Monday, September 29, 2008

Catching Up

Hummm.....where to start?

An elderly neighbor who lived three doors down passed away on the 17th. Her son Junior took the few things he wanted and gave Janie (her across-the-street neighbor) and I carte blanche to use our womanly sense to go through the house and toss or donate things appropriately. Stuff was heaped head high throughout the house. We worked all last weekend clearing things out.

Most of it was pure-dee trash: bags and bags and bags of plastic bags, boxes of empty boxes, utility bills from the 1960s and 1970s, unopened junk mail from the past decade, crappy plastic knick-knacks. What is it with little old ladies and the hoarding of plastic bags, empty boxes and plastic butter tubs??? It made me want to come home and throw away everything in my house but the furniture. Junior still has lots to go through but at least the trash is gone so he can see what's there.

I took a few things: a T-shirt, a new leather purse, a couple of books, and a few handkerchiefs. They had that little old lady smell to them and sat on my porch all last week airing out. The books are still out there.

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I drew some McCain political cartoons here, and dabbled with my first attempt at watercolors here.

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I spent Monday and Tuesday designing and drawing two logos for Our Town. The tourism promotion board folks are having a logo contest to update the look of their promotional material. The winner gets $1,000, second place $500. What the hey, I can draw. I sent them in. We could use the money.

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Wednesday we went to the funeral of my brother-in-law's father. It hacked me off severely. The man was a well-loved major figure in the little town where he lived. He achieved some major accomplishments in his lifetime. He was an active member of the little church where the funeral was held.

With all the people that knew him, with all that he had done, the only time he was mentioned during the funeral was when the preacher read the obit from the program. The remaining time was the preacher practicing his Sunday sermon. Not even a humorous fishing story.

Could they find no one to stand up and eulogize this poor guy? Dang. I ended up doodling a sketch of the preacher on the back of the program and scribbling snide comments about the sermon. Sigh. There's an hour of my life I'll never get back.

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Thursday I looked for more lost alums.

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Friday I had a Brian Wilson day. I locked myself in the bedroom and told Hubby and the cats they were under threat of death if they bothered me. I watched a marathon of CSI: New York and tried to get a little alone time.

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Saturday the particulate count in the house got toooooo high. I had to clean. I pulled apart every room in the house except the kitchen and cleaned things like they ain't never been cleaned before. Stuff got washed, scrubbed, waxed, polished, detailed, bleached, scoured, repaired, whatever. House is much happier. My hands and back not so much.

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Sunday I rested and napped...and blogged.

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I realized tonight that I forgot my sissy's birthday last week. All she ever wants for her birthday is acknowledgement of the day...a phone call or a card. I did neither. Crap.

She always remembers mine.

I feel lower than snake poo.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

# 5 Washtub for Miss Healthypants

This was too long for the comments section, plus I wanted to show photos. For those folks who know what a #5 washtub is, move along, move along. Nothing to see here.

For Miss Healthypants who was apparently raised on concrete, this is a #5 washtub:



Country folks all had one and it hung on a peg on the back porch. On Saturday night it was filled with water (while still on the back porch) from the well and you took a bath in it. Your legs hang over the sides and there is lots of sloshing. That's why baths took place on the back porch.


Of course most country folk don't look like this lady during a Saturday night bath.

After indoor plumbing came along the washtub wasn't used for baths anymore but all grannies kept one anyway. If you got too dirty playing outside, your grandma might snatch you nekkid and plunk you in the washtub out in the yard to knock off the big chunks before she let you back inside.

If you got annoying she would plunk you in the washtub along with some dishwashing liquid and a garden hose and let you entertain yourself for a couple of hours blowing bubbles. You got to wash the yard dogs too while you were out there. Grandma was a smart cookie.



Eventually, the washtub would rust out and wouldn't hold water anymore. At that point you either planted maters in it or turned it into a washtub bass.



I worked with a guy who could wail on a washtub bass. I was amazed that an old tub, a 1x4, and a piece of clothesline could really make music...in tune at that!

And that, Miss HP, is a #5 washtub.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Weekend Doodles

A collection of doodles:


I went shopping at Goodwill on Friday but had to cut the trip short because I got a
TMI?

Crap! The notion of a turtlehead stuck in my brain and ya know how that goes...it'll be there until I draw it.



The electricity went out Saturday afternoon as the outer bands of Hurricane Ike started throwing tornados around the county. I sat in the semi-darkness and doodled while listening for weather reports on the emergency radio. Why an eyeball? I don't know. Maybe because I couldn't see well at the time.




Watching the storm surge bash the seawall at Galveston on TV earlier in the day I wondered how sea critters fared in a hurricane.

The horseshoe crab came to mind because I had watched some weird program on animal evolution 20,000 years from now. They had these funky octopus monkey things swinging through the trees and a ginormous T-Rex sized squid that fed on them. Gloriously weird show.

Anyway, one of the strange new critters was a horseshoe crab looking thingy that was the size of a #5 washtub and the terror of the ocean.
Anybody besides Uncle Buck know what a #5 washtub is?



And then in the fading darkness I drew all that I could see...the armillary sphere outside the window in the garden. It's a little whomperjawed because I couldn't make out where all the circles crossed (it's all dark and rusty anyway.)



Tonight I was piddling around with a ball point pen, doodling on a notepad that was supposed to be my grocery list. It developed into a shoe instead. Obviously I wasn't too motivated about making a grocery list.




And these are a couple of rough pencil sketches I did back this summer and unearthed cleaning up my computer nest. The guy is from a photo in my hometown newspaper.
I got one eye perfect. The other one looks like he has a big ol' cataract. I think there was something funny about that eye in the photo anyway.



Just a sweet doggie cuz I like sweet doggies. I really miss my doggie.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Wishing for the Graveyard

I've been busy this past week doing volunteer work for the alumni office of the little college I attended. I am their Friendly Internet Stalker, searching for chronically lost alums, updating addresses of the living, and verifying the dead.

We've been working on the classes of 1950 through 1959 trying to get the database clean. Before 2003 nobody had the time, tools or technology to keep it up-to-date. Some of the addresses are the alum's parent's addresses from back in the '50s...General Delivery, Toad Suck, AR. (Yes, there really is a Toad Suck, Arkansas.)

It's a hoot to call up little old ladies and gents and yak with them about anything and everything. I've found friends of my parents and grandparents, distant cousins, and quite a few colorful characters. Every life is a story and even these 'ordinary' people have some pretty interesting tales to tell.

Back when I first started doing this three years ago, the folks in the alumni office thought I was some kind of a miracle worker. Alas, I've taught them all my tricks so they can easily find folks themselves using a few on-line resources. Now they send me just the hardcore, chronically lost.

It takes about eight hours or so per alum digging around through various ancient records, putting two and two together, then calling some distant relative to verify information for these folks. Usually this list includes the most common names (which are much harder to find): Mary Smith, Margaret Wilson, Bobby Jones, etc. I praise the saints when I get the odd duck like Violet Genevieve Argonaught Brokowski. Easy.

Anywho, I'm looking for a Robert L. Johnson, (June 1917 - ???), deceased. We don't have a date of death or a social security number for him. Obviously my counterpart in the alum office didn't find him in the on-line Social Security Administration List of the Dead, a.k.a. SSDI. We try to verify that everyone marked dead is actually dead. With the very common names sometimes the wrong John Smith got auffed in years past.

I find our guy in the cemetery in the town where he last lived. Matching name and exact date of birth, died in 1977. There isn't a spouse listed in his record so I go looking to see if I can determine if he was married. Lots of alums marry alums, so finding the correct spouse means clearing up two records.

His headstone is a single, but in the little cemetery there is a listing for Evelyn S. Johnson, "loving wife of Robert L. Johnson". She has a double headstone with Robert L. Johnson, Jr. (1958-1988). Yay!, got her.

Evelyn died just two years ago so I look up her old address and phone number. It shows her in the household along with Robert L., no age (which usually means that person is deceased.) I cross reference that to the current phone listings and it shows up still as an active number under Robert's name.

It's not unusual for a wife to leave the phone in hubby's name long years after he dies, so that part didn't bother me much. What bothered me was the number was still active two years after everybody was seemingly dead. Hummm.... So I call the number.

Lo and Behold! Robert L. Johnson answers the phone. We chat for a little bit as I explain who I am and what I've found. He is not our alum because he was born in June 1919, not June 1917, plus he graduated from a different college. He confirms that Evelyn is his recently departed wife and she is buried next to their son.

He seems like a sweet little guy but very lonely. He heaves a sigh and says that it's supposed to be the husband who dies first and leaves the wife with all the insurance payoffs and pension funds; that no man should outlive his wife and son. He fills his days with volunteer work with Alzheimer's patients, allowing their caregivers to have a day off every now and then.

I'm busily taking notes and I say softly, to myself really, "So it's *your* wife in the cemetery....(scribble, scribble, scribble)....buried next to *your* son....(scribble, scribble)....but it's not *you* in the cemetery....."

He sighs again and says, "Yeah, but I wish it was."

Monday, September 8, 2008

Tap Shoes

Out on the porch the other night, I hear the strains of a lively tune from some old musical on TV. My foot automatically moves on its own...ta-tick, ta-tick, ta-tick, muscle memory of the tap shuffle from eons ago. I look down at the plastic crocs on my feet and long for my old tap shoes.

I loved, loved, loved my tap shoes. They were black, patent leather Mary Janes with a grosgrain ribbon tie.



They were flat "little girl" tap shoes. Only the girls who had been tapping for years got to wear tap shoes with heels.

I would wear them around the house because I liked the sound of the clickity-click they made on the hardwood floors. It drove my mother nuts. She would yell at me to take them off so they wouldn't scratch the floors.

What she didn't know was in the afternoons before she got home I would roll back the living room rug and tap my little heart out.

I tapped with the grace and coordination of a wounded walrus. I probably looked a lot like the bee girl in the Blind Melon video, but I didn't care. I was tap dancing!!!

Just for that brief moment in time I was Gene Kelley, singing in the rain and tapping away through the rain puddles. I was graceful and talented and the movie producers were knocking on my door, begging me to be in their next big musical. I was the toast of Hollywood AND Broadway.

Then at 5:00 pm I would take off my tap shoes and roll the living room rug over my dreams for another day.

I didn't learn much in the few months I took lessons but shuffle-hop-step and "shuffle off to Buffalo." At least that's all I remember. But every now and then I hear a song that calls for a tapdancer to do it justice, and my right foot begins the ta-tick, ta-tick, ta-tick involuntarily.

Sigh.

I still dream of being Gene Kelley and I still miss my Mary Jane tap shoes.

And I still look a lot like the Bee Girl.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Labor Day Weekend Tale

Mr. Hotdog and Cindy Lou were camping this weekend and Hubby wanted to go out for a visit. I slogged around Saturday and didn't get myself in gear soon enough, so I promised him I would go to bed early so we could start out early Sunday.

Well, the best laid plans.... I got involved with watching Hurricane Gustav track towards New Orleans and figured this would be a repeat of the nightmare of Katrina. Then I started to draw. Always a bad idea to start drawing at 10:00 pm when I should get up early the next day.

I finally went to bed at 6:00 am Sunday after staying up all night piddling with this:



After just three hours of sleep, Hubby woke me up and we started off for the campground. On the way we passed a church sign: "God has a big eraser." I think it is supposed to mean that God will forgive and forget all your sins, but I got a whole 'nuther message:



Yeah, I think funny.

At the campground there was a temporary corral with horses down by the lake. Odd, but I guessed it was somebody running from Gustav. Yep, Louisiana plates. Hubby had to stop and find out the rest of the story.

The guy and two other families had escaped from New Iberia, LA. He said (with a delightful Cajun accent) after Katrina the water had come within two feet of his house. He had ridden in an air boat over two-story houses. He said he wasn't sticking around for Gustav and he wasn't leaving his animals. He had packed eight horses, two cows, and a Shetland pony in the cattle trailer...and the pig in the ice chest.



The pig was on the grill and smelling mighty fine. They were trying to get everything cooked before the rain set in. He was appalled to find nobody sells beer in Arkansas on Sundays. Yes, we're a backward state.

They had left New Iberia at 2:00 pm and had to stop and swap trucks somewhere along the way because one had lost an oil pan. They arrived at the campground at 10:30 pm and finally got the corral up and the horses watered and fed at 2:00 am.

The horses were stressed from the trip and the tight quarters and were biting each other on top of a sunburn. Mr. Cajun agreed they didn't have an ideal situation here, but, "Ees bedda dan swimmin'."

We got to Hotdog and Cindy Lou's camp and Cindy Lou's brother was there too. He's a Harley Davidson guy and has a little pop-up camper trailer he pulls behind his hog.

(click to embiggen)

Cindy Lou liked this sketch so much she wants to frame it and hang it in Brother's Harley Davidson themed bachelor pad living room. I just rolled my eyes.

We finally headed home after a long, hot day of swatting skeeters and picking ticks and chiggers. I made Jambalaya for dinner in honor of our Cajun guests. Man, it was good.

Hubby made me a root beer float for dessert and I promptly fell asleep on the couch around 8:00 pm with my glasses on and Hurricane Gustav coverage blaring on the TV. Around 3:00 am I woke up to find I was clutching a plastic coffee can.



What the hell??? I don't even drink coffee. Why did I have a death grip on this thing? Hubby swears I woke up, had a conversation with him about how I wanted it for some project, and took it from him. I don't remember anything about it.

Sleep deprivation doesn't suit me well.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Breaking in the Sketchbook

So, I have a new sketchbook. What should I put in there? In my brain a sketchbook is a place for doodles, just bits and pieces of stuff that float around. Maybe a place to try out different drawing techniques. My dilemma was whether or not doodles would be worthy of a leather bound volume with fine papers.

Golly, I've seen other artist's sketchbooks and they seem to do complete artwork in their sketchbooks. I don't quite understand that because the artwork is forever bound in a book and most of it spans two pages. How would you ever display that? Would you want to display that? So I pondered on these things for a day or two.

I finally decided that an empty sketchbook was worthless. It had to have something in it. So I decided to write or draw whatever was on my mind. I don't think there are "rules" for what is supposed to be contained in there, so I was free to make up my own rules.

Rule #1: Write/draw something every day.

Rule #2: Lead free

Lead free means no pencil sketches that will later be inked. It means drawing with ink *only*, so if there are boo-boos, the boo-boos are there to stay. No "go-backs." I'm not getting graded on this stuff after all. Lead free will also make me think a little bit before the pen hits the paper. It will force me to "see" what I'm about to draw and really study it. I need to get it right the first time. Re-drawing takes a lot of time and saps the joy out of drawing.

I opened the sketchbook and wrote "Speck's Sketchbook" on the first page and drew a box around it. At the bottom of the page I noted who had given me the book and the date. Phew! No mistakes so far. On the next page I wrote the story of the digital tablet and the surprise sketchbook. So far so good.

Then I faced a blank page. Now what? I remembered a comment from Yellowdog Granny, (paraphrased) "If you can draw a horse's ass, you can draw McCain." So I wrote that at the top of the page for inspiration. I tried to draw McCain as a horse's butt. I didn't do too well in the attempt. I changed pens to a finer point one hoping it would help. Hey, if ya can't draw something, blame it on the pen.

The new pen didn't help but it was much more fun to draw with. I let the pen draw whatever it wanted and just sat back for the ride. Here's the result:



There are clips of some of my favorite doodles here if you're interested in seeing some of these close up. I took the best horse's butt McCain sketch and cleaned it up digitally for you Yellerdawg. Oh, and I drew him with short, stubby arms for Sageweb too.

The rest of the doodles are kinda steampunky. I draw nuts and bolts on things that shouldn't have them. Most of my creations would go well in a Myst game.

I've done pretty good with Rule #2 so far. Rule #1 is already slipping. Oh well, such is my boring life.