Thursday, May 31, 2007

Constructive Vandalism at Wal-Mart

Wandering around the aisles of Wally World tonight, I saw a stack of brown card tables with a red sale sticker for $20.00 each. Humm...not a bad price for a card table if I needed one.

Taped above the stack of tables was a sign that read:

"FOR YOU COLLAGE STUDENT (brown tables only)"

I stared at the sign for a minute, trying to register what it was supposed to say.

Then I got exasperated. The more I read the sign, the more exasperated I got. Don't kids pay attention in English class any more? Can't anyone besides me see the sign is incorrect? Doesn't anyone give a damn about doing a good job? Is there no shame???

It was bad enough that someone had printed and hung the sign with misspelled words. Well, OK, we all have our bad days and everybody makes mistakes now and then. But worse than that, it had hung there for days without anyone fixing it. I know the folks at Wally World probably aren't English majors, but really!

I couldn't help myself. Something had to be done. I took out the big, fat Marks-A-Lot I keep in my purse and corrected it.

Tomorrow I hope someone who works in that department sees the corrections and replaces the sign. My fear is that they won't understand what is wrong with the old one.

Sigh.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

It's the End of the World as We Know It...

-or-
THREE THINGS ABOUT THE YEAR 2012

The History Channel is airing a series called The Universe and tonight was the premier episode, Secrets of the Sun. We couldn't tear ourselves away from the tube. It was fascinating stuff. They were able to make astrophysics accessible to ordinary bubbettes like me who can barely find the Big Dipper most nights. Woo Hoo! I highly recommend this show. I hope the rest of the episodes are just as great.

One of the things I learned is that the sun has an eleven-year cycle of sunspot activity. Sunspots and solar flares occur most when the sun changes its magnetic polarity or plasma rotation or something like that. Solar flares blast radioactive plasma goo out into the universe like a shotgun. If the plasma happens to shoot towards Earth, it toasts our electronics because the radioactivity interrupts the flow of electrons. If the sun shoots a double-ought buckshot load of plasma goo towards earth, people will be toast.

The period during the eleven-year cycle with the most sunspot activity is called the solar maxima, and the last one was in 2001. The next one is predicted for 2012.

I recommend Toast Protector© SPF 4500 sunscreen, or a lead jumpsuit, whichever is most suitable for the conditions.

+++++++++++

Ten years ago I attended an investment brown bag lunch at my local Edward Jones office. The speaker explained the huge financial impact Baby Boomers have on the stock market and the economy as a whole. Basically his advice was to figure out what Baby Boomers are buying, then buy stock in that company. You will quadruple your money.

He also said when Baby Boomers start to reach retirement age, they will begin pulling their money out of the stock market for lower risk investments. The stock market will then go into a 30-year decline the likes of which the U.S. has not seen since the Great Depression. This decline is predicted starting in 2012.

I recommend buying stock in OTC arthritis medications, but sell before Dec. 31, 2011.

+++++++++++

The ancient Mayan calender, which seems to be uncannily accurate, ends soon. Some people interpret this as the date the Mayans calculated to be end of the world because they didn't bother to make a new calender. Others interpret this date as the end of an "age" when the world as we know it is supposed to be "transformed." The last day of the Mayan calender and the specified date for said transformation is Dec. 21, 2012.

I wonder if the Mayans figured out we would be transformed into toast by a killer solar flare? That would consolidate several theories very nicely. I think they just failed to get the new calender to the printers before their whole civilization croaked.

+++++++++++

It seems that something big is gonna happen around 2012. I don't know whether I will be transformed or toasted or transformed into toast. Either way I'm sellin' my stock. The moral of the story is to enjoy the next five years because in 2012 we may all be screwed.



Cue R.E.M. tune:
It's the end of the world as we know it.
It's the end of the world as we know it.
It's the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine.

A Portrait of My Grandfather


This is a portrait of my grandfather, a man I never knew. It is a beautiful portrait, stark in composition with exquisite lighting, capturing the intimate details of an ordinary man.

It is haunting, timeless, and speaks volumes.

It should be hanging in an artsy New York photography gallery.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Memories of Mardi Gras beads

I have a coffee mug filled with a few strings of Mardi Gras beads. I actually got them from a bar on Beale Street in Memphis where I sang Mustang Sally with the band, but that's not why I keep them. They bring back memories of another set of beads from my childhood.

The Mardi Gras beads of my memory are hanging on a coat hanger (known as a rack at our house) on the coat closet door. Daddy brought them to us girls from the actual Mardi Gras in New Orleans. He went every year by himself courtesy of the U.S. Navy.

Daddy was a Chief Petty Officer in the Naval Reserves for a hunnert years after serving two active duties in WWII and the Korean War. He looked very handsome in his uniform with all the braids and stripes and medals and stuff. Since he had seniority over just about every CPO in the nation, he got first dibs on where he would serve his annual two-week training duty. He picked the New Orleans naval base during Mardi Gras every year.

I remember the strands of beads hanging there on the rack on the closet door. I was not allowed to touch them because my obsessive-compulsive older sister had just finished sorting them by color, style and length. They hung there like a sacred cow for a long time, several weeks maybe. I suppose I eventually did get to touch them, play with them, break them, and lose them. Now I remember why I wasn't allowed to touch them.

Anyway, my current beads remind me of those beads, of how Daddy made a point to collect them and bring them back to us, and how special that made me feel. They remind me of how handsome Daddy looked in his uniform and how proud I was to be his daughter when he was wearing it. They remind me that my quiet, unassuming father probably had a wild streak he let loose for two weeks every year.

I'm keeping these beads forever.

Memories of the Dyer Street House

Uncle E.B. and Aunt Paralea - Circa 1947

Some of my earliest memories are when I was two or three years old and was at my Aunt Paralea's house, or The Dyer Street House. She kept me during the day from the time I was two-ish until I was four. Through the years my aunt, grandmother, and great-grandmother's half-brother lived in the Dyer Street house there so there is no telling how long it has been in the family. I remember it had a strawberry patch and a fish pond in the back yard.

The living room had a linoleum "rug" which was blue with a floral pattern. By the time I came along, most of the pattern had been worn off. There was a low bookshelf in one corner with a square compartment door on the lower right-hand side. The door had a round beveled mirror on the front. I would crawl over to it and try to get it open. I never could. I would say "Open Open" until somebody opened it for me. I remember doing this over and over. Funny thing was there was nothing in there. I guess my two-year-old brain didn't retain that information.

Aunt Paralea and Uncle E.B. had two dogs. One was an ancient old blind hound dog that had to take pills. Aunt Paralea would scramble an egg every morning to feed the dog his pill. I don't remember his name but I wasn't allowed to go near him for fear he would bite me. The other dog was a yappy little chihuahua named Danikin. I didn't like Danikin. He was spastic just like every chihuahua I've ever met.

Uncle E.B. and Aunt Paralea didn't have children, so they spoiled me rotten. Aunt Paralea would buy all kinds of cute clothes and dress me up like a doll. She had professional portraits taken of me fairly often too. They fed me Hostess Cupcakes and Twinkies. I would eat the icing and the filling but didn't want the cake part. Uncle E.B. would eat the cake part for me so I didn't have to.

The last memory I have of the Dyer Street house is the day Aunt Paralea died. I was about four or so. We had visited the neighbor lady that morning and the she had given me some bird's eggs from a nest she had accidentally knocked out of the hedgerow. I took the eggs and nestled them in some toilet paper in a cigar box. I put my Barbie doll on them so they would hatch. I was contemplating why they weren't hatching when the doctor came to see about Aunt Paralea. I wasn't allowed to go in the bedroom where Aunt Paralea was so I didn't really know what was going on. Aunt Paralea died that afternoon of a heart attack. She was only 46.

Uncle E.B. remarried a widow lady who had kids and grandkids, so he got a whole new batch of kids to spoil. He was the only grandfather they ever had and they adored him. He moved away from the Dyer Street house so it sat vacant for some thirty-five years or so. I saw him only once more before he died, and he had been widowed once again. He moved back to the Dyer Street house for a year or two before he went to the nursing home. After he died they sold the house for something like $9,000. I shudder to think what condition it was in after all those years.

I always thought Uncle E.B. was just a little hick plumber from a little hick town who probably barely managed to finish the 8th grade. When I read his obituary I was stunned to learn he was an officer in the U.S. Navy, had graduated from U.S. Naval Academy, and later returned to Annapolis as an instructor. How he came to be living in the ratty old Dyer Street house may forever be a mystery. He must have loved my Aunt Paralea very much. After years and years of being married to someone else, his last wish was that he be buried next to Aunt Paralea. They are together once again in our family cemetery.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Garden Photos

The garden is lovely now. Not quite the bushy jungle I was aiming for, but it's only late May. Here are a few photos of my favorite garden goodies:


-----PINK HYDRANGEA-----

The blooms on this are intense pink and big as cantaloupes. They have been glorious with all the rain we've been having.



-----HOSTA-----


I was afraid the after last year's drought, the hosta might not make it to a second year. They came back with a vengeance early this spring and even weathered the Easter frost. Then they started growing straight up like a canna and I didn't know what was going on. I thought hosta were just a low mounding plant. I discovered the tall bits are the bloom stalks. They now have the most delicate little lilac colored blooms.



-----IMPATIENS-----


The front bed is a sea of bushy, mounding impatiens. They too are just glorious this year. In addition to the solid red, pink, and salmon ones in the photo, there are candy-striped varieties in these same colors. Just glorious.


-----WINDOW BOXES-----


The window boxes on the back deck are about the only space I can find to have sun plants. Shown above are: (top to bottom) black sweet potato vine, orange marigolds, lime sweet potato vine, and an electric red variety of geranium. The lime sweet potato vine glows neon green in the noonday sun; grows bushy as well as drips out of the box; and is happy in wet or dry, sunny or shady conditions. Too bad it is an annual. I love the high contrast of color and foliage in this little mini garden.


-----GYM LOCKER MARIGOLDS-----


These are 'Bonanza Bee' marigolds planted in old gym locker baskets. I think they are charming. Hubby says they are cute. The other gym locker basket has rusty-colored marigolds.


-----CALLA LILY-----


I was holding my breath to see if this little guy would bloom this year. I planted three bulbs this spring as an afterthought in the experimental bed. He seems pretty happy there. I hope his two brothers bloom too.

Coons and Skunks and Possums, Oh My!

A steady stream of wildlife ambles through our yard each night. Some are welcome, some not so much. The mangy possum I wasn't too thrilled about, he looked kinda sick.

Last night a skunk wandered by the front step as I was standing five feet away on the porch. At first I thought he was another possum because he was ambling along so slowly. In the darkness I really couldn't tell who he was. When I reached for the Nocturnal Critter Identification Flashlight we keep on the porch, I bumped the table and made a noise. I heard him scurry off into the darkness of the neighbor's yard. When I found him with the flashlight I realized he was Pepe LePew's cousin. Ack! I'm glad I didn't make the noise ten seconds earlier or I might have regretted it for a few days. Those skunk hiney salutes linger around for a while.

Tonight the cutest little guy wandered through the yard and up the neighbor's big oak tree. He seemed as interested in me as I was in him. It's not often the wildlife around here has the patience for me to go inside and retrieve my camera, finagle around with the settings, then sit still long enough to have their picture taken.


(Click on photo to embiggen)

He was about 20 feet up in the tree in the darkness. It's amazing the photos came out this clear. You can see the little hairs in his ears.

It looked like he had had a long day and was looking for some place comfortable to bed down for the night.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Funeral Headquarters

In the obituaries in my hometown newspaper, the last line often reads, "The family will be headquartered at the home of...." This lets folks know where to pay their respects and drop off the casserole without having to drive all over town. While this is a charming Southern tradition when someone dies, I would be appalled to know that at the hour of my death, half the town would descend upon my house only to discover it has been a while since I scrubbed the toilet.

At Funeral Headquarters, the family decides which dress to bury Momma in, picks out music for the funeral and deals with an onslaught of food. How much ham is really necessary to bury someone in Lower Arkansas? When my friend Cindy Lou's momma died, I ended up with a fully cooked ham complete with pineapple rings, Maraschino cherries, and a wonderful glaze. It was still warm from the oven when she foisted it on me at the visitation. She said there were already two whole hams at the house in addition to several sliced ham trays. We ate ham for months afterward...ham steaks, ham sandwiches, diced ham in salads. I didn't know ham would keep in the freezer, but it does, and fairly well too.

Back at Funeral Headquarters, the family also has to deal with the cut-throat actions of the widder women who come to pitch their woo to the newly minted widower. A widowed man with a home, acreage and a military pension is quite a catch around here. The Widder Women walk around Funeral Headquarters redecorating the rooms in their head. You can see it in their eyes, "Oh how tacky, that would *have* to go," and "My sofa would look so great over there by the fireplace." Cindy Lou had to run off two women who had overstayed their welcome battling over her daddy. The third day after the funeral she told 'em they needed to go back home and stay there.

It got me to thinking about the word "headquartered." To me that evokes the idea of a military command post; a place to plan a battle strategy. Is this what we do in Lower Arkansas? Plan a battle strategy against Death? Or is it against the mourners?

Thursday, May 17, 2007

I Feel The Earth Move, Under My Feet...

Yep, we had an earthquake yesterday here in Our Town. 3.0 on the Richter Scale. It scared me silly, mostly because it was stormy outside and the sky was green. When the house started shaking I thought it was a tornado taking me off to Oz. My first thought was, "Dang! I'm not in the closet! Where are the tornado sirens??? Where is the freight train sound??? I didn't get any warning! Crap!!"

Then I looked at my puppy who was laying beside me. She was totally unperturbed about the whole thing, so I nixed the idea of a tornado. Puppy Girl would have been coming unglued if it had been a tornado. She's my four-legged weatherman.

Next I figured one of the chemical plants had blown up. Nope. No sirens. Incoming missile attack? Nope, that would garner sirens too. Maybe it was just my house shifting due to ground heave because of all the rain. Not good, but not life threatening. That theory worked for me so I went back to working on the computer about 30 seconds after the tremor.

The whole episode lasted about five seconds, but it seemed much longer. For me it was akin to sitting in the back of a pickup truck as it bounced along a gravel road. I was sitting still in my chair but it was skip, skip, skipping across the floor. No traction whatsoever. I've felt rumblings like this in the past, but much smaller and usually in the wee hours of morning. Hubby said I was imagining things. Yay! I now have validation! It was published in the local paper so it must be true!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

25 Years of Wedded Bliss, Maybe Not

Today is my 25th wedding anniversary. Hubby and I have been kinda, sorta together for 26 years if you count the year we dated before we got married. There was a nasty little episode of an eight-year sabbatical to Texas, but we won't speak of that.

Hubby says his greatest joy in life is having me by his side. I think the boy is a little more than crazy. I'm no saint to live with, but he married me twice so I have no reason to doubt his warped sense of happiness. I have no idea why he enjoys living with an old curmudgeon like me but he does. Maybe it's because he's an old curmudgeon too. We think alike. We put up with each other. We get each other's jokes. We can have intelligent conversations, or laugh at the fact we killed a few brain cells along the way and can't remember all the words to have an intelligent conversation. There's something rather comfortable about living like that. Kinda like slipping into your favorite pair of jeans. They fit you perfectly and you only. Just right.

Tomorrow we will start on Year 26. It will be a little faded at the knees, a little ragged at the bottom, and it will have a little hole here and there. But it will be just right.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Southern Belle Circadian Rhythms

I like to sleep. I am a power sleeper. However, unlike most of the civilized world, I like to sleep from about 3:00 a.m. until about 11:00 a.m. Hubby teases me about getting up at the crack of noon.

My brain doesn't start functioning well until the sun goes down. Moonbeams cause the creative juices to flow and the higher-level thinking skills to ramp up into gear. My best mental work happens in the wee small hours of midnight. Cousin Tommy Darrel says I'm livin' on Tokyo time. Sissy says I just have different circadian rhythms from other people. I tell folks I'm second cousin to a vampire.

It's been problematic I'll admit. College classes at 7:00 or 8:00 a.m. were real killers. Do civilized people actually think about perpetual inventory systems at that hour? Later, in the corporate world, trying to read a three-inch thick contract at 7:30 a.m. was pretty pointless. The ol' gray matter was still congealed.

I discovered my night-owl habits are merely my biological imperative to be a proper Southern Belle. Validation was found in Being Dead is No Excuse: The Official Southern Ladies Guide to Hosting the Perfect Funeral, by Gayden Metcalfe and Charlotte Hays (edited here for space considerations):

"Like Count Dracula, who was from a lovely old family, Southern ladies of a certain ilk and age only come alive at night. One or two in the morning is the normal bedtime for the night-owl belle. She sits up all night smoking cigarettes, watching TV, or drinking gin. While the rest of us are in bed getting our zzz's, the night-owl belle is flipping through her TV Guide, searching for Dynasty reruns, and not even thinking about applying her Swiss Performing lotion for another hour or so. The night-owl belle won't want to make conversation at an hour she regards as daybreak, which, roughly translated, is any time before midday."

Yes! Sing it sister! I have been vindicated. I just knew there was a reason for my night-owliness; I am a true Southern Belle. My momma raised me right.