Wednesday, October 21, 2015

I Ain't Afraid of No Ghosts: An Inner Dialogue

Scene: My house. Bed time. On the staircase. In the bathroom and the bedroom.

Me: (aloud) (Turning off the TV and living room lights.) Come on, Riley, boy! Time for bed.

Me: (not aloud) (The dog runs upstairs in the dark.) Gosh, it's dark up there. It looks darker than normal. Why the heck didn't I leave a light on up there?

Me: (to myself) (Climbing the stairs to the bedroom.) Because it would scare you to bits if you did leave a light on and if it wasn't on anymore when you got up there, you'd freak right out, that's why. Everyone knows that ghosts play with electricity. 

Me: Oh, yeah? I ain't afraid of no ghosts! 

Me: Oh, sure, you aren't. HA! You're scared stiff! 

Me: I should NOT have read that story in today's paper about Dayton's most haunted places. Curse Hallowe'en anyway. Never mind. Ghosts don't exist. 

Me: SOME people see ghosts. And not just psychics. They see them all over the place. A face at a window. Shadows in the hall. A body walking through a door. What if I you see a figure or a face when you get up there?

Me: (Humming softly) I ain't afraid of no ghosts! If there's something weird, in your neighborhood, who you goin' call?……GHOST BUSTERS! Deh-deh-DEH-deh-deh-DEH-deh-dehdeh-up. Wee-eee-eee-oooooooooo-oooo-oooo.

Me: Wait a sec. Haven't you ever the noticed the double negative in that song? AIN'T afraid of NO ghosts? It means opposite. Like, even the Ghost Busters were afraid of SOME ghosts.

Me: (Turning the bedroom light on as fast as I can.) Why do I do this every time the Mister is out of town? This house does NOT have any spooks or paranormal activity!

Me: How do you know? Maybe they only come out when you're all al-ooooooooo-one! Woo-ooooo!

Me: Stop that! (In the bathroom, brushing my teeth.) I have never seen a ghost. Mind you, there was that time we stayed in that creepy, Victorian bed and breakfast in upstate New York. 

Me: Oh, that WAS a good one. Just a couple miles from Ichabod Crane country. That place was haunted for sure. You kept your eyes open all night after the crash you heard in the bathroom! BWA-ha-ha-ha! You wouldn't get up to go pee until the sun came up. Hilarious!

Me: Yeah, a real scream. The shower curtain tension rod fell! That could happen anywhere! Besides there is always a reasonable explanation for everything. (Closing the bathroom medicine cabinet, expecting to see a shadowy figure in the mirror.

Me: Sure. You can tell yourself that.

Me: (Now in the bedroom. Closing the closet door) Didn't I close that earlier?

Me: Hmmm.

Me: Oh, shut up. (Getting into bed, pulling the covers over my head. Clicking noise coming from the direction of the radiator.)

Me: What was THAT?

Me: Oh, for heaven's sake. Nothing. I left the radiator open. (Turning on the light and getting out of bed to go turn the radiator off.) Who needs that thing pinging and hissing all night?

Me: That was smooth. You nearly knocked the lamp over turning it on in such a hurry. What if you reach for it when you see a ghost and you can't get to the switch before the ghost does? 

Me: You're right. I need something faster. I know, I'll get my emergency light and put it on my bed side table. As close as I can. (Getting out of bed again and retrieving the touch light used for power failures.)

Me: NOW can we go to bed? You've got your little light. Mind you, what if it lights up on "it's own" during the night? THEN you'll be in trouble!


Me: I know what will be fun! Let's think about all the scary movies we've ever seen! Let's see, there was "The Ghost and Mr. Chicken"…..

Me: Stop right there!!! La la la la la la! I don't want to hear it! 

Me: OK, but did you hear THAT? A scraping noise! 

Me: (Whimpering) Riley? Is that you?

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Lesley & Betty; the Movie

Ever since I began blogging I've wanted to find a hook. You know, something that would make me famous. Like Julie Powell. Remember her? She was the blogger who cooked her way through Julia Child's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking," blogged about it, got thousands of readers, and wound up with a book and a major motion picture made about her, starring Amy Adams and Meryl Streep. That's the kind of famous I'm after. A movie about me starring Meryl Streep.

Alas, brilliant ideas have escaped me. Until now! 

Not too long ago, I picked up a cookbook at a garage sale. I couldn't believe my eyes! There it was, Betty Crocker's "Dinner in a Dish" — nearly-new looking, displayed on a table out on someone's driveway, going for only 25 cents. I had to have it! This book had been a life-changer for me in my pre-teens. My mother had a copy. It contained 324 recipes devoted to casseroles — complete with menu plans for "company best" or "bridge night," plus party tips, serving suggestions for salads and sides, and hints for hostesses. 

Predating crock pots by a few years, casseroles in Pyrex bakeware ruled the day when "Dinner in a Dish" was published in 1965. I drooled over the illustrations: Lobster Newburg. Lattice-topped Meatball Bake. Chicken Pot Pie. Shrimp Creole. Waikiki Pork Chop Dinner. Ham and Potato Chip Dumplings.

Mom and I made dozens of recipes from this cook book. I imagined myself so grown-up; a smart society-hostess-type, lithe as a ballerina, whisking Turkey Divan to the table for my ooh-ing and aww-ing guests.

I glanced at the cover of this one-dish-dictionary the other day. That's when it hit me. I could do a Julie & Julia type blog!  A Lesley & Betty spin. I could work through every recipe and write about it with a 1965, "Mad Men" kind of vibe. Brilliant, Lesley! I opened the book and began. 

First up: Chicken Sorrento. The subtitle says: "Delicious with hot biscuits and a colorful fruit salad served in lettuce cups." Right. Some Pillsbury refrigerator biscuits and canned fruit cocktail in iceberg lettuce would do nicely, I thought. No kale or quinoa invited to this party! Let's get started. 

Coat chicken breasts. with flour, paprika, and dried parsley flakes. Brown in melted Crisco shortening. (Hmm. Got to rethink that one. Olive oil. Better.) Add chopped mushrooms to the pan. (So far so good.) Stir in cream of celery soup. (OK, if I have to - just to be authentic.) Add sour cream. (Uh, oh.) Add cubed Velveeta. (Good grief! I haven't bought Velveeta in, well, ever.) Stir in cooked macaroni. Spoon into casserole dish. Pour more canned soup over top. Crush corn flakes for a crunchy topping (optional.) Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.

OMG! You can just taste it, can't you? Creamy, soupy, cheesy Chicken Sorrento: pretty much a classic casserole. Just the ticket for a family dinner served on TV tables while watching "Green Acres." Comfort food. What our childhood tasted like: caloric. 

It didn't take long to browse a few pages before realizing that I would be 300 pounds if I pursued this project, even WITH low fat, low sodium versions of the canned foods and dairy products. 

Ah, well. Times have changed since 1965. And why would I want to alienate you, my friends who are vegetarian, gluten-free or lactose-intolerant? 

No. It's back to the drawing board for me to come up with a different plan for blog fame.

I wonder what Julie Powell is doing today? She's probably a TV chef by now. And doesn't use cream of celery soup.

Friday, October 2, 2015


Certain events in life bring people together, don't they? Some are celebratory. Others are tragic. Way too many are catastrophic. Happily, some are lunar.

The lunar variety certainly got folks talking this week. The event must have a scientific name, but to quote some presidential candidates, I am not a scientist. So, we called it by its media pop name: the Super Blood Moon eclipse. This phenomenon, featuring a larger than normal full moon and the earth's shadow passing in front of it, turning it a dusty red color, entered the popular conversation this week with, "Did you see the eclipse?"  

And so many did. It has been a topic on Facebook all week, complete with amateur and professional photos. Casual discussions have turned to where we were when it happened, how we watched it, how well our pictures turned out, and "You know, the next one won't be until 2033!" 

Although, early in the day here in Dayton it was looking like it might be too cloudy, we were lucky enough to have clear skies by sunset. Add in a warm summery evening with a light breeze and we had the perfectly pleasant setting for being outdoors watching the moon. Neighbors came out of their houses. Someone set up a telescope across the street from us. Others parked folding chairs along the street. We set up chairs on our own lawn where we got a good view of the moon over the garage. It was fully dark here by the time the eclipse began and we could hear folks chime out, "It's started!" Kids got to stay up past their bedtimes. The whole show had a party atmosphere.

Forgive me for invoking the Way Back Machine once again, but Sunday night's moon event reminded me of the last time we experienced this much enthusiasm about an eclipse. It was February 26, 1979. That year, the mid section of North America was under the wide arc of a total solar eclipse. But Winnipeg was the largest urban center located under its absolute epicenter. Needless to say, the city was abuzz with excitement. Newspapers, television and radio carried stories for weeks about what we'd see and when, all about the science, and how we should avoid burning our eyeballs by not actually looking directly at it. Everyone purchased the proper viewing spectacles making the entire city's population look like an enormous audience at a 3-D movie. Someone issued official badges with appropriate eclipse-watching graphics designed especially for the event. Some school officials planned on suspending classes so their students could watch; others thought it would be too dangerous, fearing that kids might look at the sun at the wrong moment. Businesses proclaimed a mini holiday.

At the time I worked in a three story, flat-roofed building downtown.There were no tall buildings immediately around us to impede our view of the sun. I'm not sure that management sanctioned our office group's plan to gather on the roof, but we did anyway. We must have been nuts! The temperature that day was in the minus 20s. There we were, convened on that barren rooftop, in the dim, frozen February sunlight, bundled up in winter coats, mitts, toques and boots, wearing our goggles. We might as well have been on the moon. 

I don't remember how long we stayed out there in the biting Manitoba wind, but I do remember being very cold. And I wish I could say that I remember the moment that the sun was erased by the moon's shadow. At the precise moment, I had let my attention stray toward two other phenomena that we had been told would occur: the flock of birds that swooped and danced through the scene, and the long, rippled shadow that waved like the tail of a ghost across the roof's surface behind us. It sent chills up my spine - or maybe it was just the cold that made me shiver. Regardless, I turned away from the sun at the exact moment of totality to observe this phantom shadow.

For weeks, everyone around town shared their eclipse stories. "Where were you during Totality?" they'd ask. It was the opening salvo of or everyone's conversations. And I had to admit that I missed it.

As for Ken, during that time in February he was the Company Manager on a performance tour, going around northern Manitoba, shepherding a group of mimes who did not speak to each other -- neither on stage or off (no kidding - you can't make this stuff up - they hated each other so much they refused to talk to each other.) He felt rather lonely that whole trip, but there was one moment when they all loaded off the tour bus and stood together as one, in silence, except for their teeth chattering in the cold, solar goggles perched on their noses — for the total eclipse of the sun. It was a moment in time enough to even bring even mute mimes together.