categories and also-ran award winners.

Childhood Spooklies

Scariest School Subject:
Algebra. Don't you think it's creepy that they're still looking for "x"? After all these years? And sometimes "a" and "c" as well? Spooky!

Scariest Playground Experience :
Being chosen last for any team game or sport.

Scariest Hair-do/Hair-cut (thanks, Ma!):
My 4th grade Pixie-do. And it happened to be class picture day, so the terror lives on in the scrapbooks of school friends (who are very quick to pull out the photo at the drop of a hat).

Scariest Fairy Tale:
Red Riding Hood. Sheesh! What were they thinking - Brothers Grimm, right? - wolf, little girl, grandmother, violence, terror, a basket of goodies, and a red cape. Oh, the symbolism! I'm terrified just thinking about it.

Scariest Teacher:
Any teacher that made me do algebra. (See above)

"In The News" Scary

Scariest Current Events Tale:
Tie - Voting machine hacking, US Military Commissions Act of 2006 (torture bill) - Hey, just because I think someone's out to get me, doesn't mean they aren't!

Scariest US Politician:
Dick Cheney.

Scariest World Leader/Politician:
Simon Cowell.

Scariest Weapon of Mass Destruction:
Cigarette smoke.

Scariest Act-of-God Weather Event:
"It's Raining Men" - With my luck, a sumo wrestler would land on me (and my umbrella ain't that sturdy).

Scariest Bubble-Headed Celebrity:
Toughest of all categories. I'll pass over Mel Gibson and Madonna for Anna Nicole Smith.

In the Privacy of Your Own Home Weirdities

Scariest Thing in the Refrigerator:
That greeny-blue fuzzy thing. Cheese? An orange? Broccoli? Did I just see it move on its own?

Scariest Creepy-Crawly:
Big flying roaches.

Scariest Television Show:

Scariest Thing Found While Cleaning:
Unfamiliar underwear.

Scariest Computer Occurance:
A toss-up - Email chain letters / Viagra spam


Scariest Public Transportation Experience:
Harry Potter's Knight Bus, complete with Rasta' shrunken head.

Scariest Restaurant Experience:
Hair in food.

Scariest Work Experience:
Liz definitely wins this one - wiping clean the hard drive on the computer at work. Oooh, the nightmares!

Scariest Vacation Experience:
A 10-day Caribbean cruise with a boatload of polyester-wearing seniors and their out-of-control grandchildren. (This is why I avoid cruise ships at all cost.)

What's haunting you? Perhaps there's a Spooklie just waiting for your own terror.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Flyin' the filthy skies

It's not news to those of us who place themselves at the mercy of the airlines on a regular basis that air travel ain't what it used to be. Forget the indignities of airport security; we're used to those by now. (Except for the "remove shoes" part. I'll never get used to that.) And anyway, we're all willing to make sacrifices for security.

No, I'm talking about the non-security stuff that happens once you board the plane. My biggest non-security airline complaint is that people are allowed to bring food on-board. Not just chips and candy. I mean greasy-smelling fast-food junk that permeates the already stifling air in the cabin. Fortunately, I'm not prone to air sickness, but pity those poor people so inclined, forced to inhale the mingling odors of fries, meatball sandwiches, fried onions, pizza in a crowded, enclosed space! It's like traveling in 3rd Class steerage with the other immigrants in 1893.

Now that the airlines no longer feed us (even bad airline food was something), folks are left with no alternative but to bring aboard sacks of Burger King and Sbarro. But - phew! - what a stench! And it seems the stench is only part of the problem, as the New York Times revealed in "Beware of the Squish Behind the Jet Seat" . Classify it as "Stuff I Really Didn't Want to Know," and file with all those reports on hotel rooms and restaurants.

I'd bring a little Febreeze and Lysol on board with me, but that - as we know - is no longer allowed. It sets me thinking, though. Which is the bigger security risk? A few ounces of antibacterial sanitizer, or the remnants of the "squish behind the seat"?

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Happy Wedding Day, Garth and Claire!

Remember when I posted about Garth's unique marriage proposal to fair Claire? Well, today's the big day! The wedding's taking place in Jefferson City, Missouri, and I tried all sorts of financial and logistical ways to be there, but, sadly, it couldn't happen. I truly hate that I can't be there. I'm sure all the fun will be posted on the young couple's nuptial website, but, man - I'd love to be a part of it all.

I did send along two lovely Williams-Sonoma apple green pie dishes, since I know for a fact that Garth makes a mean apple pie (usually with my Kanuga apples). And I expect both of those dishes to be full of good stuff and brought along to our Thanksgiving celebration next month.

Happy Wedding Day, friends!

Friday, October 20, 2006

Wuzzup, London?

By this time next Friday, I'll be cooling my heels in London for the weekend before heading up to Sizzlin' Swanwick, Derbyshire, for a conference. I plan to spend Sunday down Surrey way with Jean and Aubrey, my English "parents" (they're not really my parents, but they've looked after me in one way or another for 30 years), and meeting up PT and Jo (I hope we're still on, right?).

But I have no London plans on Saturday.

What I should do is get back to the Imperial War Museum or the National Army Museum for more research on my book. But I only have one day, and I'd hate to get buried in dusty tomes (I do love being buried in dusty tomes), only to have to dig out after a few hours knowing I couldn't come back the next day. Not enough time, in other words. So scratch that idea.

Nothing interests me theatre-wise. I mean, some things look OK, but not enough to plop down the equivalent of $80-90. I'll save that theatre money for Broadway.

I don't have enough dinero to go on a shopping spree, though you can count on my indulging the need to purchase tea and soap when in England. (Not that we don't have tea and soap in the US, I just have a couple of favorite English brands that are cheaper in the UK.) Anyway, I understand the dollar's not worth poo over there right now. Guess unbridled purchases of sweaters and tweed are out.

So what else? A museum or two? Browsing bookstores (but, oooooh, the temptation!)? Strolling through the parks? A self-guided tour - maybe a photo scavenger hunt (and you'll get to see the piccies)?

Ah, well, I'll decide when I get there.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

The Curse of the Suddenly-Stopplies

They crowd our city's sidewalks. They over-populate staircases, hallways, and the ends of escalators. They look just like you. They look just like me. (Yes, frightening!) You can't spot them until it's too late. They are . . .

The Suddenly-Stopplies!

Smoothly flowing pedestrian traffic comes to an abrupt halt when the Suddenly-Stopplies mindlessly and without regard for public safety - BAM! - stop in their tracks.

Oh! The humanity!

The scene is straight out of a Wes Craven slasher flick: people crashing into each other, piling up all over the place, trains of thought carelessly interrupted. Blood. Guts. Everywhere.

What causes this zombie-like disregard for the forwardly-moving living? Studies show that about 99% of the time, normal mobile-progressive people are stopped dead in their tracks for one of two reasons: 1) cellphone manipulation, or 2) iPod knob-fiddling.

Yes, folks, there are people walking amongst us who are physically and/or mentally unable to answer/dial a cellphone or play around with their iPod thingy without coming to a full stop, completely clueless as to the maimage and mayhem they leave in their wake. (But thank God, they caught that phone call or switched around their music choices! Whew!) The rest of us will just have to pick ourselves up, bandage our skinned knees, and ice down our black eyes. All thanks to . . .

(insert anxiety music here) - The Suddenly-Stopplies!

Pungent Paper

Need paper? Forget sheepskin. That diploma or fancy stationery may actually be made of sheep poo. According to the BBC (among others):

Creative Paper Wales has produced greetings cards and gifts made from the by-products of its woolly neighbours.

Its Sheep Poo Paper products have won a £20,000 Millennium Award for "social entrepreneurship".

After the sheep droppings are collected, they are sterilised, washed and mixed with other recycled paper. This is then turned into the finished paper and cardboard while the washing water is distributed to local growers as concentrated fertiliser.

Liz, when you say the Welsh are fond of sheep, you aren't stretching the truth. Gotta love a country that finds creative things to do with sheep-poo!

Deaf AND Dumb

I was sitting next to a kid on the subway this morning who had his iPod ear-buds planted deep into his eardrums, oblivious to the world around him - well and good, we were on a crowded subway, after all. And yet, he may as well have had two big speakers hooked to his head. I could hear every riff, beat, syllable, and grunt of what he was cruisin' to on the early morning train.

Now, maybe I don't understand this new-fangled technology. Perhaps jamming little earphones down the ear canal and pumping up the volume won't damage this kid's hearing one little bit, although the music was loud enough to damage mine. I looked around the train. Fully 60% of the the folks crammed into the 4-Train had those little iPod ear-buds buried in their ears. Several around me were clearly audible to the outside world.

I'm sounding like an old lady, I know, and I well remember all the crazy warnings we got from crabby geezers back in the day (mainly about sleeping in brush rollers, I recall). Still I can't help but think the masses are destroying their hearing.

On the upside, I see big money in the coming years for auditory specialists and hearing aid manufacturers, though I think the ears of a generation or two will be damaged beyond all salvation. New frontiers in sign language and body language will open up, since no one will be able to hear. What a retirement opportunity for us baby boomers (those who didn't destroy their own hearing at a Grand Funk Railroad concert in 1973) - language interpretation for Gen X and Y! The old leading the deaf.

Now, either turn the volume down or pull those damn things outta your ears, you idiots!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

What's on the Tube? Forty Years Ago Tonight.

Boy, there has been nothin' on television recently (except for Turner Classic Movies, of course). Aren't we supposed to be in the hot-and-heavy new fall line-up season? Are people really still interested in "Survivor," "Extreme Makeover," and "Dancing with the Stars"? OK. I'll admit I'm somewhat hooked on the weirdly fascinating "Project Runway" which has its finale tonight, but if push came to shove, I could easily live without it.

Anyway, for grins I thought I'd check what was on TV forty years ago - my early high school heyday - to see if things were any better. Remember, folks, there were only three network options.

1966-67 Season, Wednesday Nights

ABC: Batman
The Monroes
The Man Who Never Was
Peyton Place

CBS: Lost in Space
The Beverly Hillbillies
Green Acres
Gomer Pyle, USMC

NBC: The Virginian
Bob Hope Presents The Chrysler Theatre

Never heard of "The Monroes" or "The Man Who Never Was." I was obviously in the "The Beverly Hillbillies"/"Green Acres" camp. (I'm a little embarrassed about that now, yeah.) But I'll stand up straight and tall for "Batman" and "Peyton Place" (though I'm sure I had to sneak upstairs to watch the notoriously steamy PP). In fact, I'd kinda like to watch re-runs of "Peyton Place" - really young Mia Farrow, Ryan O'Neal, Barbara Parkins (what ever happened to her?), Christopher Connelly.

Still, the schedule looks better than tonight's (with 2000 channels). Thanks for the list, Wikipedia.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Lip-s'mac-in' Good

It's a grey/gray rainy day here in New York, so talk quickly turns to comfort food. Imagine our delight at finding a restaurant on the isle of Manhattan that specializes in - ta-da! - macaroni and cheese!

Yes, Sarita's Macaroni & Cheese on E. 12th Street has moved to the top o' the restaurant list. What a concept! According to the New York Post (October 2, 2006):

Even with all the delays, when they opened their doors in late June, they weren't ready for the onslaught. Despite torrential rain, the lines snaked down the block - and the throngs kept coming.

"We got slammed," says Sarita. "The volume changed everything. We went from a four-person staff to a 14-person staff in five days."

The volume continued to increase, thanks to good press and word-of-mouth. Today S'MAC feeds as many as 500 people a day, eating skillets filled with Nosh, Major Munch, and Mongo-size portions of mac-'n'-cheese.

Those dishes run from $4.25 for a small skillet of traditional mac cheese to $16 for a large Cajun (with green pepper and andouille sausage) or Masala (with Indian spices). Other varieties include goat cheese, brie, cheeseburger and manchego.

All-American (the regular stuff we know and love), 4 Cheese, Goat Cheese, Gruyere, Cajun - well, the list goes on. And ya' gotta love a place that has a Mac-and-Cheese Happy Hour. Da-yum!

Diet-schmiet. Sometimes a girl just needs a little mac-n-cheese lovin'.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Headline News, Shorty-style

Disgusting Eye Crud Miraculously Cured! Yeah, sure - after constantly squirting antibiotic drops in my eye for a week. Still, I'm good to go and have no need for a corneal specialist.

Rice Krispies Treats Made from Scratch in New York Apartment! Um. Evidently that's news here. Everybody in my office thinks RK Treats come pre-made, shrink-wrapped, and ripe for purchase at the local convenience store. Boy, will they be surprised when I bring the fresh, home-made kind into work tomorrow! Yum.

Page-Turner Discovered at Book Giveaway! After plodding through my last couple of reads, imagine my surprise when I hit upon a ripping read free of charge at a recent book giveaway. Thank you, Madeleine L'Engle, for A Severed Wasp. It kept me up 'way past my bedtime last night. Can't wait to dive back in tonight!

Edge of Seat for The Uninvited/The Haunting, Asleep By Plan 9! Totally fell into Turner Classic Movies' Friday Fright-Fest, complete with popcorn and Julie Harris' nervous tics. Alas, Shorty was sawing logs big-time by the time Plan 9 hit the airwaves at 2am. But the popcorn was de-lish!

Favorite Scarves Mysteriously Disappear! Two of my blue-toned scarves have completely disappeared. The first went missing a month ago. Did I leave it somewhere? Is it folded away with the t-shirts or socks, out of my sight? I noticed the second scarf was missing last week. Is it stuffed into a coat pocket? Well, I turned the place upside down last night and can't find either one. I'm getting suspicious. But I don't want to falsely accuse anyone, so I'll leave it for now. Hmm.

Now you're up-to-date with the wild goings-on of Shorty. All the news that's fit to blog. Better than Faux News any day!

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Great Read. . .

. . . In the Park. And a beautiful autumn day, to boot. Bryant Park behind the New York Public Library was the scene of author panels, interviews, reading, and signings today. I just wandered around from area to area, and look who I found!

James Ellroy (the bald guy on the right in the picture), author of lots of books, most notably The Black Dahlia and LA Confidential held court in the Blue Tent. (The tent was actually white, but it was called the Blue Tent. Go figure.) I was pretty up-close and personal, but had to stand. Anyway, Ellroy - a real right-winger, by the way - claims not to have a TV or computer, doesn't read books, and never sees movies. I'm always skeptical when I hear folks brag about such things. No wonder he has to set all his books in the past; he seems pretty clueless about the here and now. However, he does write LA/noir/crime humdingers.

Ann Brashares, who writes the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series for kids, read from a couple of her books on the Target Main Stage. Gosh, she's young - doesn't she seem young? I haven't read any of her books, but I did see the film of Sisterhood with young buddy Joanna.

OOh! And look who else was there. Live and in person. Know who it is? Julie Andrews and her daughter Emma read from their latest book, The Great American Mousical, about a mouse who saves a Broadway musical. They also answered questions from lots of little kids in the audience - such good-natured patience, believe me! Wish I'd thought ahead and bought the book to stick under their noses at the "signing booth." Alas, the line of hopeful autograph-seekers wrapped around the park a couple of times. Wonder if Julie and Emma autographed for everybody that was waiting? If so, they're probably still slaving away.

Great Read in the Park - and all for free. Woo-wee!

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Bridge of Whys

Whenever I dream about my hometown Chattanooga, those dreams are invariably located in one of two places: the Wilkes T. Thrasher Bridge over Lake Chickamauga (always travelling in the same direction) and Brainerd Baptist Church (specifically the old church sanctuary and the warren of rooms underneath). Both the bridge and the church seem sinister, creepy, even if nothing particularly scary happens in the dream. It’s the location that sets the creep-tone. And I’m aware of this as I dream.

“Ah, here’s the bridge. I know how this dream is going to make me feel.” Or, “Uh-oh, I’m in the old Sunday School room in the basement. The dream is already disturbing.”

Last night it was the bridge.

I am not afraid of bridges. Living in Manhattan, I'd be in big fat trouble if I were. But there is something about this particular bridge that works its way into the fog of my dreams three or four times a year. As a kid I’d been over it hundreds of times. As a teenager, I’d driven across it. It didn’t scare me then - or maybe it did a little, but not enough to stop me from crossing it. I’ve even driven across it several times as a full-blown adult - aware of the dreams - but the reality and the dreams don't seem to connect. Just a big ol' harmless bridge is the reality.

Still, I dream about this bridge. Whenever I think about the dreams, I feel unsettled and a little scared. I’ve looked at pictures of it taken the 1950’s and 60’s, trying to remember how it felt to cross it. What did I look at as we drove across? What was the sensation of moving from one side to the other? But nothing comes to mind that would be the root cause of these odd dreams.

Guess a therapist would have a field day. Too bad. It ain't worth $100 bucks an hour to me to find out why a perfectly normal bridge pops up in my dreams as a scary place. Still. Hm. (Now, the church-thing is whole different story . . . )

Friday, October 13, 2006

Plan One From New York

Turner Classic Movies is the greatest television network ever. Bar none. Forget HBO or ESPN or BBC or any of the news networks. Bah! For consistent fabulous entertainment and information, TCM runs rings around all of 'em.

TCM programming wizards know that, say, on an October Friday (the 13th, no less) folks are going to want to watch thriller classics - The Uninvited, The Haunting, Poltergeist - well into the night. Ba-da-bing! Done! And if you haven't OD'd on weird after indulging in those goodies, stick around (at 2am) for TCM Underground, which is showcasing the likes of Plan 9 From Outer Space and Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! this month. Who could pass up the opportunity to have another go at Plan 9 or Faster Pussycat?

Daily star-themed film-fests and interesting category groupings - like this month's "Architecture in Film" series - are brilliantly conceived and executed. And if the films are lucky enough to have intros by Robert Osborne or one of the other hosts, even better. Great for background and "be sure to notice" reminders. Well. I could go on and on. Suffice it to say that you can always count on Turner Classic Movies to deliver the goods.

And they ain't payin' me a dime to promote 'em, folks.

I'm stocking up on popcorn and cider for the thrill-fest. Here's hoping I can stay awake for Plan 9 From Outer Space. That's Plan 1 From New York for tonight.

"Dismiss Be My Lucky Day!"

Friday the 13th doesn't have to be so bad. I decided to shun the iconic hockey-mask-wearing Jason in favor of an obviously gentler movie illustration celebrating the 13th. (Never heard of it, by the way - wonder if Turner Classic Movies will show it today?)

My advice for getting through the 13th day of October that happens to land on a Friday: just grab the day by its throat and spit in its eye. That's right. Walk under that ladder. Find a black cat to befriend. Break a few mirrors. We ain't scared o' no stinkin' Friday the 13th!

(The post title, for your information, is from an episode of Our Gang/The Little Rascals, in which the teacher asks Buckwheat to use the word "dismiss" in a sentence. Hey, it works for me!)

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Eye Was a Teenage Werewolf

My left eye has been turning into a real monster lately. Every other week or so, it decides to swell up, water, and look spooky. No, I haven't been wearing a contact lens in that eye. Last weekend at the conference in Virginia, it felt like I had an eyeful of ground glass. It turned blood red and hurt like all git-out.

I've been to the eye doctor every day this week - and yes, I'm scheduled again tomorrow. The good news is that there is no ground glass in my eye (coulda fooled me). The bad news is that I have 3 abrasions on my cornea, and we can't figure out why. I've been on two different eye-drop therapies this week. At present, I'm putting antibiotic drops in every hour (earlier, it was every 15 minutes). Seems they can't figure out if it's just surface abrasions or something viral.

Anyway, if things aren't better by tomorrow morning, they're sending me to a corneal specialist. And tomorrow's Friday the 13th. I'm moaning already.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The Disappearing of John Hancock

Guess the real translation of the writing on Nebuchanezzar's wall was: "Sorry I have to deliver your doom this way. My keyboard and laser printer are broken."

The Washington Post reports that the handwriting's on the wall as far as, er, handwriting's concerned. This makes me a little sad. Kinda like the let's-get-rid-of-the-penny issue. How depressing that teachers are foregoing traditional cursive penmanship instruction, in favor of teaching to standardized tests and keyboarding.

I've always thought that handwriting was as distinctive a personal trait as a name or mannerisms. Though we were all forced to write one specific way when we were learning cursive (as demonstrated in the little handwriting workbooks we slaved over in elementary school), by junior high school everyone had launched out with his/her own personal style of writing.

Ah, those little writing books! It was a real milestone to begin cursive writing instruction in the 2nd grade (after Christmas - had to use block letters before Christmas). Very grown-up.

And can't you tell your friends' writing at a glance (all those notes passed back and forth, doncha' know)? Why, to this very day when I get a birthday or Christmas card, I can tell who it's from by the handwriting on the envelope. The twins, Sharon and Susan, write a lot alike, as expected, and in the style of our old handwriting practice books. Emily - neat, loopy. Linda - prints block letters, never liked cursive so I guess she'll be happy about its demise.

It's the same with family members. Daddy's handwriting was very scratchy with lots of parallel vertical strokes. Mother wrote small and neat - very readable. My cousin Ann likes to keep her lines straight so she uses a ruler (or appears to) that blunts the bottom of her letters. Daughter Kate writes neatly but very, very tiny. (Why is that, child?)

Many of my English friends' handwriting looks similar - though rounder and straighter than the way we were taught here. I've always wondered what their handwriting books looked like. I'll bet the cursive template is different from the one we Americans used.

So, yeah. I'm sad about losing cursive writing. As wonderful and readable as keyboarded or block letters are, the personality, the artistic bent, the frustration or elation of distinctive cursive writing will be lost. Seems sadly Orwellian somehow. Sigh.

Homer and Roseanne - Keepin' it Real for Halloween

Two sitcoms that always hoist the skull and crossbones in celebration of Halloween are The Simpsons and Roseanne. Let the other riff-raff grovel over Valentine's Day, these two know a real holiday when they see one.

As Johnno pointed out in an earlier comment, The Simpson's annual "Treehouse of Horror" is always worth a watch. The writers do an absolute top-notch job of ripping off every iconic horror thread - Poe, Stephen King, Rod Serling - and it makes the segments 'way funnier and more brilliant if you're familiar with the original source. Plus, they do funny things with the titles. Here's a guy who gives his opinion on the top 5 ToH episodes. Who can choose just five? Can you leave out "House of Whacks" or "Hex and the City"? Grab a Duffs and a bag of candy corn and enjoy.

The Connor family of Roseanne-fame knew how a solid, loving, mid-American family should celebrate Halloween. It was kind of a cross between Halloween and April Fool's Day, with everybody trying to out-scare everybody else. The parties! The costumes! The fake blood! A real family holiday (in comparison to the disastrous Thanksgivings and Christmases they shared). The Roseanne Halloween shows have been compiled on DVD this year. Not trying to sell you anything, but if you scroll past all the Amazon money-grabbing information, you'll find a good list/synopsis of the episodes. Sure to bring back fond memories.

What other sitcoms have good Halloween episodes (not counting The Addams Family and The Munsters)?

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Gee whillakers!

I've taken to saying "gee whillakers" at the drop of a hat. It's never really been in my cache of exclamatory phrases, so I have no idea where it's coming from. I do know it saves me from saying "god dammit" when I trip on the sidewalk, or "asshole!" when a guy on a bicycle almost runs me down. "Expletive deleted" is what I really mean to say, but that takes more effort than "gee whillakers."

"Gee whillakers!" OOoooo! Scary. I sound as ferocious as Beaver Cleaver or Bud Anderson. Any day now I'll start smacking people with my umbrella. One tough old lady, I tell ya'!

Monday, October 09, 2006

It's that time of year

Halloween's just around the corner, so it's time to revisit our Halloweeny movie list. Here's last year's post, complete with my criteria and Top Twelve. Agree? Disagree? What would you add (sorry, no subtractions)? And, of course, the age-old question: is The Nightmare Before Christmas a Halloween movie or a Christmas movie?

I also posted on the dearth of Halloween songs here, which morphed into a respectable list of dead-teenager songs (very popular in the 1950s and 60s) here. A run-down of scary men o' the movies are posted here. Scary chicks, here. Feel free to add to.

Now, you have almost a whole month to indulge in classic movie and music horror. Ooooooooooooh! Mwah-ha-ha-ha-ha!

Friday, October 06, 2006

Missing Kanuga

It's Kanuga-time for All Saints' parish/Atlanta. Except for 1996, I've been a part of that wonderful weekend every year since 1983 - Kate, as a 4-month-old, was the youngest attendee. I posted about Kanuga last year - here and here - so I won't repeat myself. I can't believe I won't have any Kanuga apples to munch on for the next month. Sigh. BIG Sigh.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Lack of Wax

Originally, this post was going to be a brilliant waxation of things autumnal. Lots of little gleaming bits and bobs about why this is my absolute favorite time of year, something wonderfully evocative of crispy air, outrageous colors, bundly-up sweaters, and food - chili, hot cider, Rice Krispie treats, candy corn (and yeah, you can have that stuff all year, but it tastes best in the fall).

Once started, though, all that brilliant wax turned out to be just a small flat tin of dried-up polish-chunks. I got nothin', here. So I've been reading all of your blogs, hoping that some of your wise, supple, waxiness will replenish my own paltry supply. But your creamy writing hasn't rubbed off on me. So I'll just wax informational instead of philosophical.

Heads-up, England - conference in Derbyshire, end of the month. That's right, Shorty's hitting Albion for Halloween. But I'll only have a couple of days to goof around before the conference. (And no Wales, this time around, Liz.) Say, PT, what's going on at Ottershaw the weekend of the 27th? Do I need to purchase a ticket ahead of time?

Liz tagged me to divulge five weird things about myself. To tell the truth, I'm having a hard time with that. Shouldn't that info come from someone else? Maybe what I think is normal about myself, others see as weird (and vice versa). OK, well, let me give it a go:
  1. I'm addicted to edemame, pomegranates, and gummy worms. Can't get enough of any of 'em.
  2. I don't get/like The Sopranos. Sorry, I've tried. Just don't see what the big deal is. And since everyone else in the world thinks it's the best show since Mr. Ed, I must be weird.
  3. I walk really fast. Faster than almost anyone. Faster even than New York people.
  4. I love winter more than summer. (And I'll really miss my fireplace this winter.)
  5. I don't like coffee.
I'll be at a conference in Alexandria, Virginia, this weekend. And I'm not taking the laptop. How scary is that? Out of e-touch until Sunday afternoon. Big step, I know, but I thought I'd cut the cord -metaphorically speaking, since the laptop's wireless - for a couple of days.

Now I'm feeling all Halloweeny. OOooooh. So much for the wax.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006


The streets of New York are a veritable nose-feast for a dog. Sidewalks, building corners, fire hydrants, and scaffolding supports offer up a big banquet of smells that only a dog could love.

City canine owners snap the leash on the dog's collar and head toward the park, hoping for a brisk walk or jog. But after a couple of hopeful strides - yank! - the dog has found a message from another dog, left cryptically next to the curb, and simply must smell what it has to say. Woe be to the leash-holder who is not prepared to be tugged left, right, left, left again, no right, ooh! what's up ahead?, right during Poochie's perambulation.

The other day some smug-ass wrote in to the paper to tell how he always brought bottled mineral water with him to wash down the curb/sidewalk when his dog took a pee. Another guy wrote in to say that not only was mineral-water-guy unbearable pretentious but that since Rover's pee is kind of like doggie-email, he was -in effect - deleting all of his dog's email responses to "messages" left along the way.

So I try to be patient with Bailey on our walks as she reads and responds to all her "pee-mail." I guess it replaces the "twilight bark" made famous in 101 Dalmations.

Sunday, October 01, 2006


A week ago 17-year-old Henry was a healthy, active kid with lots of friends, a close family, and the world at his doorstep. But early yesterday morning Henry died from severe injuries received last Sunday on a rain-soaked Atlanta road when another car lost control and slammed Henry's car into oncoming traffic. He held on for almost a week, with massive brain and internal damage. Though the result of the accident reached its conclusion in Saturday's wee hours, the point at which everything changed - for Henry, for his family, friends, and acquaintances - was the instant his car hit the other car.

That's how change - bad or good - happens, even when we're not paying attention or aware of some event a block, a city, a world away from us. In a blink. An instant. A nanosecond. A lottery win or a devastating investment loss taking us down another life-path - blink! A brilliant idea out of nowhere or a momentary lapse resulting in a serious mistake changing our careers - blink! One right word, one wrong word affecting a relationship forever - blink!

It makes for interesting after-dinner-and-several-glasses-of-wine conversation, but we'd live in constant paralysis if we thought too much about stuff like this. We do what we can, but we just have to get on with things, day by day the best we know how. But tucked way back in our brains, we know that everything can change in the blink of an eye.

This time last week, Henry was healthy and alive. So was that young woman at the high school in Bailey, Colorado. This week, families and friends are completely gutted and heart-broken. But in the same week, babies were born, new jobs acquired, folks who hated each other started talking again, fortunes made.