Thursday, August 5, 2010

Note to My Self, whoever that is...

Just reminding myself to write about the magical bench...

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Stuff I don't want to forget


You have something in yourself that is fundamentally, basically good. It transcends the notion of good or bad. Something that is worthwhile, wholesome, and healthy exists in all of us....Such goodness is synonymous with bravery. It is always there. Whenever you see a bright and beautiful color, you are witnessing your own inherent goodness. Whenever you hear a sweet and beautiful sound, you are hearing your own basic goodness. Whenever you taste something sweet or sour, you are experiencing your own basic goodness....Things like that are always happening to you, but you have been ignoring them, thinking that they are mundane and unimportant, purely coincidences of an ordinary nature. However, it is worthwhile to take advantage of anything that happens to you that has that particular nature of goodness. You begin to realize that there is nonaggression happening all around you in your life, and you are able to feel the freshness of realizing your goodness, again and again.

Chogyam Trungpa

Stuff my dad said that I don't want to forget--

"I felt like a penny watin' for change" -- means he feels low, bereft of dignity sort of akin to the current-- "and I'm left standing here with my dick in my hand"---

When we were at an intersection and we couldn't get into the flow of traffic because there were so many cars he would say--wryly...
"Well, lookit here, a parade - and we're not in it."

Also he was often "madder than a popcorn fart" ( I never quite got this but understood the mad part...) or madder than a "fart in a frying pan" (ah, the fart references....)

And of course the many names of Jesus. Jesus Christ on a crutch, Jesus Christ on a bicycle. Jesus H.T. Christ (I dunno what it meant-but he said it) Jesus H Christ (more common)

How the world was going to hell: "on a bicycle" (the cycling theme runs through his words- interesting- never saw him on one ever), "In a hatbox", "in a handbasket", "in a rowboat".

When we were going to get a spanking as punishment he'd say we were "goin' to the woodshed." (I know that's a farmerish reference but we were in a suburb in St.Paul, MN- not particularly farm-like)

And the ever popular- "your ass is grass. And I'm the lawnmower."

words I NEVER heard my dad say-- good. happy. pleasant. sure. kind. Not even in conversation. I never heard him say hate. fear or bad either, though.

Words he often used-- don't. why? what's the matter with you?

The story about lying he always told:

A little boy was a terrible liar and one day his dad said, "Every time you tell a lie, I'm going to put a nail into this 2x4." Eventually the 2x4 was filled with nails and the little boy saw how many lies there were and he felt bad about it. He wanted to change this and his dad said, "Well, every time you tell the truth, I'll pull one of the nails out." So the boy tried hard to always be truthful and one day all the nails were gone. When the father showed the boy the board, the boy burst into tears. "Why are you crying, son?" he asked. "Because," the boy replied, "The holes are still there."

I guess this was to illustrate that once you tell a lie the damage has already been done so don't tell lies and you won't have to worry about it.

My dad was not much of a liar. I don't think he was anyway. He was, like all humans, too busy lying to himself.

My dad's handwriting was sloppy but his printing was the squarish hand of an engineer. It always amazed me to look at- it was like artwork with numbers and letters. There was a confidence in it that he never had as a husband or father. He knew math and chemistry well. He felt comfortable with it, it allowed him to express himself. Unfortunately, none of our family had the same vocabulary as he did-- but I loved the way it looked.

Sometimes my brother Bill wears Aqua Velva or some other drugstore after shave and mixed with a bit of cigarette smoke and the smell of beer, it smells like dad in the 80's and 90's. Back in the late 50's and early 60's Dad smelled more like ivory soap, fresh cut grass and musk. That was back in the days when he always wore a hat and cufflinks. We started dinner with a shrimp cocktail (which was liberally sprinkled with chopped celery). He drank Manhattans before dinner- always. For 40 years he did this. And beer. Just not as much as when the 70's hit. In the 50's and 60's he drank beer like a casual consumer of it.

His deep abiding thirst for alcohol did not consume him fully until the 80's. I didn't live at home then so I just saw it occasionally. My brothers and sisters saw that guy. The guy with the flannel shirts and the grey maintenance-man pants (he always had the uniform of a janitor even though he remained employed as a chemical engineer --I think he just FELT like a janitor. So he dressed the part.)

He and my mother used to sing in the car- the little yellow Rambler we had. Our house on Hilton court was white with yellow shutters. ( I wonder if this is why I love the color yellow so much?) My mom would harmonize. They sang "If I Had My Way Dear" and "Dear Old Girl" and "Nothing Could Be Finer (Than to Be in Carolina in the Morning)", "Nobody" (this song was so sad that when my dad sang it I would always burst into tears), "In The Evening By The Moonlight", "After the Ball Is Over," George M Cohan's "Mary", "I'm Always Chasing Rainbows" (Now that I look at this list- these sure are sad songs for the most part) Oh- and that "H-A-double R-I- G-A- N spells Harrigan" song. They loved to sing.

Even when my dad wouldn't sing anymore (- I don't know what happened- it was like he lost his singing voice. All of a sudden he couldn't carry a tune in a bucket) he would request songs from me and my mom. She would play the organ and we would both sing. He used to request "British Grenadiers" (I still know the words to that) "It's a Grand Old Flag" (ever the Cohan fan he often requested "Mary" too), Jolson tunes like "Mammy" and "Sonny Boy".

He loved the trumpet and his most played albums were Al Hurt- Man With a Horn and Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass-Whipped Cream and Other Delights and Tijuana Taxi.

He used to belong to a Classical Record Club when he was in college and I used to play those records constantly on my little red and white record player. It was pretty straight stuff for the most part- Beethoven, Bach, Mozart, Tchaikowsky (sp?). The Shubert always made me sad. The Wagner scared me. I leaned towards the pedestrian and spirited- The Hungarian Dances of Liszt and of course, the Nutcracker.

But without a doubt the work that I played incessantly and can still repeat most every note of in my head is Saint-Saens "Carnival of the Animals" (a toss-off piece that he wrote to amuse himself and others...). I used to conduct this in my bedroom with a pencil and great dramatic arm flourishes. I was about 7 or 8. It amused my dad tremendously and when he would catch a glimpse of me doing it, I would be abashed and embarrassed. He would say "Jean, look at this kid!" as though I were a product of some other planet. He said it to amuse my mom who would giggle and say "What are you doing Hollyann? Are you conducting the symphony?" I would be so red with embarrassment I could hardly nod.

My mom had Patti Page and Doris Day albums that I used to sing along with and mom and dad both had musicals I played all the time: South Pacific (never my favorite), My Fair Lady (knew them all), Oklahoma (O.K.!!!), Kiss Me Kate (Where is the Life that once I led?- loved it. Always a favorite.) My dad adored Sigmund Romberg and the other guy I can't think of right now- viennese-- and he had "The Student Prince" and a few others on album. They were a little thick and ornate for me but I did play and sing them.

This is supposed to be about my dad mostly but I now remember that it is at this precise point in my life where I first started crying when I heard music that moved me. I could hardly conduct it for the tears. It isn't sadness that motivates the tears it is some unearthly ecstasy that moves me. I have never been able to stop this and, in fact, eschew going to the symphony because just the orchestra tuning up starts the tears flowing. I weep from the beauty and the tone and the vibrations. I must say that this is quite an inconvenient reaction and I've always been very chagrined by it. I can't even talk about it without thinking of some music that moves me and tears start to flow. It's crazy. And so am I- ha! By the way, I think my dad understood this reaction to music pretty well.

Oh- The Irish Rovers- dad loved them. He had several of these albums as well.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Spice Drops

Hello, no audience at all except for the ultra-clever Chris,
One of my favorite candies is the spice drop. They should be rife with intense spicy goodness. Unfortunately some manufacturers mean "small gumdrops" when they call their product spice drops. They are usually pretty generic, too; you'll mostly find packages of spice drops under the aegis of the grocery store's private brand. It's a crap shoot as to what flavors will be in them.

If you want the REAL spice drop, Walgreens store brand has them. The orange ones are clove, the red are cinnamon, the green are spearmint, the white are peppermint, the purple/black ones are licorice and the yellow ones are, uh, sugar water? furniture polish? Not sure. Not lemon. If they are supposed to be lemon, they've failed. Maybe they're palate cleansers so you can taste the other spices. But in general, the Walgreens spice drops are authentic.

I like cherry gumdrops and lime ones and orange ones. But they aren't spice drops. Just sayin'. I don't know why the spicier candies seem to be disappearing. You can still get Hot Tamales. There's the spicy goodness of the clove-flavored Necco wafer. Americans seem to like their flavors sweet and not too intense. You don't see the unfortunately named horehound drops much, the C. Howards Violet pastilles are a curiosity and banana flavored things are now limited to ice cream, yogurt and cereals. The other day I bought root beer barrels (also at Walgreens, the last bastion of "older" candies) and I had forgotten how good they are. (Rootbeer, just as a sidebar here, is made with cardamon (that's the flavor you taste in graham crackers) and licorice. Most people in the U.S. don't know this but in other countries around the world these flavors seem obvious.)

I used to take care of the candy aisle at several Walgreens (Wags as the boys on Wall Street call them) and I admit a bit of prejudice in their favor (they were okay to work for but my fondness for them stems more from the fact that they carry items one used to get at the five and dime store of my youth- Rit dye, shoe polish, needles and thread, oil of clove for the toothache, sweet oil for the ear ache, ipecac for nausea (eww, don't try it though- it induces almost immediate vomiting), shoe laces, coloring books, single popsicles playing cards, poker chips, corn cob pipes, plastic ash trays, pipe cleaners etc etc). They are the last bastion of brick-and-mortar stores that sell genuine old candy.

For example, those pink and white peppermint/wintergreen thick pastilles that your grandma had in a candy dish in the living room? You can find them at Walgreens. Butterscotch discs? Yep. The classic red and white peppermint discs? Uh,huh. The almost pyramidal (and I don't believe I'M saying this) overly sweet chocolate (?) covered cream drops? Yeah. And they're as cloying as ever. My grandpa loved them. Walgreens still sells Clove gum and sometimes you can find Teaberry or Blackjack there, too. Their gum section is pretty complete.

In another world, I am selling penny candy, coffee and books/newspapers/magazines at a little store in a medium sized town. My store has the very old (turn of the century) candy dots on paper, peas and carrots (candy shaped like peas and little square carrot pieces), chocolate babies, roasted nuts (in a warm delicious smelling display roaster), white nougat jewel candy, iced gumdrop squares, French burnt peanuts (Wags has them), Boston baked beans (Wags again), Neapolitan squares- like the old Brach's displays used to have, chick-o-stix, french vanilla taffy, Ruth Hunt Blue Monday bars, the Australian delicacies of the Violet Crumble, the Banana Milky Way, the Strawberry Milky Way), Cherry Humps, Hay stack candy in chocolate and coconut, sour balls, sugar eggs with the picture inside, bridge mix (Wags again- although it's a bit different now), candy cigarettes, Callard and Bowser toffee and licorice, sherbet fountains, malted milk balls, candy sticks in all flavors and much more.

You want a copy of Der Spiegel? We got it. London Book Review? Yep. French Vogue? Mais, oui. The American Scholar? It's in that corner over there by the imported cigarettes, right where the Princeton Review is, see it? A copy of The Taming of the Shrew? Right by that display of Gerard Manly Hopkins' poetry books, see? Right there. Rod McKuen? Get the fuck out of my store, Bub.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Ah, the luxury of no readers and no expectations. How nice to have this little spot right here, with a cool breeze blowing, sitting under a shade tree drinking grape juice. I have really had a craving for grape juice lately. I find my taste buds have acquired the Pavlovian response that commercials are trying so desperately to elicit. Alton Browne sells Welches and all of a sudden I want some. The response doesn't always kick in but those What-a-Burger ads KILL me. Best fast food burger ever. There's always room for What-a-Burger.

And how delightful to live in a state (Texas) where Dairy Queen is one of the most revered landmarks. Texas loves Dairy Queen. When I was a kid that cold sweet smell of the Dairy Queen that would waft out of the take-out window when you went to get a cone used to be ice-creamy-orgasm. On a hot day it was like a little whiff of paradise. I don't suppose the after-life (why do we call it that? Maybe this is the in-between "after" life. What makes us think that "life" is the state of all things? What if it's better than life? Some other term should be used) is going to be a Dairy Queen but, it wouldn't be a bad one, really.

Really, I just wanted to say that it's wonderful to say the words "President Obama" and everyone who thinks that politics are going to continue on in their post-civil-war-emptily-bombastic-histrionic-pork-barrel ways are dinosaurs. The new voters are beginning to get the drift. We are all connected and when you break up these connections with hatred and fear the planet and her people suffer. Sincerity and kindness are not diseases. Honesty is not a breakfast cereal. Joy is not money and oil-slurping cars are not happiness. Compassion is not just for the movies. All the things that make-up an adult has nothing to do with greed, jealousy or fear.

When we were kids we saw the world and adults as we said these words which echo down throughout our lives: "'I'm never going to be like that." But, maybe that's what our parents said, and theirs said it and so on, and so on, and gradually all the good things that make adulthood so rich and satisfying became watered down or discarded- threw the baby out with the bath water so to speak. So adults just became more and more child-like but because they are bigger than children they are brats and bullies. My generation is full of people who are frightened of becoming responsible adults because their role models were so miserable and selfish.

But that's not being an adult, that's being a giant spoiled baby. A baby who cries when anything changes- until it needs a change and then it cries some more.

There's a Buddhist saying I love, "cultivating a limitless heart". The limitless heart is part of being a real adult. Seeing the world of people before you as one of your own family is another. Making things interesting, musical, colorful, loving and decent- that's part of being an adult. Adulthood as a biological term is not at all the same thing. Genuine adulthood means seeing the kaleidoscopic panoply of planet earth with trembling and grateful awe. It means genuinely wanting to help everyone. It means, if I can get all Jesus on us for a sec, the peace that passes understanding. I love that expression. So many many things in life passes our understanding. You have to make peace with it. That's being an adult.

I'm just rambling here. A blog allows me to do it. The dog is barking, my parakeet needs attention, I have Internet work to do, I have stuff to write. I'm just stopping and looking around. I do that a lot. I like to look at the world. Earth is my hometown. I feel such a deep love for earth and all who reside upon it. I fervently wish that no harm comes to it or you, ever.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

I stopped "journaling", as all those self-help, broken-hearted, woman-empowering chick mag articles call it, years ago because I tire of looking at what I was thinking 10 years ago. It usually boils down to "I feel like crap, wish I had a cup of coffee, a cigarette and a candy bar right now, why am I so lousy at everything?" Just like now. However, I kinda want to place stuff out to look at, like brick-a-brack in the living room and if you want to look at it, too, that's fine.

Right now this brick-a-brack is mostly just disgust at how under-rated writing is. I was flailing for a job and I went to several "freelancer" sites to maybe pick up a gig. Theses sites are nightmares that seem to be run by people who think you can just toss out writing assignments and see who's stupid enough to do it for one tenth of the money a writer should be getting. If you want to be a writer, you have no experience with editors and your friends all told you, "You should be a writer, you're so smart!" then these are the sites for you. If, on the other hand, you know that what you write off the top of your head with no forethought or research is pure crud, you are appalled at the lack of respect for a writer's time and knowledge when you apprehend that eight bucks is what they will pay you for 300 words of prose.

Yeah, I can write 300 words for 8 bucks. It will look a lot like this blog: self-referential, casual, extemporaneous and slightly silly (or stupid, depending on the day's mental sharpness.) Is that what people really want to read? Why?

I'm so tired of looking at magazine and internet text rife with stupidities, anachronisms and redundancies. Only today I read, on MSN, about someone's "emotional feelings". I'm curious as to what other kind of feelings there are? I also read about the "Civil War soldiers at the battle of Bunker Hill". I guess those guys just sat there on Breed's Hill for 90 years waiting for the Civil War to start. I wonder if they won? Then I read about a power drink that was going to "stretch my abilities as long as five hours." Must be those temporary abilities that don't last as long as the ones you always have, you know, the ones that are rubberized so that they can stretch out time. I understand why the writers of these pieces would get 8 bucks for this offensive nonsense. My question is, how stupid do you have to be to publish it? (or read it? But I'm answering my own question because, of course, I read it, didn't I? So we've established that one has to be pretty stupid.)

As a writing professional, I can only say that inundating the public with this drivel underestimates both the skills necessary to be a writer and the public's tolerance for such nonsense. Blogs are fine. You get what you pay for. However, poorly written prose is seeping its noxious pus onto everything we read.

Amateur writers be warned- we will constantly make fun of you as we bitter pros nurse our shots of Wild Turkey in a dark corner of the local bar, lamenting our cashiering jobs and wondering when writers will get paid like adults again. I suppose that's going to be sometime in the future when we will get paid to fix your 300 lousy words. Nah, that'll never happen. We'll get paid 8 bucks, tops, to fix it.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Since I can't keep track of all my goofy websites, I am now trying to blog. Also, I can't afford to keep them all going.
I swear that I shall not ever use the words "blogosphere" or "bloggin'" except now to say I'm not using them. I also swear that I will try not to put up recipes, family photos or vacation pics. I'll probably put up pics of Dave, though. Dave is a parakeet. He lives with me, or tries to.