Thursday, December 18, 2014

To a Fruitcake

An Ode Upon Baking a Seasonal Confection, being loosely inspired by the poems of Mr. Robert Burns, the Scottish Bard, 1759-76


Thy glistening, fruit-filled, cakey batter,

With rum-soaked raisins and rich, fatty butter,

O, what promise of moist, tasty ecstasy!

Thine cherries drenched in Red Dye Number Seven,

And dry ingredients sifted to leaven,

I slide thee hence to preheated oven,

Upon following thine ancient recipe.


Borne on fragrant bouquet now therefore baking,

Upwardly wafting in scented waves thus making,

Thine aromas foster dreams of luscious reveries.

Wouldst some, unkindly, regard thee as a doorstop?

Or e’en call thee a paperweight ‘pon desktop?

Or fear onto their toes thy would drop?

Nae! Not I! For in thee I taste treasured memories.


Three hours hence, I test thy doneness with toothpick.

O, perfect result! So moistly dense, so dark and so thick!

Cans’t I even now taste thy fruity pleasures  to be?

Those who laud their shortbread, sugar cookies and mince tarts;

Figgy puddings, gingersnaps, and spritzes that win hearts,

Ha’e ne’er reached the heights of fine arts,

That a fine fruit cake may inevitably see!

So, come now, thou doubters, and make haste,

A morsel of my cake you must taste,

A’fore judging the fruitcake quality!

With a nice mug of cocoa or e'en a fine cup of Earl Grey,

Thou judgements yet assailing may erelong go ‘way.

For I say to thee, “T’wouldn’t be Christmas, O, happy day!”

If I ha’e nae fruitcake to share with thee!


Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Sing Along If You Know This One!

I feel sorry for anyone working in retail at this time of year. I’m pretty sure I would crack under the pressure. And mostly it would be due to ghastly “holiday” music.

I went into a branch of a national women’s clothing chain this afternoon to take advantage of their post-Thanksgiving 30%-off storewide sale. I tried on some corduroy jeans and took a pair up to the cash desk to pay for them. The sound system was playing, “How’d ya like to spend Chrissss-mas on Christmas Island? How’d ya like to spend the holiday across the sea?”

The sales rep made a face like she was going to hurl. I must have looked startled because she shook her head a bit and said, “Oh, sorry. It’s just this SONG.” She shuddered visibly.

I said, “Gosh, it’s early days yet,” thinking there are quite a few days left to go until December 24th when the shopping frenzy’s accompanying music will revert to its banal normalcy.

“Oh, Honey!” she replied. “We’ve been listening to this since Hallowe’en! Over and over and over! I’m ready to stab myself in the ears.”

Her colleague laughed good-naturedly and said it got really bad some days depending on the audio mix of equally irritating songs.

“Yeah, like this one,” my sales associate said, looking toward the ceiling speakers and imitating Burl Ives, “Have a holly, jolly Christmas…” blowing air into her cheeks to look like the holly jolly man that he was.

Her colleague laughed again, this time a bit sadly, I thought, and walked away toward the stock room. “You think I’m kidding!” the sales rep called after her.

“Still. Nobody’s bleeding,” she said, turning her attention back in my direction. I was still thinking about being stabbed.

“Not from the ears, anyway,” I said, trying to lighten the mood.

“No, I meant, it could be worse. We could be treating people in the ER who come in half dead from car accidents. But, noooo! We’re wrapping up women’s clothing and listening to holiday songs!” I sensed a lack of job satisfaction on her part.

She attempted to wrap a piece of tissue paper around my cords. It wasn’t cooperating. She crumpled it and flung it violently onto the floor. She made a noise somewhere between a swallowed scream and an unholy howl.

“AAUUGGH! I have HAD IT with tissue paper, too!” By now, I had backed away from the counter. “Sorry. Sorry,” she said, “Just having a bad day, I guess.”

“Oh, not at all,” I replied and looked around nervously for a diversion. I reached for the sample bottle of perfume on the counter. Normally, I don’t like fragrances and it is uncharacteristic of me to try them on, but I had been experiencing a digestive challenge ever since lunch which was getting worse with this stress and I thought I’d better fend off the inevitable result of the gurgle in my gut by spritzing some odor-masking scent, some eau de toilette, so to speak.

“Oh, for the love of Pete! Don’t spray that anywhere near me!” she hollered at me. I put the bottle down. My hands shot up in the air. “No, No! I didn’t! Sorry! Sorry!” I then asked politely, “Allergies?”

“No, I just can’t stand that smell! It makes me sick. It gets up my nose all day long. I go home reeking of that crap!”

I was thankful that she was now handing me my bag with my cords wrapped and ready to go.

“Well, thanks,” I said, and with just a small measure of irony in my voice, “I’m so glad that you felt comfortable enough with me today so you could get all that off your chest.”

She kind of snorted. It wasn’t really a laugh. “Happy Holidays. Please don’t report me to corporate.”

The opening chords of Bing Crosby’s Kele Kalikie Mucka were just coming up as I hastened for the exit.  

“Hang in there!” I called out to her as I left the store. I imagined the poor woman on Christmas Eve, checking herself into a rest home. Really, I sympathized more than she knew and that’s why I haven’t the heart to report her.

So, my friends, as you wander the aisles of your favorite stores this season of joy, and the ungodly strains of “Alvin and The Chipmunks Sing Christmas” catch your ear, thank your lucky stars that you don’t have to listen to it until New Years and then pause to think about the poor souls who do. And if you find a sales rep muttering to herself, you’ll understand.



Wednesday, November 19, 2014


ACT 2 - Scene 1

Setting:                Tuesday morning. The missus and mister’s back yard. The cat is still in the tree.

Missus:                 (On the phone) Hello. Police department? I realize this is a cliché, but can you send the fire department to get a cat down from a tree in my yard?

Dispatcher:         (Laughing) I’m sorry ma’am, we don’t do that.

Missus:                 Really. But I see stories with firemen rescuing cats all the time.

Dispatcher:         Only on TV, ma’am.

Missus:                 Who do you suggest I call? This cat has been up there since yesterday.

Dispatcher:         It will probably come down on its own.

Missus:                 Not so far. Is there nothing you can do to help?

Dispatcher:         I can send someone out if you like.

Narrator:             Ten minutes later, a nice policeman named Greg showed up at the missus’ door.

Const. Greg:       What seems to be the problem, ma’am?

Missus:                 Cat. Tree. 18 hours now.

Const. Greg:       Poor little guy! Not much we can do to help, I’m afraid.

Missus:                 No fireman up a ladder?

Const. Greg:       (Tossing tennis balls into the tree to scare it down.) No, we don’t do that as a rule. We can’t risk our personnel’s safety for a cat. If the animal is hurt or injured, we’d give it a go, but this one looks pretty content up there. Here’s my card. Call us back if it’s still up there in a couple of days.

Missus:                 Thanks for coming out, Constable Greg – and thanks for not making me feel like a crazy lady.

Narrator:             Constable Greg took out his little notebook and wrote in it for a few minutes before driving away.

Missus:                 (Muttering) Probably writing, “crazy lady.”

Narrator:             Feeling a bit frustrated, the missus got on the phone.

Missus:                 Hello. Humane Society?

Narrator:             She told them the whole story.

HumSoc:              It should come down….eventually. Not much we can do to help.

Narrator:             The missus made a cup of tea to mull the whole thing over and went up to talk to the cat from the opened bedroom window.

Missus:                 What now, Puss?

Puss:                     Mew.

Scene 2

Setting:                Tuesday evening. After dark.The missus and mister’s bedroom window.

Missus:                 (Calling to the cat) Puss! Enough already! Let’s call it a day and come on down!

Puss:                     Mew!

Narrator:             Only now, the meowing wasn’t coming from the tree.

Missus:                 Wait a sec. Where are you, Puss? 

Narrator:             The meowing was coming from what seemed like three directions all at once!

Missus:                 Oh, Puss! Are you down from the tree? Wait, I need to get a flashlight!

Puss:                     Mew! Mew! Mew! Mew! Mew!

Missus:                 (Searching in the darkness with the flashlight) Puss! I hear you! Come on darlin’! Oh, PUSS! You’ve got to be kidding me! Please don’t tell me you’re on the roof!!!

Narrator:             Sure enough. There was the cat looking down at the missus from the high peak of the two story roof. She beamed a light up into its green eyes – big as saucers.

Missus:                 Oh, Puss. Now what?

Puss:                     Mew.

Scene 3

Setting:                Wednesday morning, early. The bedroom.

Mister:                 It’s still too dark to tell for sure, but I went out and looked all around at the roof with a flashlight. I didn’t see the cat up there. I couldn’t hearing any meowing.

Missus:                 Oh, good. Maybe it’s gone. I hope so. It could have jumped to the porch roof and gotten down from there.

Mister:                 It was so cold last night. Maybe it finally decided to go home.

Narrator:             The mister had an early morning meeting and left for work before the sun was truly up.

                                As it got lighter out, that was when the missus spotted the cat. Perched, like a tiny, waif-like gargoyle at a corner of the roof under the tree branches.

Missus:                 (Leaning out the bedroom window to call to Puss) You poor silly thing! Why are you still up there? OK, this is getting serious.

Narrator:             The missus did what anyone would do in this situation: send out an email to all the neighbors.

Missus:                 Dear neighbors, is anyone who is not afraid of heights willing to help get a stranded cat off my roof?

Narrator:             Within a half hour a kindly neighbor from up the street had called.

Neighbor:            Sure, I can help. I’ll be down in a few minutes.


Narrator:             What happened next was a scene of ingenuity and bravery, with a result just shy of a miracle. The missus and the neighbor carried an extension ladder upstairs and shoved it out the bedroom window onto the porch roof. The neighbor clambored up to the high peak, but came down again, discouraged when it seemed like the cat was just out of reach.

Neighbor:            It really looks like it wants to come down. But I can’t get it. We need something to catch it in. I know! Do you have a laundry basket?

Missus:                 Absolutely! (Tossing onto the floor the freshly laundered clothing she intended to sort and put away that morning.)

Narrator:             Up the neighbor went again. This time with the laundry basket lined with a soft towel and some cat treats acquired for luring the reluctant kitty from its perch.

Neighbor:            Come on, kitty! You can do it! Come on, kitty, kitty, kitty!

Puss:                     Meowr! Meowr! Meowr!

Neighbor:            You know you want to. Come on! Just hop down!

Narrator:             The poor man’s arms ached. But he held the basket as high as he could. The cat poised to jump. But backed away, too scared to make the leap. It tried again. And backed away. On the third try, it landed softly in the basket.

Neighbor:            Hurray for you, cat!

Missus:                 Yay, Puss! (To the neighbor) OK, hand me the basket and come back inside. I’ll close the window so it can’t get back out there.

Narrator:             Riley was safely confined to the kitchen.

Missus:                 That was fabulous! We got it! Thank you so much!

Neighbor:            You’re welcome! Happy we could get the kitty down.

Narrator:             The neighbor went home. The missus and Puss looked at each other.

Missus:                 Well, Puss. What now?

Puss:                     Mew.

Scene 4

Setting:                Later that morning. Riley out in the yard. The cat inside the house. The missus on the phone.

Missus:                 Hello. Humane Society? I called yesterday about a cat on my roof. Well, it’s rescued now. Can I bring it to you?

HumSoc:              No, sorry. We are full. We can’t take any cats.

Missus:                 Well great, Puss. What do we do now? We’ve got that big dog that chased you in the first place! And look at you, your poor thing. It looks like you’ve been starving and out there for weeks. Here, have some tuna.

Narrator:             The missus did what anyone would do in this situation; she called the one person who she knew would come to the rescue.

Missus:                 Hi, what do I do with this cat?

Rescuer:              Just bring it to me and I’ll foster it until you can find its owners or we can find a nice home for it.  

Narrator:             The missus went out and bought a cardboard cat carrier and popped the poor scrawny little cat in for the journey to the rescuer’s office.

Missus:                 Don’t worry, Puss. You’re safe and warm and she’s such a nice lady. She’ll take care of you.

Puss:                     Mew.

End of Act 2


Narrator:             The kind rescuer took the cat to the vet who said that the poor little one is only about nine months old and has probably been a stray on the street most of her short life. She has already had kittens – who knows where they might be. Other than malnutrition and a cold, the cat is in reasonable health. It is a sweet natured little soul and very affectionate. The staff where the rescuer works named it Boo. They are looking for a good home.

Missus:                 Well, Riley, all’s well that ends well, eh? Uh oh, who’s that doggy out there? Is it on its own? Oh, don’t tell me! Wait….oh, there’s the owner! Ha Ha! Whew! Can’t handle another rescue today, eh, boy?

Riley:                     (That’s for sure, mom! By the way, where’s the cat at?)

Monday, November 17, 2014


Cat on a Cold Wet Roof
A domestic drama in two acts.


Setting:  Monday afternoon.  The mister and missus’ backyard.  Riley, the dog, snuffling around in the bushes. Suddenly, he takes off, clearly chasing something.

Narrator:             If dogs have bucket lists, Riley got to check a major item off his this week. He treed a cat.

 Missus:                What is it, Riley? Did you get a chipmunk?

Narrator:             Riley seems to think the world would be better off without chipmunks. Only, it  wasn’t a chipmunk. It was a cat. Riley's nemesis! And now it was clinging to the trunk of a pine tree, with Riley excitedly doing his version of the classic “dog barking at a cat up a tree.”

Missus:                 Oh my goodness. You got a Puss Puss!

Narrator:             Riley’s key word for “there’s a cat!” that makes his ears perk up and his eyes shine bright with the soul of his inner ancient hunter.

Missus:                 Pretty pleased with yourself, aren’t you, pal?

Narrator:             “Definitely, Mom!” He looked as happy as a dog that had treed a cat.

Missus:                 Come on, Riley. I know. You got a cat. You better come inside and let the puss get out of here.

Narrator:             The puss had different ideas —like climbing higher up the tree and parking itself on a large branch. The missus went out to check on it later.

Missus:                 Puss! Really? That high up? How are we going to get you down from there? (In a high pitched, sing song voice) Puss Puss. Come on Puss. Come on Kitty. Come on down.

Narrator:             Puss puss noises had no effect. The afternoon was about to become evening. The missus began to worry. And so she did what anyone would do in this situation. Post to her Facebook status.

Missus:                 Dear Facebook friends. Any advice on how to rescue a cat from a very high tree?

FB Friends:          It will come down on its own.

                                Call the fire department.

                                Leave it be. It knows how to get down.

                                It might be afraid to come down. Try putting a ramp up against the tree.

                                Leave a can of tuna in the garden. It will come down when it’s hungry enough.

                                Call the Humane Society.

Narrator:             Comments mostly trended toward the cat coming down when it was darn good and ready. But just to be extra cautious, the missus set out a can of tuna and made the mister put out a plank from the tree to the porch roof so kitty could just walk on down – call it a cat walk.

Missus:                 Come on down Puss! You can do it! Look! Here’s some nice tuna!

Narrator:             The missus called to the cat at intervals throughout the evening.

Missus:                 Puss Puss! Come on Kitty! See? Tuuuuu-na! Mmmm!

Narrator:             The cat didn’t budge. It just meowed.  A pitiful, help-me kind of meow that tugged at the missus’ heart strings.

Missus:                 Ah, come on cat! Please come down! It’s cold out! And it’s bedtime. Well, ok, then, maybe you’ll come down during the night. (Muttering to herself) Stupid cat. Still, could be worse. Could be raining.

Narrator:             It started to rain. Cold, near freezing drizzle.

Missus:                 Ah, Puss. For heaven’s sake come down.

Puss:                     Mew.

End of Act 1

Saturday, November 8, 2014

PC Power

My PC lap top is on life support this week. I was all ready to write its eulogy because I thought for sure it was a goner. It has been touch-and-go for quite a while now. But today it’s showing signs of life, now that it’s recharging and seems to be feeling much more like its old self again. Slow and cranky. Good old PC!

Some people are quick to replace recalcitrant or outdated devices. Others can’t resist the lure of the latest electronic gizmos which somehow compel them to line up all night outside the Apple store to make sure they get the latest release. Not me. I tend to form attachments to machines and other inanimate objects. I find it hard to say good-bye.

It was close with my lap top. The guys at the Geek Squad were not very encouraging when I rushed it to their emergency room after it crashed a couple of weeks ago. “Oh, wow!” the triage Geek said when he examined it, “2011! I haven’t seen one this old in a long time!”

“It’s only 3 years old!” I cried, “Please! You must be able to do something to save it!”

“Huh. Looks like your tech support contract expired a year ago. Not sure what we can do to help, Ma’am,” he said, shaking his head and taking a little flashlight from his pocket protector to check inside the battery housing. “You could try a new battery. But we don’t carry anything this old. You could go over to Batteries’R’Us.”

The guy at Batteries’R’Us looked it up in inventory. “We don’t have one, but I might be able to get it from another store. Can you leave it with me?”

I drove home with that helpless feeling that comes from leaving fate in someone else’s hands.

I tried to make friends with the iPad, the other lap top computer that lives at our house. Tearfully, I began to write my PC’s obituary. It didn’t go well. My hand reached out for the mouse that wasn’t there. My fingers stabbed at the screen to highlight edits — and missed every time. I began to feel repetitive strain injury flaring up in my index finger. The keyboard was so small! Oh, how I missed my PC!

I was filled with remorse for swearing at it for being so slow. But being slow only meant that its memory was so full! Full of all the emails and Facebook posts and online purchases and documents and photo memories that we shared together!

I missed its quirky keyboard with the letters worn away because of its ever faithful service for lo, these three years. Who needs to see the white painted lettering on the keys anyway?!? It might not have the E, R, T, Y, U, I, A, S, H, L, N and most of the C, but I taught myself to be a touch typist because of it! I would have learned to touch type in high school, but I was in Art instead and even when I took a three week summer program in typing, I had mononucleosis on the second week and when I got back to class they had gone from “AAAA” “SSSSS” “LLLLL” “KKKKKK” right to “The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog.” And I was lost! But, my dear PC, with you I was found! All those years of feeling like a steno school drop-out, erased because of you and your clever teaching methods!

I rejoiced when I got the call from Batteries’R’Us. They had a battery for my PC! Oh, joy! I drove like fury out to get it. With its battery transplant in place my lap top sputtered and started up again! Huzzah! I sent emails and checked Facebook. Oh, so good to have it back with me. I tucked it in at bedtime, but it took a turn for the worse overnight. Even though it was plugged in, the new battery was failing! Aw! No!

I unplugged it and said some quiet good-byes. I began again to write my eulogy on the iPad, but I needed an image stored on my PC. It was a last chance, but I said, “OK, old friend. Let’s power up one last time to see if you have enough charge to give me that photo.”

I couldn’t believe my eyes! The battery icon fired up again! To full charge! It’s a miracle! My lap top is alive! And I will never take my PC for granted again.  

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Isn't Real Life Scary Enough?

Hallowe’en costumes these days are a lot scarier than they used to be. I remember princess outfits my mother bought at the drug store. The dress and tiara were made of paper and would end up in tatters by the time I got home after trick or treating. I was a cowgirl for several years, a gypsy once and finally on my last year out, I went as a beatnik.   

Somewhere between two and three hundred kids will collect candy at our house on October 31st. Some of the younger ones will dress as princesses, paupers, pirates and kings. They won’t be too terrifying. In fact, they’ll be doggoned cute. We’ll ask them, “What are you dressed as?” and they’ll say sweet things, like, “I’m a witch!”  “Ooo! Scary!” we’ll say, and toss an extra mini chocolate bar into their little pumpkin bucket and call out, “Bye! Thanks for coming!” as they dance away into the nighttime with their parents cueing them to shout back, “Thank yoooooou!”

The older kids do their best to be totally gross. The walking dead, monsters, mad scientists, Miley Cyrus.  We might say, “Yeah, really frightening,” and acknowledge their creativity, because we know they’ll have assembled their costumes with the particular glee teens get out of shocking adults. They’re not as scary as they like to think they are.

But, this year, with all the absolutely horrible things going on in the world, I’m sure you’ll agree that we don’t need to see anybody in an Ebola HazMat suit. Way too soon.

Some things are way worse than the undead showing up at your front door. You want truly gruesome? You don’t have to look further than real life. Makes your hair stand on end. Here is my list of the “Top Five Costumes I Don’t Want to See This Hallowe’en”:


  1. Telephone Solicitor. Endlessly repeating, “Hello, ma’am. How are you today? This isn’t a sales call, but….” Talk about the zombie apocalypse! For the love of humanity, can no one make them stop?!?
  2. Monica Lewinsky. She’s BAAAAAA-CK! And she has a book to promote. She’s been seen on TV sweetly saying things like, “I was just an intern!” Seriously, do we have to hear the whole sordid tale, AGAIN???? AAAAAAAAGGGHH!!!!
  3. Ernest Ansley. You thought he had vanished! But he’s in the news again! Ernest is the televangelist “faith healer” with the ridiculous helmet-like hair-weave who smacked the sick and suffering who came to him on their foreheads and commanded those foul demons to “Come OUT!”  Folks dropped their crutches and rose up out of their wheelchairs and walked again. Viewers at home participated by placing their hands on the TV screen. If they sent in money and really believed in Jeeee-sus, he’d shout, “HEAL!” and their afflictions would disappear. Scary enough, right? But it was revealed in the news this week that for years he advised his male followers that they should get vasectomies thus ensuring that the money they’d spend on their potential offspring would instead go to Ansley’s church. And if THAT wasn’t chilling enough, Ernest apparently liked to play doctor and make his parishioners drop more than their crutches so he could personally check that surgery had actually taken place. How creepy is that?
  4. Kim Jung Un. Dude. Too scary. Go away! Or maybe he already has?!?
  5. Stink Bug. It’s only a matter of time until these rotten stink-bomb insects invade your neighborhood. They are taking over the world. An invasive species from Asia, they are proliferating at a rapid rate in North America and they are on a mission to move into a State or Province near you any day now. They hide in your curtains and lurk on your window screens. If you try to crush them, they will emit such a stink you will never forget. No animal or bird will prey upon them. They are here to stay. And, believe you me, they will make your spine crawl every time you see one. They are that ugly.

I don’t know about you, but I got the frights just writing this ghoulish list! What’s your worst nightmare? Happy Hallowe’en!


Thursday, October 9, 2014

Hip, Hip, Hurray?

My word of the week is “hipster.”

That’s because Ken and I spent the weekend in Cincinnati where there are a lot of hipsters, especially in the hotel where we stayed, the uber-hip 21c Museum Hotel, with its ultra-hip contemporary art collection. We had dinner in the amazingly hip, absolutely fabulous, foodie-haven hotel restaurant on Saturday evening, where waiters wore skin-tight jeans with plaid shirts, semi-untucked-in, of course, and one or two of them wore sweater-vests over white Tee shirts. They sported either Amish-bordering-on-Duck-Dynasty beards or their hair parted above the ears with small pony tails pulled up into Buddhist monk-esque top knots. The young woman who seated us had a pierced nose, a short sweater dress and combat boots. defines “hipsters” as “a subculture of men and women in their 20s and early 30s that values independent thinking, counter-culture…..creativity, intelligence and witty banter.” And, even though it was US that defined “counter-culture” way back in our youth, I have read that hipsters think of themselves as the true “outside- the-social-mainstreamers.” They will reject definitions and labels that limit their scope for being uniquely themselves and will disdain all societally accepted status symbols. Excuse me, but isn’t that what we said back in the 70s?

Looking around the room, I leaned in close and whispered to Ken that I was noticing that the diners in the room were almost equally divided between hipsters and….he finished my sentence for me…."people waiting for new hips." “Exactly!” I said, because the other half of the population consisted of “older folks,” closer in age to our own demographic. But, of course, WE are much hipper than those old, sadly un-cool fuddy-duddies in the restaurant. As we nibbled our 12-ancient-grains bread with smoked butter and waited for our carmelized cauliflower with juniper berry compote, it occurred to me that a few characteristics distinguish our age groups.

We Baby Boomers may have invented the “generation gap,” but, let’s face it, a lot of years have intervened since then. And if you have not yet realized that your rebel days have been hijacked by today’s hipsters, I present this handy chart so that you can better understand the gulf that divides us…and really feel like the old fart you are.

Hipster                                                                              Needing a New Hip

Locavore                                                                           Antacid-vore

Quinoa & kale salad with beet chips                           1,000 Islands Dressing          

Zombie Apocalypse                                                         Keith Richards

Craft beers                                                                        Doing crafts

Juice cleanse                                                                     Metamucil

Modern Farmer magazine                                              Farmer’s Almanac

Streaming TV & movies                                                   Closed Captioning 

Joining the local food co-op                                            Joining AARP

Free-traded, grande, soy, caramel macchiato             Decaf

Vintage clothing stores                                                    Talbots

Buddy Holly-esque, ironically lens-less glasses           Progressive lenses

Casual, messy, just-got-out of-bed hair                        Male pattern baldness

Vegan/raw diet                                                                 Bland prep for colonoscopy

Urbanite growing veggies in a window box                 Urban farmer’s market

Obscure Indie music                                                         Fleetwood Mac reunion                              
wikiHow                                                                              Wiki. What?

Hot yoga                                                                              Sit’N’B’Fit

Second-hand argyle sweater vest                                   Down vest/fleece jacket

Group dating                                                                       Date Night

Texting/Twitter/Instagram/Tumblr                                How does this thing work?

Maximum 2% body fat                                                      Weight Watchers 
Fixed-gear bicycle                                                               Porsche

Skin-tight jeans                                                                   Belt up under your armpits

Dachshund                                                                          Goldendoodle

Brooklyn, NY                                                                       Boca Raton, FL

Eco-consciousness                                                             Remembers the 1970s

Well, it’s sobering isn’t it? But never mind. Forty years from now, those hipsters will look back on their 20s and 30s and wonder where their formerly slim hips went. Or they’ll be on a waiting list for new bionic hip replacements. May they look upon the up and coming youth and think, “Ah, I was once just like you.”

Friday, September 26, 2014

Back in the Saddle Again

I bought a bicycle a couple of weeks ago. And I know what you’re thinking: She’s over 60. Surely she had the good sense to buy one of those clunky, upright cruisers with giant U-shaped handlebars – you know, the ones that give you the same posture as riding a Clydesdale. If she was smart, you thought, she’d have a bike with white-wall tires, enormous fenders and a wide seat that looks like someone sat on a loaf of sourdough. You probably even thought to yourself, it’s madness that an old gal like her should get a bike at all. I mean, is there cycling after 60?  

I must admit the day Ken and I went to the cycle shop, I was resigned to buying a cruiser. After all, I have progressed through the modern history of bicycles since my first trike in the 1950s. I’ve had one-speeds, three-speeds, 10-speeds, mountain bikes and city bikes. So, it just seemed natural to think that I should be riding a bike that declared, “Charter Member of the Depends Club.”

I explained my issue with sciatica to the sales rep and asked him to show me something with optimal upright posture. He steered me clear of the old-grey-mares and led out the sweetest little filly this side of the Sierra Nevada. She had a white, light-weight aluminum alloy body, Shimani-Tourney brakes with a 21-gear assembly and straight-across handlebars positioned slightly lower than the seat. “Oh, my aching sacroiliac!” I said, expressing concern about back strain.  “No, no!” he said, “You really don’t want to sit upright.”

“I don’t?”

“No, you don’t. Upright means you put too much pressure on the sciatic nerve with all your weight landing on your rear end.”

(Watch it, mister! I thought. All my weight, indeed.)

“Better to ride with your back flat, but leaning slightly forward so the weight transfers to your hands.”

“Interesting,” I said, “Go on.”

“And you don’t want that wide cushion seat.”

“I don’t?”

“No, you want one of these high-tech bad-boys designed especially for women.”


“See, it has gel pads right here to cushion your sits bones and this long groove here that relieves pressure where you need it.”

“Where I need it? OH! Where I NEED it! Oh, yes, I see!” I was starting to feel a little giddy.

At this point, he had my full attention. Ken’s too.

“Yes! And if you want to upgrade to this other saddle, it has an open section down the middle so you also get ventilation.”

“Oo!” My excitement mounted. I was getting a little light headed. It was like a chapter right out of Masters and Johnson.

“Uh huh. And this one here is the deluxe model that torques with you on turns so you get maximum flexibility in the saddle.”

“Oh, Baby! Oh, Baby! I’ll take the deluxe!”

The sales rep went away to tune the brakes before ringing up the sale. “Good thing,” Ken said, “That was quite enough of that kind of talk. If he said one more thing about your seat, I was going to have to deck him.”

Now that I’ve had the new bike for a couple of weeks, I must say, it is very comfortable. I’m especially pleased with the saddle. Too old for cycling – ridiculous!

Excuse me now. I think I need to go for a ride. Giddyap!


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Achoo on You!

Have you noticed that you never hear about a cure for the common cold anymore? You know why? Because we’re all too busy talking about blame for the common cold.

Think about it. It’s somebody’s fault. And we want to know who it was.

“My kid must have brought this miserable thing home from school. Kindergarten is just one big petri dish.”

“I just bet I caught this rotten cold from that jerk who sneezes on the copier.”

“Oh, great. You’ve given me YOUR cold. Thanks a lot, eh?”

“Don’t kiss me! I AM NOT going to get what you’ve got!”

“I probably picked up this wretched cold from the air conditioning at work. You know WHO sets it on “Ice Box” and the rest of us go around shivering all day.”

“I’ve told you a hundred times! Wash your hands! Who knows whose germs you’re going to pick up.”

“You must have caught it on the plane. Should have taken your Airborne. Honestly, we’re all going to catch Ebola one of these days.”

“Did you go out with that wet hair? Are you just BEGGING for a cold!”

“For heaven’s sake! Will you please sneeze into your arm! You’re going to give your cold to EVERYBODY.”

At our house we are just now getting over late summer/early fall, transition-season colds that HE brought home from work a couple of weeks ago. Somebody gave it to him. And it’s his fault that I got it.

Both of us were cranky when that first sniffle and scratchy sensation in the throat came on.

“Yech! I do not need to get sick.”

“Oh, honey, I’m sorry you aren’t feeling well. Is it going around at work?”

“Like the plague.”

“I want names.”

I just knew I was going to catch it. It was inevitable. I felt it coming on. It was a Friday afternoon. Great, there goes the weekend.

“My throat hurts.”

“Oh, I’m sorry.”

“You should be.”

“I didn’t give it to you on purpose!”


We couldn’t POSSIBLY do this to OURSELVES! So how does this happen? It could have been that fan blowing on us at yoga. Or the wet towel the hair dresser used for our mini facial. Was it sitting in that clinic waiting room with all those sneezy wretches who pawed the magazines? Or was it the germ encrusted handle of the coffee pot in the break room? Maybe it was that kid that coughed all over the salad bar.

But how effective is it really to lay blame for our illness on something or someone? Will it make our flu-like symptoms go away any faster if we find out exactly how we contracted this vile virus? NO it will not! We’ll still have the damn cold.

So if you’re getting this thing that’s going around, stock up on case lots of tissue, buy your supply of Nyquil and slurp some chicken soup. You caught it. It isn’t going away. But if it makes you feel any better, turn to your spouse and growl, “You did this to me.” He’ll understand.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Roads Less Taken

Sometimes life takes on metaphoric overtones. Take the proverbial issue of a road that diverges, for example. Some folks choose the path to the left. Some head to the right. Some say, “What could go wrong?” Some others turn around and walk back the way they came. “Well, for one thing going wrong; we could get lost,” they might say.

And some people might reply, “That’s half the fun!”

“For you, maybe.”

“Oh, c’mon! Let’s keep going.”

“No, we don’t know where either road goes.”

“I doubt that we’re going to run into street gangs or meth labs in this neighborhood if that’s what you’re worried about.”

“Very funny. You go ahead.”


“Fine. I’ll see you back at the B&B.”

By the time I got back to our room I was already tsk-tsk-ing to myself about not being adventurous enough to walk a little further down a path to see what was around the corner. And, really, I asked myself, how lost can you get in an upscale residential neighborhood with GPS on your iPhone? But then, I have always been the cautious type. I doubt I would have taken any risks in life at all if it hadn’t been for my better-half prodding me to do things like, oh, let’s say, take a trip or load the dishwasher differently.

And so, when the suggestion was made that we return to Dayton from Ann Arbor, Michigan on Labor Day weekend using a less-traveled route than the Interstate highway that got us there, I tip-toed out of my comfort zone and said, meekly, with great reservation, “Sure.”

Actually, I exaggerate. We travel country roads quite frequently. Besides, I-75 on the way north had been a hundred and thirty-five miles of construction zones, eighteen-wheelers barreling down on us and caffeine-addled, Nascar Wannabees riding our bumper doing their determined best presumably to drive over top of us doing thirty miles an hour above the speed limit. We could only guess at how ugly it was going to get with increased volume on the holiday Monday.

So, for our ride home, we chose instead a route parallel to I-75 — US 68 south from Findlay to Yellow Springs, Ohio. It could easily have been a parallel universe.

Once you leave the hair-raising adventure that is the Interstate, you step back in time to how road trips used to be in the good old days. Two lanes separated by yellow lines. Mile after mile of rolling cornfields all turning golden now that the corn has been harvested. Red barns and clapboard houses. Herds of black and white cows. Vegetable stands. You slow to 45 MPH through occasional small towns and marvel at how anyone found these particular spots on all of God’s good green earth to be congenial enough to plunk some houses and a gas station and actually live there.

On the back roads, you have the luxury of looking at scenery. The landscape is not punctuated by fast food restaurants and service ramps. Your shoulders relax a little when you realize that there is so little traffic. For long stretches at a time, you might be the only car on the highway.  You can actually see for miles ahead instead of staring into the back of a semi ‘s “How’s my driving?” query.

There is a whole different etiquette to country driving. Drivers going faster than you are will adhere to the old rules of the road, passing when it is safe to do so and getting back into their lane as soon as possible without giving you the finger. You give tractors and farm equipment and Amish buggies a wide berth and you never, ever honk or flash your lights to get them to move over. Maybe they give you a friendly wave.

Off the Interstate, it all looks kind of like my first grade reader with its watercolor illustrations of mother and father and Dick and Jane and Sally all smiling and Spot riding along in the back seat with his spaniel ears flapping out the window. You expect to see Farmer Brown wearing his overalls and a big red neckerchief, waving to you from his front porch and hoping you’ll stop in to buy some carrots and wax beans and brown eggs. He doesn’t concern himself with kale or Heritage beets.

You gradually arrive in increasingly urban surroundings, disappointed that your rural reverie is over. You wonder if you might have reached home faster if you had taken the Interstate. But at least you can pry your knuckles loose from the steering wheel.

And this brings us back to our metaphor. In his poem, The Road Not Taken, Robert Frost wrote, "I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference." So true. We both said, "That was such a nice trip home!" Take that Interstate.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Garage Sale from Hell

 I haven’t had a lot of experience with garage sales. I don’t troll neighborhoods on weekends looking for them. I’ve only held 3 or 4 in my adult life. But I think I understand the basic premise: you collect up all your junk, put ridiculously low prices on little stickers all over your items indicating you are serious about getting rid of them, set out some signs, maybe some balloons and lay bare the detritus of your life out on your driveway in the expectation that folks will come and buy ALL your cool stuff, the BEST stuff put out at a garage sale EVER, so you don’t have to haul it back to the basement. I’m not sure the rest of the population gets this. Some people seem to miss the inference of “garage sale” and expect that you’re running some kind of retail operation.

Take our sale a couple of weeks ago. An early bird asked about scrap metal. “I recycle scrap metal,” he told me. I showed him the cast iron fireplace grate that we hoped to get rid of. “How about this?” I asked. He held it up by one corner between two fingers, at arm’s length like it was a stinky bag of dog poo. “Oh, I don’t know. That’s not good for much,” he declared, “Do you have anything bigger?” Gosh, no, sir. We ran out of scrap metal minutes before you got here at 7:30am. "Sorry," I said. He grunted and huffed away as though my customer service had been deplorable.

Another man came by asking if we had any LPs. “Well, yeah,” I told him, “I have some LPs, but not out. Mostly they’re ones that I want to hang onto.” “I collect LPs,” he explained, “Musicals!” “Oh? We have some records from Broadway musicals!” I said, cheerfully, thinking that if he wanted to come back later, I could drag them up from downstairs. I wasn’t expecting anyone to buy LPs and so, had not displayed any. “No, not Broadway,” he said, “Everybody’s got Broadway. I mean musical scores. Like from the movies.” “Oh, yes?” I inquired, “Like ‘The Magnificent Seven’ or ‘Exodus’?” I remembered my Dad had those. “Nope, like, ‘I Walked with a Zombie,’ and ‘Fire Maidens from Outer Space,’ and ‘The Beast of Yucca Flats.’” Uh, no I, I don’t have any of those. Come on! What are the chances? “Have you tried a used record store?” I asked. “Aw, those stores get picked over,” he said, “Albums like those get snapped up pretty quick.” “I bet they do,” I replied. “How about eight-track tapes?” he asked, “Got any eight tracks?” Gosh, fresh out, I’m afraid.

Another guy took a brisk look around and wanted to know, “Do you have any fishing lures?” It doesn’t look like I have any fishing lures, now does it, sir? “How about power tools?” Oh, you know what? Those are in my other garage. 'Sorry!"

Yet another man wanted to know if I was selling shower curtains. “I use them for drop cloths,” he explained, "I’m a painter.” I did have a used one upstairs tucked away upstairs in the linen closet, but by now I was totally sympathetic to shop clerks who tell you, what you see is what we got! “Nope, darn it! Sorry. No shower curtains.” Was I stupid to miss my opportunity to sell that old, mildewy shower curtain? It might have raised my profit by at least 75 cents.

Later in the day a woman seemed taken by a framed picture of four black and white cow faces set against a grid of four colored backgrounds, kind of Andy Warhol-style. She seemed so delighted and picked it up for a closer look. “Oh, this is so cuuu-uuute! I love cows!” she squealed. Ah, a sale! “I’d buy this, but my family raises Guernseys,” she continued, “Holsteins just won’t do. Does this come in Guernseys?” Gee, let me check the stock room. I’m sure we had some Guernseys earlier, but I guess they sold out. “Regrettably, I have no Guernseys!” I told her. “O.K. Well, thanks anyway,” she said with a cheery smile as she walked away. Honestly, for a dollar she couldn’t have bought Holsteins?

The day kind of went like that. Who knew garage sale enthusiasts were such specific shoppers? Here I thought the idea was to browse through other people’s trash to find cheap treasures that you didn’t even know you needed and buy them right then and there with cash just because they’re 25 cents. But these folks were clearly on mission-driven.

Still, it was fun to dicker over prices. “This is marked, $1.00. Will you take 50 cents?” Sure! Why pay retail?

Mind you, we did get some impulse buyers. My tomato crusher, a collection of Buffalo mementos and a 1970s Flokati rug have now all gone to good homes. I bet none of those customers woke up that morning saying, “Yup, today’s the day I go looking for a tomato press, some bison-themed items and a Greek rug!” 

It’s a shame that the humidifier/mood lamp didn’t sell, though. I even plugged it in so folks could see how its pastel-colored lights could be so soothing. But you know the old saying, “It isn’t junk until it’s been in three garage sales.”

On second thought, maybe I’ll just pack up all this leftover crap and haul it to Goodwill.