Posts tagged ‘humor’

How To Make a Pie

Today, I was having over some impromptu company. Pulled pork in the crock pot and figured I’d make a quick pie using ready-made crust and canned filling. So, after I got home from a run to the grocery store, I realized . . . I forgot the crust.

Now, I am not a bad cook. But pie crust from scratch is my kitchen nemesis. I have just never been able to get it right. Yes, I considered a second trip to the grocery store, but laziness won out and I pulled out the recipe card box. I have six different recipes for pie crust. Not different pies. Just different ways to make pie crust. (You see, I have tried this before.)

This time, things appear to have turned out okay. So, I thought I’d share a how-to on pie making.

Step 1. Clear and clean some counter space in tiny kitchen and set out ingredients in neat rows (milk, flour, oil, salt, pie pan, bowl, measuring cups and spoons).

Step 2. Dig rolling pin and fancy (bought it cause I thought maybe that would help) pie-crust rolling mat out of kitchen drawer.

Step 3. Call mom to ask, “Does this recipe I got from you make 1 crust or 2?

Step 4. Mix 1-1/3 C flour and tsp. of salt in mixing bowl.

Step 5. Put 1/3 C oil and 3 Tbs. milk in measuring cup. Do not stir.

Step 6. Realize you will not have enough oil to make the second crust. Pick up measuring cup and run to neighbor’s house.

Step 7. As you leave the house, pull door shut tight behind you. As it clicks, realize that you have just locked yourself out of your house.

Step 8. Climb in through kitchen window, unlock front door, and leave house again to get oil from very kind neighbor.  

Step 9. Put all the ingredients together and stir using the big fancy whisk that has the neat little whisk ball inside of it.

Step 10. Dig dough bits out of whisk. Bend outer whisk to remove stupid ball thingie and dig dough bits out of that with a fork.

Step 11. Throw fancy whisk into sink and finish mixing with hands.

Step 12. Layout fancy Tupperware rolling mat, sprinkle mat, rolling pin, self, floor, and counter top liberally with flour.

Step 13. Make more counter space in tiny kitchen so you have room to actually use a rolling pin properly.

Step 14. Roll dough out, aiming for the perfect 9” circle that is imprinted on fancy rolling mat.

Step 15. Steal chunks of amoeba-shaped dough and add to spots where there is no dough.

Step 16. Look at dough. Look at pie pan. After some thought, place pie pan upside-down on dough. Flip over entire mat. When cloud of flour clears, see that this worked just fine.

Step 17. Steal more bits of dough to Frankestein a somewhat circular, somewhat full-coverage bottom layer.

Step 18. Remove everything that you cleared from counter from out of the cupboard where you store the can opener. Open pie filling can. Dump into bottom crust. 

Step 19. Make second crust, repeating most of the steps above. And crimp edges.

Step 20. Poke in some pie holes with a fork.

Step 21. Cover pie in wax paper and foil. Place on a dinner plate. And slide into refrigerator.

Step 22. Call Mom to ask, “Hey, what temp and how long do you bake a pie?” and “Oh, so I should bake it now instead of waiting til dinner time?

Step 23. Preheat over to 425 degrees and remove pie from refrigerator. Remove foil. Remove wax paper. Place pie in oven.

Step 24. Remove pie from oven and take it off of the dinner plate. Put pie back in oven.

Step 25. Bake at 425 for 15 minutes. Use that piece of foil to cover crust edges to keep them from burning. Then, bake at 350 degrees for half an hour.

Step 26. Remove from oven and place on cooling rack to cool for at least 2 hours to “let filling settle” (according to recipes.com).

Step 27. Enjoy! (I hope.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Have any tips for making pie crust? Please do share them with me in the comments box.

March 28, 2010 at 7:11 am 10 comments

Thanks Mom

What is it about these curlers?

They look funny and they never hold all the hair you want them to. They sometimes even hurt a bit and they are surely an awkward item to store, but, I admit here to you today that I love my curlers. I don’t use them very often. On a normal day, I barely have time to camouflage a cowlick with the curling iron or a strategically placed barrette.

But. Every once in a while, when I have all the time in the world, I put the curlers in. And I get such a big kick out of them. I walk around. I jiggle my head. I look in the mirror and I giggle.

Today, with a jiggle and a giggle, I pondered this odd thrill. And I found myself back in time.

I am sitting in the kitchen at 312 Pennsylvania with my Mom and my sister. Curlers and pin curls in my hair. A great big balloon of a hat, puffing heat and slipping down my forehead. That balloon-hat of course was part of an old-fashioned hair dryer. For those who have only grown up with the hand-held variety, picture an over-sized shower cap made of vinyl. And picture a big tube connected to that cap, connected to a box-contraption with buttons, connected to an electrical cord, plugged into the wall. And imagine sitting, connected to all this for half an hour or longer.

Sounds awful doesn’t it? So why oh why does the memory make me smile?

Because it is something uniquely girlish – or, more specifically, uniquely mother-daugther-rite-of-passage-ish.

It belongs to a collection of moments in life when you discover the things that are (feminists be damned) distinctly female. How to bake a batch of cookies. How to set the table. How to iron, do laundry, sew on a button. Can you remember when these things were not chores? When they were exciting and new and, yes, fun.

Better yet think of the moments when your Mom let you go through her jewelry, revealing hidden treasures in velvet cases, little pouches, old boxes. Beads and gems and sparkly items. This was my mother’s. This was a gift from your Dad when we were dating. Go ahead, you can try it on.

Entrance to the inner sanctum!

Didn’t every girl, at some point in time, fall in love—and, yes, covet!—her mother’s Pretty Things? My Mom had a pair of patent-leather, ankle-high, kitten-heel boots that, to this day, I think were the most smashing pair of shoes I have ever seen.

There was a kind of magical osmosis that occurred when you witnessed her excitement when getting dressed up. In a pretty dress, wearing the special jewelry, and a bit of makeup. This was not everyday Mom who made you clean your room, stand in the corner, and finish your dinner. To trail after her as she got ready and then watch her put on her good coat and go out the front door with Dad with a big smile on her face, looking even more beautiful than ever. These were real-life Cinderella moments.

That is why, I believe, we women still, years and years and years removed from those front-door moments, get a little inexplicably giddy about things like the perfect shade of lipstick, a pretty perfume bottle, a sexy dress, a new pair of shoes. And yes, even curlers.

Curlers look silly and feel weird, but they also look and feel like a treat because they remind me of having my Mom do my hair; of being allowed to use Her Things; of feeling loved, pampered, and joyfully girlie.

That joy is not, as some may see it—or as today’s advertising and movies may portray it—a symbol of vanity or veneer. I believe these things are symbols of something to be cherished. Pretty Things are a connection to the child we were and the women we adore. Amidst the run-down monotony of work and responsibility, we remember fairy tales. Despite a few extra pounds, gray hairs, or worry lines, we may yet carry a few secret bits and baubles that reveal our true identity, our inner princess.

So, I may be spending a rainy Sunday, wearing sweats and ratty slippers, doing laundry, scooping cat pooh, and putting out the garbage, but my hair looks fabulous.

What’s one of your favorite items from your Mom’s closet, jewelry box, or dress-up routine?

March 14, 2010 at 7:51 am 3 comments

Cheers to the Girls

­­­­­This post is for a particular group of girlfriends who are life preservers cut from the highest quality cloth that you could ever find (in the irregulars bin).

On the way into work today, I heard a new song by Martin Sexton, Livin’ the Life. He asks:

     Are you livin’ the life that you’ve always dreamed of?
     Giving your time to the ones who make you smile?

And, although the first line had me thinking “Oh, no . . . ,” the second brought me back with a “Hell yeah.”

This past Saturday night I enjoyed a night out with a group of women who’ve been making me smile for a lot of years. We’ve known each other our entire adult lives, which is between 20 and 30 years depending on who met who at which point in time (and depending of course on how you define adult).  But, however you figure it, we’ve been friends a long time.

They are my confidantes and co-conspirators. They’ve been my concert buddies since before there was a StarLake. We have been teammates—the (original and only true) Ms. Fits—cheering as champions, empathizing as losers, or, way more often than either of those, laughing our collective butts off at something-other-than-win-or-lose. (Like that tournament when we spent the three- or four-hour delay between pool play and the championship drinking beer and a bit of schnapps.)

Yeah. We lost. But we were entertaining.

In addition to Ms. Fits, we’ve called ourselves Pikers, Mustang Sisters, and, more recently, the Mutant Middle-Age Ninja Toilet-Paperers. We’ve driven each other’s cars. We’ve slept on each other’s couches. We have painted each other’s houses (and one garage). We sit on the bride’s side. And then go after the bouquet wearing baseball gloves. We’ve watched the Civic Arena roof open up. We’ve watched the Candle Glo close down. We’ve spent many a fine night talking (and a hilarious couple of hours hiding) on each other’s porches. These ladies make it okay to be yourself, whether yourself is happy, sad, successful, poor, dressed up, dressed down, good hair day, bad hair day, half-naked, drunk, smart, stupid, or just an a-hole. We have enjoyed infamous vacations and crazy long weekends. Couple of us even lived together for a bit in a lovely (ahem) duplex down in Sharpsburg. We’ve skied, played, dined, and stayed. We’ve been campfire dancing, inter-tubing, skinny-dipping, moon-bathing, conga-lining, bowling, and practical joking for years. And all of it in (mostly) good (mostly) clean (mostly) legal fun.

I never laugh as hard as when I am with these chicks. These are humans in the rarest of categories who have a tremendous capacity to laugh-with but who may (and do) laugh-at with immunity. If we’re together, for twenty minutes or eight hours, there is a constant whir of giggling, tittering, chuckling, cackling, squealing, guffawing, belly laughing—and, yes, the occasional buck-snort, which only starts us laughing all over again. It’s the kind of hilarity when you can barely catch your breath before the next zinger, one-liner, or remember-when has you gasping. Going out with this group is like going to a very small comedy club to see headliners with great comedic timing and superb material.

The material comes from a distinct familiarity, a simpatico, a frame of reference constructed over years and years and years of shared experiences. And through that history, we gained the other key to friendship:  Trust. They trust me around their children. I trust them to guard a port-a-john door. I trust them with my purse (even tho I know they’ll fill it up with sugar packets or silverware). I trust them to watch my beer (even tho I know they’ll pass it around and drink it all before I return). We know each other’s secrets. We walk in without knocking. I would trust them with a pin number, a winning lottery ticket, or a date. Whether we cross paths daily or annually, I trust they’ll be there when needed.

Yeah, maybe this is not the life I always dreamed of, but it’s been a life that’s brought me life-long friendships. And if laughter truly is the best medicine, that’ll be long enough to raise some hell and a few eyebrows at the old folks home.

(Oh, and when the time comes, I’m trusting you guys with some of my ashes.)

March 8, 2010 at 1:37 pm 4 comments

Where I’d Like to Put the Snow

City sidewalks. Busy sidewalks. Dressed in holiday style.

It’s a pretty song. But, living in the city, 60 days past the playing of Christmas songs, after record-breaking snowfall, the sidewalks are not a pretty sight.

While I’m in a residential neighborhood, my ZIP code is city. And, when you pay city taxes, the sidewalks that run along the street in front of your house are your responsibility. And when your house is at a sort of intersection, the sidewalks that are your responsibility are pretty long. And when you live in the city but have to commute for more than an hour (when the roads are clear), it isn’t exactly convenient to shovel during the daylight hours. And when you get, over the course of less than a month, more than 3 feet of snow, keeping everything clear can be a challenge. 

But, you do what you can. And the snow plow guys do what they can. And the City does what it can.

Let me be clear. I have had no complaints with the City to this point. While mostly everyone was complaining about their response to all this snow, I, on an occasion or two, defended them. We are all only human after all, and way-above-average snowfall followed by days and days of way-below-average temperatures, is no human’s fault. 

This morning, before heading out to shovel another 4-5 inches, I sat down with a cup of coffee to watch the local news and find out how much more is expected. Because, yes, more snow is expected.

And what do I hear? The City wants everyone to know that any un-shoveled sidewalks will incur a fine.

Really?

Really?

This from the same people that did not touch my street for days and days after the initial onslaught. The same people that have left us with barely a single lane to drive on for weeks since. The same people who sign the paychecks of the snow plow drivers who dump mountains of snow on top of the mounds of snow on top of my sidewalks.

Let me note that, even if my sidewalks were clear, no citizen could even get to them without resurrecting Sir Edmund Hillary to help them reach the summit of  the piles of frozen sludge the City has left sitting at either end.

Oh, this is a group of wunderkinds with some real snowballs.

And what do the “journalists” have to say about this? Those reporting this dire warning to the City’s slackers saw fit to back-up the ridiculous by giving us a man-on-the-street interview with a concerned citizen who said, “Oh, I think the threat of fines is a good thing. I mean, I’m going to The Pops tonight and I’m wearing heels and it’s very difficult to get around.”

So. Let me get this straight. The point you’re making is that I need to have clean sidewalks so that some dipshit can venture out in this weather without putting boots on?

Maybe they should have interviewed my 91-year-old neighbor, who’s husband is in the hospital and who’s only son just visited the emergency room (twice) in the past week, who is now fretting because she thinks she could be arrested for not shoveling her sidewalk. (Now, she really doesn’t have to worry. The neighbors pitch in to keep her shoveling done. And the neighbors would pitch-fork in with torches, tar, and feathers if anyone tried to harass her. But still. She heard it on the news, and she, being much sweeter than I, and therefore unlikely to even think about telling the City to kiss her ass, is fretting.)

I say, you want to scold me, you inept collection of idiots? You want to fine me, you absurd bunch of brain-dead dingleberries? Go right ahead. Fine me.

Good luck getting to my mailbox.

February 27, 2010 at 6:08 am 1 comment

Customer Service Jumps the Shark

Today at lunchtime, I went to a sub shop touting really great sandwiches in an old-fashioned atmosphere. (In other words, not a Subway; nicer seating than a fast food place but without menus or waiters.) Standing in line at the counter to order, I spied “cheese steak” among a sparse list of choices. Now, for the past few weeks, I’ll admit I’ve had an unhealthy, totally-not-vegitarian, artery-clogging, there-is-no-way-I’m-getting-one  hankering for a cheese steak.

My resistance to this point was aided by the knowledge that the cheese steak I was really craving hasn’t been made for 20-some years. What I wanted was a Delti Chi cheese steak. (And I say that with apologies to any college friends who may read this who will now also be hopelessly craving one.)

Nothing else on the list really appealed to me, so, with naughty glee, I stepped up to the counter. The conversation went something like this.

Overly Cheerful:  What will you have?

Me:  The cheese steak.

Overly Cheerful:  What size?

Me (looking up at the various signage and thinking, if I’m going to be bad, I’ll feel better if I just get the): Small.

Overly Cheerful:  What type of bread?

Me:  Um, what are the options?

Not Quite As Cheerful:  There’s wheat, everything, and sesame.

Me (thinking that none of those sounds like the basis for a good cheese steak):  Uh…

Overly Patient:  And, we have seedless. (Note:  Apparently, seedless is what normal people would call a plain white hoagie roll.)

Me:  Yes, I’ll have that.

Obviously Relieved:  Okay.

Me:  I’d like that without green peppers.

Back to Overly Cheerful:  Okay.

Me:  Do you have mushrooms?

She Finds This Question Very Odd:  No.

Me (thinking, who the hell makes a cheese steak without the option of mushrooms but for some bizarre reason, I am bending over backwards to be very polite because of that sorta-kinda embarrassment even the most grown-up or confident human being among us feels when forced to follow some secret process that the teenagers behind the counter expect you to be familiar with):  Oh, all right, no problem.

Rattling:  D’ya-want-mayo-mustard-ketchup-Italian-‘r-any-dressing? D’y’want lettuce? D’y’want tomato?

Me:  No. No. No.

Incredulous:  You don’t want anything else?

Me (hmm, she seems so surprised, I must have forgotten something. What did I forget!?):  Um, no?

Speaking Really Slowly:  Sooooo, you just want onions and steak…?

Me (smiling and laughing a bit, cause, ya know, on a cheese steak, one would assume you don’t have to ask):  Well, I want cheese.

Why The Hell Are You Just Telling Me This Now?:  What kind of cheese?

Me:  (Well, it should be provolone, shouldn’t it? Oh my gawd, the way she is looking at me? What if I get this wrong? I have the urge to yell “Mulligatawny!” It is provolone, isn’t it?): Um, whatever you normally put on a cheese steak?

Blatant Eye-rolling:  We have American, Swiss, Mozarella, Provolone…

Me:  Provolone, please. (omg, did I just say please? I did. I just said please.)

She mumbled something (she was standing there in person but as incomprehensible as if she were talking to me through a drive-thru speaker) and gave me a dirty look. I took that to mean that my order was complete, and I moved forward toward the cash register, too intimidated and rattled to even consider a side dish, a beverage, or a cookie.

So. It wasn’t the worst cheese steak I’ve ever had. But it certainly wasn’t worth the hassle or the 8 bucks.

I understand that restaurants think it is swell of them to let you have things your way, but it’s not like I walked in and said, “Hullo, I’d like a sandwich.” I ordered A Cheese Steak. And, I would be willing to bet that, to 99.99% of anyone who has ever ordered one, options like swiss cheese, “everything bread,” mustard, or Italian dressing do not even cross their mind.

Burgers are made for a variety of options. Same with hot dogs. But a cheese steak is a thing. It is very thinly sliced, fried meat; it’s cheese melted to that point of a moment before a solid becomes a liquid; it’s juicy enough not to require any dressing; and it’s all greasy enough to magically morph with the inside layer of the (seedless) bread.

That’s a given, isn’t it?

February 22, 2010 at 4:21 pm 6 comments

Grilled Cheese Wisdom

From Hamlet’s soliloquy about what ’tis nobler to a cry for “Serenity now!” there are many many quotations and inspiring thoughts that we all recognize. Nursery rhymes, parables, fables, and ancient text to teach that it is bad to cry wolf; it is dangerous to swim immediately after eating; it is good to try, try again; and lefty-loosey-righty-tighty.

In addition to this collective knowledge, we each (I believe) have our own repertoire of quotable quotes, personal mantras, words that the original speaker may not even remember but that had great impact. For example.

“Don’t let a grilled cheese sandwich get the best of you.”

I was working as a waitress in a diner. My first job. And, on this particular day, making a forced transition from handing out food to actually making it.

It was a very stressful day. Short staffed with lots of orders and me attempting to do stuff I had never done before. Now, I’m not saying I had never cooked anything, but there is a dramatic difference between slipping an egg into a cute little pan on a kitchen stove and cracking one open on a 6×4-foot piece of flat angry sizzlin’ metal. And there is a dramatic difference between slapping together a grilled cheese at home for yourself and cooking one on above-mentioned monster grill while the person who is going to pay for what you’re concocting is sitting about 3 feet away, watching your every move.

On a big hot diner grill? Cheese really melts good. And the bread tho crisp is greasy. And you try plating and slicing one of those gooey sliding things (using a knife that would stop Crocodile Dundee in his tracks) (in front of an audience) without making a big mess. Each time I tentatively placed the knife edge on the bread, before I’d even begun to cut, things started to shift, slide, ooze.

Customer waiting, other orders piling up. My big chance for advancement. I was flubbing it. I got frustrated. I got nervous. I didn’t know what to do!

And.

Suddenly.

She was right there. The waitress and cook in charge, loved by all customers, my boss, about 30 years my senior. It was Mean Mary Jean.  One of the finest mentors I have ever known.

She stepped up, took the knife from my hand, and zip-zap: perfect diagonal. As she performed this miraculous demonstration, she said, with kindness and humor and modest wisdom, “Kiddo, don’t let a grilled cheese sandwich get the best of you!”

It’s not in Bartlett’s. It cannot be searched for on thinkexist.com. It will never be carved in marble on a monument. But it is profound.

  • Sometimes, the solution to a problem is to just go at it with confidence.
  • The answer you seek might just happen to be very, very simple.
  • When you consider what is actually evil and scary in the world and when you consider people who have real challenges in life, it is pretty damn preposterous to let something as mundane as a grilled cheese sandwich frazzle your self-esteem.
  • I am stronger and smarter than a sandwich.

Although that epiphany came nearly 30 years ago, it has not lost any of its power. These days, on the job, the tough tasks are a bit more complicated, the consequences affect more people, the cost of failure is a bit higher than $2.95, and a quick cut with a sharp knife is rarely the answer, but, when I face the impossible, when that horrid hairy beastie Fear hooks in a paralyzing talon, when I think “I can’t!” . . . well, in those moments, I hear her voice clearly, chuckle and all. And I marvel at the persistence of silliness. And I shake my head at my slip. And I slice that beastie like a grilled cheese sandwich.

Cheers to Mean Mary Jean (who was not so very mean at all).

 

Please share your favorite unique line of unconventional wisdom in the comments box.

February 18, 2010 at 4:55 pm 2 comments

How to Survive a Blizzard

Been off-line for a bit with no power due to the greatest amount of snow I’ve ever seen while living somewhere that shoveling it was my responsibility. I measured 21 inches on Saturday and have gotten another 5-7 between last night and today. (And it is still snowing.)

I was without power at my house for nearly 80 hours. No lights. No internet. No land-line phone. No stove. No furnace. And, for the first 48 hours or so, no way to leave the neighborhood without a much better pair of boots than those I own.

Am I glad it’s over? Hell yeah. But, it was, as these things often are, not an all-bad adventure and it was, as these things can always be, a learning experience. Here is some stuff I’ve learned.

1. Putting groceries out on the porch is a great idea because food that is ruined because it has frozen does not smell as bad as food that rots inside a refrigerator.

2. Chivas Regal snow cone? Not bad. Not bad at all.

3. In the early 70s, Panasonic made some kick-ass radios. A few posts back, I mentioned that I once had a very cool electric-blue radio shaped like a donut. Well, turns out, that very item was still in a box in the attic. I put in a battery and voi-de-la, after 30 years of non-use, it still worked. (And that is how I got to listen to Super Bowl 44.)

4. My thermostat only goes down to 45 degrees. Beyond that, who knows?

5. If you can see your own breath in your home, you need to be concerned about freezing pipes and . . . makes sense but who knew?. . . freezing toilet bowls and tanks. If turning the water off at the main and leaving immediately for Key West isn’t an option, the thing to do is leave the lowest faucet in the house running at a trickle and add a bit of anti-freeze to toilets and drains.

6. Shoveling snow is a good way to get warm. And, if it is cold enough in your house, even old, out-of-shape muscles do not ache from even the most extreme bouts of shoveling.

7. A well-timed cup of hot coffee can save a life.

8. When bad circumstances arise, people are pretty darn swell. They smile. They wave. They knock on doors. They lend a hand. They invite you in. They help each other shovel it out and laugh it off.

9. When bad circumstances arise, people are pretty damn stupid—like the lady who wouldn’t get out of the street, despite there being a good 10 feet of shoveled space right in front of her and despite the very icy conditions that make it impossible to completely, reliably control a vehicle and despite my very polite, genuinely concerned, and sincerely friendly pre-flight waving and honking before attempting my one and only slip-swerving, white-knuckled, come-on-baby shot to get up hill 1 of 3 to reach Home. Had I not managed to slide by within inches of her motionless, stubborn, hand-on-hip stare, I could have gladly used her fat ass for traction.

10. You can make an almost passable cup of tea with hot tap water.

11. Forget stocking up on T.P. and bread. Stock up on unread books!

12. If you place a lot of candles on cookie sheets lined with tin foil and fashion also a tin foil back drop of sorts, you can generate a bit of heat, do a crossword puzzle without squinting, and throw enough light that a neighbor will call to see if you somehow got your power back on.

13. Mini marts and Rite-Aids do not sell tonic water.

14. If you get dressed in the dark it is impossible to tell if your socks match.

15. You can survive without heat. You can survive without lights. You can survive on a strange variety of foodstuffs. You can survive without internet, facebook, and email. But you cannot survive without family and friends.

Thanks to those who noticed the absence. Thanks to those who tolerated the babbling when I did make contact. Thanks to all who offered help, concern, understanding, and cheer. The cockles of my heart never even caught a chill.

What did you learn in the blizzard of 2010?

February 10, 2010 at 8:59 am 2 comments

In the Rye

I had another idea started for today that I will push to another post. But today, I need to pause to acknowledge the passing of J.D. Salinger.

My love of books and stories began as a child. Some of my oldest bits of memory are of my parents making up tales before bed or reading to us. And I am sure they are the ones who instilled a reverence for books:  special items to be taken care of, treated appropriately, even loved.

The first book I can remember reading myself—long before Dick and Jane and Puff and Spot—is “Hop on Pop,” by Dr. Seuss. (Although I would suppose that I wasn’t so much reading at that point as repeating what had been read to us so many times.)

When I was a little older, but when doctors (medical not Seussian) still made house calls, I was once diagnosed as sick from reading too much. (I was very into the Mary Poppins series by P.L. Travers at the time.) And, embarrassing to note, one time in grade school, I bored a friend during a play date because I found Nancy Drew more riveting than her company.

After Nancy Drew (by the fictional Carolyn Keene) and the Hardy Boys (by the fictional Franklin W. Dixon), it was Judy Blume (didn’t every teenage girl read Judy Blume?); then, the ghost story/mystery/romance stage (Daphne du Maurier, Mary Stewart, and, yes, I admit it, those Harlequins); then, the fantasy/adventure genre, which I still enjoy as a treat now and then.

Somewhere in that mix, for a book report in 5th or 6th grade, I got a hold of a copy of  “Catcher in the Rye” and presented it as my choice for a book report. This was in a Catholic grade school mind you, and I got pulled aside after class. But the wonderful Mrs. Robick only did so to tell me that the book was probably a little old for me but that she’d let me use it for my report. Her motivation was to encourage me to read it again when I was older. She didn’t want me to miss it. She, too, loved books. (And I have read it again, more than once. And likely again in the very near future.)

In college, thanks to the smart, funny, and inspiring Dr. Strojan, I also discovered Salinger’s other works:  Franny and Zooey, Raise High the Roof Beam Carpenters, Seymour-an Introduction, and Nine Stories (which I re-read just a couple of months ago). All of his books sit top-shelf in my house, the place I put my favorites.

If you have never read any of his work and are curious, I’d recommend one of his short stories (The Laughing Man, Down at the Dinghy, or Just Before the War with the Eskimoes) for starters.

Mr. Salinger was one of the first authors who made me fall in love with the written word. Not just the story being told, the mystery being unveiled, the world being created, or the lesson being taught but the way in which any of those things could be written, the way the words sounded, rhythm, pace, the “perfect word,” some spectacular turn of phrase. Salinger could stop me in my tracks and just make me smile with wonder, savor the wordplay, and, yes, inspired me to be A Writer.

His passing cannot but stop me in my tracks again. To feel a selfish sorrow midway through this not so novel life of mine, but also a nudge toward an old dream.

With respect to this special life preserver, I say, Whatever drew you to a life of solitude, I am forever grateful for that which was shared.

Fare thee well Mr. Salinger. I hope they don’t put you in a cemetery.

January 28, 2010 at 1:06 pm 2 comments

2000s to the Curb

A few posts back, I bemoaned the avalanche of disorganization in my life, especially in my home. I missed that feeling of being caught up or, more aptly, that feeling of feeling as if, should I want to, I could get caught up.

I would have said it’s been this way for a couple of years, max. But, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that this snowball started rolling somewhere around-about the year 2000.

Now, we all have our own set of troubles and I’m not here to unload mine, but, for the sake of explanation, let me just note that the 2000s have been difficult, trying, and surprising (in the bad way). Said good-bye to some really good, significant people. I had three really really (really) bad boyfriends followed by (on the insistence of well-meaning friends who I may never forgive) the bizarro world of online dating that led me to dates with dreamboats like Psycho Businessman, Racist Dwarf, Creepy Dog Owner, and Guy With a Dent in His Head. Said good-bye to my beloved Mustang, which I miss more than the boyfriends. Got laid off (twice). Blew out my knee. A pipe broke. The roof leaked. The air conditioner died. The furnace and water heater got red-tagged due to a gas leak. Had to put my cat to sleep. My purse was stolen (twice). A van hit my house. And. I turned 40.

The past decade has been, pardon my French, a real torrentielle de merde.

Maybe I gave up. Maybe I was depressed. Maybe I was lazy. Maybe my priorities shifted. Whatever it was, I got behind on stuff. Stop. Sit. Repeat. My behinder got bigger.

And soon, instead of doing a tidy-up once a week (or even every other week), what little energy you manage to gather is spent on the development of more creative ways to hide The Junk That Doesn’t Go There because someone is at the door. You use one arm to sweep everything on your dresser into a drawer; you jam dirty laundry into a closet hoping the door doesn’t explode behind you; you put dirty dishes in the oven. You know what I mean.

(You do know what I mean, don’t you?)

This past weekend, I don’t know how or why, but I awoke early on Saturday and thought, “I should do some laundry.” Amazingly, I did not shove the thought under a couch cushion and sit on it. Instead, I put on shoes, which is a rare accomplishment in or around my house at any time of year.

I pushed on.

I cleared a path to the washer and dryer and began sorting. And laundry inevitably led me to all the places that laundry goes. And beyond. Drawers, closets, cupboards. The garbage bags piled up. Stack by stack, room by room, upstairs, downstairs, bit by bit. It got done.

By the time the playoffs started on Sunday, the summer clothes were packed away in the basement and the winter clothes were wearable. Cupboards and drawers are neat. The bills are paid. A wardrobe or two await a trip to Goodwill. A big ol’ broken chair went to the curb, and I’ve got some special things lined up to leave the garbage men for the next few weeks. The dishes in the dishwasher are dirty. The sheets on the bed are clean.  I threw caution to the wind and threw away all of the single socks! And, yes, all of the Christmas decorations are back in the attic.

Now, lest you be too amazed, I should point out that the car did not get washed or driven to the grocery store. The garage remains very garage-like. And one-fourth of my basement remains overrun by misfit furniture sitting on the cracked up floor that was under the carpet I had to pull up when the basement flooded a bit in 2004.

Good-bye decade. It’s been fun, but I’m kickin’ you to the curb.

Got a dirty house secret? Wanna share?

January 25, 2010 at 2:47 pm 2 comments

Greg Stones’ Art

Every once in a while a total stranger can be a life preserver. Discovering, out there in the world, someone who is living life in a fun and creative way, making (I hope) a good living using a talent and a sense of humor that can only be one-of-a-kind, that delights and inspires me. 

Some people, you don’t have to know them well to just be damn glad they are on the planet.

If you have never seen any of the wicked little masterpieces painted by Greg Stones, do yourself a favor and take a peek.

First saw this guy’s stuff at a local arts festival. Stood there and, the massive flow of glancing, mooing bumpers and nudgers be damned, I stayed and looked at just about every print in the booth. And kept snickering. And (agonizingly) selected a few prints out of the many I wanted to remember forever to take home. Looked for him the next year and bought a few more. All but one of the prints have been given as gifts. “The Sheep Don’t Care” (pictured here) is displayed on my dresser so I can see it every day. It’s been there for four or five years now, and it still inspires me, still makes me giggle.

The artist has also put together 3 books. The first was “Goodbye, Penguins,” which I purchased with blind anticipation, read (and re-read) with glee, and gifted with joy (while keeping a copy for myself, of course). 

I changed jobs and have missed the arts festival for a couple of years, but, while adding some fun links to the blog here the other day, I discovered (and immediately ordered) two new Greg Stones books: “Zombies Hate Stuff” and “The Fort.” (“Goodbye, Penguins” and “Zombies Hate Stuff” are available from the website, linked above. “The Fort” I found on amazon.com.)

“The Fort” arrived today. I opened the box, removed the book from the cellophane wrapping, and, with the intention of heading to the couch, ended up just standing, transfixed, in the middle of the room to have my first look through it. (And, I’m real lazy. And the couch was only about four feet away.)

Love it! Recommend it! Want everyone I know to read it! (But, uh, no; there is no way you’re borrowing my copy so don’t even ask.)

“Zombies Hate Stuff” has also arrived. But I have not read it yet. Like the last homemade chocolate chip cookie or the bottle of wine I carried home from Italy, I’m saving it for later. (But also as with those other things, I doubt I will be able to wait too long ’cause I know it’s going to be so good.)

If you’ve got a wicked sense of humor (and/or if you like the idea of supporting someone truly original, funny, and creative in this crazy, conformist, copycat, chew-it-up-spit-it-out, grind-them-down, toe-the-line world we oddballs and secret champions masquerade in), well, then, check him out for yourself. As in, go ahead, you do it, I’ve done as much as I can here and also as in do it for yourself, as a treat.

Happy Friday folks.

Know a great artist or otherwise original being who inspires you? Post them in the comments box.

January 22, 2010 at 11:26 am 3 comments

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