The Year in Resistance
"Good march. I wonder how long Trump will last." - Me, after the St. Louis Women's March in January
Even though we attended the Women's March, Immigration March, Planned Parenthood March, Tax March, Science March, Climate Change March, Healthcare Rally, Truth March, and Impeachment Rally, the Pence Regency / Trump Presidency persists. Gary protests virulently on Facebook every day, and we dressed as Russian trolls for Halloween, but other than that the Resistance seems to have gone dormant. I long for a march on the anniversary of the Women's March, preferably one with the brass Dixieland band.
The Year In Music
We went to see Cabaret, BNL, Doobie Brothers / Chicago, Foreigner, missed the Pixies because we are stupid, but saw Katy Perry. I stepped out of my pop music comfort zone to go to the opera with Anne.
The Year in Idle Pursuits
I don't know if Gary will want to revisit the NaughtiGras this year - it'll be on the tail of a pretty exhausting holiday. I know, I know, I just came off of an exhausting holiday at Universal Studios. Next year I'll be sure to space out my vacation time better. Thinking of that, seven years from now I need to be sure I don't visit an escape room and a cave the same week there's a total solar eclipse.
The Year in Personal Growth
Well, I don't know about personal growth, but I know marital growth has occurred. We've started identifying what makes us crazy. We still say "You ALWAYS do that when - " and then later we fill in the blanks. We always do seem to fight tenaciously over questions neither of us know the answer to. Where we are when we're lost, how to hang a ceiling fan, how to use Gary's new iPhone. If one takes an opinion the other (Gary, let's be real) takes the opposing opinion, and then the fight is on.
New Year's resolution: no more of that. More protests and concerts and idle pursuits.
It's so odd to me that everything I remember from my semester stay at Indiana University is documented in my letters home. I wonder if perhaps instead of the memorable stuff ending up in letters, writing it down is what made it memorable.
I was wondering that when I opened a letter I'd written after I'd broke up with Michael. I giddily told Mom about my new boyfriend Dave. I remember that Dave was a big one for making plans and lists. I remember on our first date he'd made a plan for our future and made me sign it. (I still have it somewhere. He's a lawyer now. Meretricious. Can't hold up in court.) What I didn't remember at all is that we went shopping for engagement rings sometime in our first month of dating. I described what I was wearing, I have photos from that day, yet I can not remember going into the jewelry store or anything else engagement ring-related. I can only imagine Mom's horror getting that letter.
Evidently I inherited this speed romance gene from Mom. She knows a boy, they go on some dates, and she writes her way into his heart. There's one young man named Wessel who seems quite taken with her. At the end of his envelope pile I see an unsent letter from her (not a carbon) that seems to put him in his place. A year later there's his response to her wedding invitation. (I've found Mr. Wessel online. I'm wondering if he might like his letters back.)
Then she meets a boy in December, writes him three letters a day starting Christmas break, he's in love with her by mid-January. The love and marriage plans are professed in an unsent letter there too, but it's from the boy to my Mom. I get to see the unsent letter to Mom because the boy (my stepfather) found her again years after she ditched him, married Jerry, and had two children, including me.
Those are particularly fun to read because they both kept both sets, so it's like a historical document. Also, they both have legible handwriting. After reading all these letters I have changed sides on the abandonment of cursive in school. Cursive is evil. Oh, and back in the day there was a habit of folding two sheets of typewriter paper and writing on it in a style I can't even describe without a video. Sheet 1 contains pages 1 and 4, the inner sheet contains 3 and 2, right first then left. It's like Shakespeare's folios, except for the backwards way the inner sheet is.
Sadly, the boy with legible handwriting is ditched for my scribbly father, from whom I see one very passionate letter. (I know there are other Jerry letters, but I don't know where.) The letter from Jerry was sent while he was visiting his parents and evidently telling them he's engaged. It doesn't seem to have gone well at first, but he makes a case to his parents and "Mad Aunt Jo." (Run, Mom.) He spends a few pages giving some genealogy.
On my grandmother's side I was surprised to see I'm a Southerner. Her father was "A black sheep" (run, Mom) " from a very rich and genteel family" in Spartanburg, South Carolina. This is a good match for Mom, whose great-grandfather owned much of Marion Ohio. Genetically, I should look for some small pond I can be the Big Fish Of.
My grandfather's side is where the big surprise lay: my great grandfather was full Cherokee. I just read an article on how it would be impossible for everyone who thinks they are Cherokee to actually be Cherokee, but here I am all one-sixteenth Cherokee. (Indian name: "Writes On Blog.") And he isn't just a nameless guy, his name is "S"... "a"..."m" ... "s ...e ...r ... y? ...Maybe?" Very poor handwriting. He shouldn't be too hard to look up, since he fought for the Confederacy and was "a federal Circuit judge." Yeah, right, I thought, that's bullshit. A Cherokee U.S. Circuit court judge? But, and here I show my ignorance to my Cherokee relatives, the Cherokee have an entire judicial system they started in 1839 - constitution and circuit courts and all - that was taken away in 1898.
So, here I am the very end of that particular run of Cherokee blood. Tsk. It's absurd, of course: unless that 1/16h is pooling in my face and giving me my red chin.
It's been fascinating to see Mom's take on family history ... it would be better to say "hear" Mom's take, because I can hear her voice in every word. I've got copies of her letters and any letters sent to her by family.
I'm glad Mom could type on the electric typewriter, and kept carbon copies (Google it, kids). It makes me very sad that my paternal grandfather had such poor handwriting that it took me five minutes to work out that he had chastised Jerry for his "SEX affair." (And watch the sex affairs, kids, fifty years later your children will out you on their blogs.) Mom was pretty convinced Jerry's love affair - sorry, Grandpa, SEX affair - was chaste until they were separated. I think that's probably true, just from some of the nuances. Of course, once they split up no one waited for the divorce on either side. I think the last letter between Mom and Jerry's parents was the one in which she announces she's getting remarried four months after the divorce.
There are some things that Mom had the good grace to white out from her later letters. It would seem her early opinion of Gary was not one of whole-hearted support. (Easy enough to read through the white-out if you hold it up to a light.) It's okay, he grew on her, "weird" and "unreliable" though he was. (And is.)
Every month when I go and cash in the thirty year old Series EE bonds, I worry why they had an extra $200 to invest in bonds right after I got married. Did I cost that much money? Come to find out, Mom got a raise and promotion, and they invested the raise. So that eases my mind.
And there are tiny little mysteries revealed. For example, why are there only a few photos of me as a child? I started to notice a theme in her letters. "Dressed Ellen in her green smocked dress for her grandparent's visit." Yes, that tracks with one of the six photos I have. There I am, next to the grandparents, in a smocked dress. Six photos. How much did film cost? Seriously? Was it like getting an oil painting? And then ... "I am sending you this photo of the kids at Christmas. Please return it since it is our only copy and our camera is broken." Well! There you go! The camera broke. And Mom trusted the existing photos to the U.S. Mail and soon-to-be-estranged relatives. No wonder there are only six photos of me in Houston.
And finally, it has been revealed whose bladder I inherited. My paternal grandmother must have been my age when she was writing Mom after the divorce and the woman has a bladder infection every other letter, when she isn't suffering from a kidney infection. I don't know what she was doing to get her bladder infections, given that her husband was coughing up blood from lung cancer at the time.
I'm only a tiny portion of the way throuh the box. Next up, my letters to Mom.
Now that Mom's been dead almost ten years, I'm re-reading all her letters. I keep wanting to look up all her old friends and see if they remember her, or if they ever wondered what happened to her after she divorced Jerry and moved away from Houston.
I actually looked up one set of friends: Mike and Marilyn Ferguson. They were writers, and they even obliquely mentioned Mom and Jerry in the book they published: Champagne Living on a Beer Budget. They knew Mom when they lived in Houston. The most notable letter was from Marilyn, when she advised that Mom and Jerry not get divorced. Mom fired back a testy letter because she was fighting for her marriage! (At least, until she ducked back to Saint Louis and found her ex-boyfriend, thank God. I liked Dan Davis as a stepdad more than I would have liked Jerry Lockett as a father. I know you shouldn't judge your ex-father based on your Mom's letters, but even HIS father was on Mom's side.)
Anyway, the thing you notice when you Google Mike and Marilyn Ferguson is that Marilyn died a few months after Mom, and that Deepak Chopra was sad about it. Evidently, Mom's friend Marilyn became a big noise in the New Age Movement in about 1980.
I already knew a few things I saw in her Wikipedia article. I know she had written a book called The Brain Revolution, because that was on our living room bookshelf, and I know she divorced Mike Ferguson because Mom noted it. Not smug or hateful. Just a little note on yellow lined paper, tucked in to her divorce letters, that listed all the friends who told her not to get divorced, followed by the dates of their divorces. (Well. Perhaps a bit smug. Not hateful.)
So, add this to the wedding photos taken by Bill Eppridge, and this makes two friends of Mom's who went on to immortality. I'm sure if Deepak Chopra had known my Mom he would have been sad she died too.
Some last minute Christmas shopping took us out to the mall, and I was surprised to see that this new store has popped up on the outer road:
Hm, Tactical Sh*t, I respect your in-your-face attitude. I respect the strength of your views. I would respect a well-regulated militia, if I had ever seen such a thing. I admire you so much I would like to open an abortion clinic in your parking lot and call it Abortions-n-Sh*t. Next door I would put a head shop called Sh*tHeads, and then one of those government offices where they surgically implant the tracking microchips which I would call Microchip R Ass. Sorry. A*s.
(It seems to have taken the place of the Uncle Sam's Military Surplus Store about half a year ago. I wonder if all Uncle Sam's are being rebranded. I would imagine not. After looking at the abysmal Yelp reviews, I would say they don't have a good prognosis.)
I've been using the sous-vide as regularly as I can. The friend who introduced me to the sous-vide, Anne, called The Splendid Table last week to ask what she could do with fresh bay leaves, so now I'm two degrees of separation from Garrison Keillor.
I've tried some new recipes. Of the many sous-vide resources, the best so far has been Will It Sous-Vide, written by Claire Lower, who refers to her boyfriend as "ofClaire" ala The Handmaid's Tale, and it's been nice seeing you here, bye for now while you visit over there. She sous-vides Hot Pockets and turkey legs. It's delightful.
Not what I would have expected to be my favorite, but after three hours my Old Fashioned grits tasted like they took a slow bus up from Nashville and ate butter sandwiches the whole way.
Scrambled eggs. They came out a little soupy, even after 30-45 minutes. And I know, scrambled eggs should take less than five minutes, and I even did a final sear as you would for a steak because I didn't trust the egg whites. Was it worth it? Best eggs ever. Beat the Starbucks eggs by far.
Frozen chicken. It did indeed thaw when I extended the cooking time by 50%. But it had some slight - very slight - strangeness of texture. Gary didn't notice it. It encouraged me to try a frozen butterfly pork chop which was insanely good, like, $17 restaurant pork chop good. I can't tell you what Gary thought because I made it and ate it while he slept because I knew I'd have to sear it after, and that produces smoke, and that produces an interrogation.
My heart failed me on two of my attempts, pudding and brisket.
Pudding. I cooked it for hours, I refrigerated it, I popped the vacuum seal, I jiggled it. I took a bite. I jiggled it again. The jiggle was suspect. I took another tiny bite. Some deep innate caveman voice said "Don't eat that." I can't really explain what turned me against the pudding, or if the pudding had turned itself, but down the drain it went.
Brisket. This was the one that called for FIVE DAYS OF BRINING and then TWO DAYS OF COOKING. I ended up doing seven days of brining, and then ... I just couldn't. I worried about the temperature stability of the garage fridge where I done the brining. I pictured all the little microbes climbing up on the brisket and diving off. So instead I pulled out my old slow cooker recipe and stupidly doubled the cook time. It was awful. I mean, it was fine after we smothered it in barbecue sauce once and gravy another time, but it was so overcooked the $25 brisket shriveled down to six servings.
I need to skip the brine and toss a chuck roast in there. That only takes a day.
Bottom Round, Revisited. Editing this post to add that I cooked bottom round at 135 degrees for 24 hours instead of 180 for 8 hours and it is completely different. Well, duh, know, but this wasn't a rare round steak, it really tastes like a less fatty prime rib. It's amazing. I gave Gary a bite, and when he wandered out twenty mintues later it was all gone. As we know, you gotta eat that sous vide stuff immediately.You snooze, you lose, no sous.
This time last year my fancy West County dentist sold his practice to a dentist not three miles from my house. Convenient! Lovely!
I walked in and almost walked out. The reception area wasn't just shabby - it was mangy. Mangy in that every wall had a dead animal hanging on it. Dead deer head, dead fish, dead deer, dead fish, then a dead fish on the way to the exam room. (No dead deer in the exam room itself.) I went to the bathroom to check for dead fish and found very old linoleum and hair in the corner.
After I came back home and expressed my dissatisfaction to Gary, he insisted I make an appointment with his dentist. Gary's dentist is a perfectionist whom Gary loves.
I now see why Gary likes this dentist. He has the cool toys.
Lobby video flat screen: there is a flat screen in the (hairless) lobby that plays testimonials for the Invisalign brances on a loop. I love a before-and-after, but these people had perfect teeth before and slightly more perfect teeth after. They should have hit Gary up to be a tooth model instead: his Invisalign really made a difference.
Stand up panoramic 3-D CAT scan: You just stand there in a lead apron and some machine pivots around you and takes a very disturbing photo of your teeth that looks like those 3-D baby ultrasounds. This is used later to show you why you need the Invisalign treatment, which must be the bread-and-butter that buys the office all this cool stuff.
Comm Devices: The hygenists all wear a tiny communications device so they can converse about status and where things are. Mine reported that another client had been very concerned because he could hear the voices, couldn't see the tiny device, and didn't know where the voices were coming from.
After I got my water cleaning and Creamsicle tooth polish they - of course - tried to sell me on Invisalign, and I was impressed enough to look at an estimate, which was three times what Gary paid for his. Nope. I also had a cavity, one missing filling, and then later that day the back of one of my teeth sheared off, so I had to come back the next day. That means I got to appreciate the tooth filllng technology:
Mylar: l've never had a dentist wrap plastic around the base of my teeth and permanently leave it there. I don't know why he did, and it agitated me when I could feel it with my tongue after the novacaine wore off. It's been a month and I don't notice it anymore. I did look it up and he didn't just forget it, it's supposed to stay. Can't figure out fro the scholarly article what the point is.
I have left the best for last.
Jaw prop: They said, "Open wide" and then stuck a piece of plastic between my molars that KEPT me open wide. Genius. Genius.
THIS is what sold me (and made me consider even getting the Inivisalign when it's half off).
Sous-vide cooking is all the rage now that they've invented a device that will let you safely cook food in tepid water in your stock pot. Well, that's an exaggeration. It isn't tepid water, because it has to be at least 135 degrees to kill the pathogens. But you put your meat or eggs or carrots in a vacuum-sealed bag and you let it cook - well, simmer - well, heat up - at a temperature low enough to kill pathogens but still does some amazing slow cooking that doesn't dry anything out.
Like this boil-in-bag dinner I grew up on, but much nicer.
Friend Anne has a sous-vide, and broke it out to make some beef tenderloin last time I was at Anne's Day Spa and Kitchen Laboratory. It was fabulous. That could be because it was beef tenderloin. I was surprised that it only had to sit in the bag in the water for four hours. I'd heard things have to stay in the water for days.
So, for Christmas I got myself my own sous-vide cooker and I have since learned that there is a delicate dance one must do. You have to balance the time spent cooking (half an hour to 78 hours) with the temperature (136 degrees to 180) and the amount of pathogens killed (if you cook it too long - like days - and the food's too delicate - like fish - the strongest pathogens revive and can trouble you).
Here are the things I have eaten so far.
Eggs with gruyere. I quizzed facebook on what to make, and everyone who has had Starbuck's velevety sous-vide eggs said, "Make that." I had to buy jars, and I evidently got the wrong kind, and the knock-off recipe I found might have been off, and and they were a bit tough. Still, edible. Tasted like ... eggs. The next day I plopped an egg in boiling water and kept it there for seven minutes and it was perfect. Wouldn't make the 45 minute eggs again.
Shop and Save steak. I followed the recipe on the website for this one. "Only half an hour?" I thought. "Well ... okay." And it was wonderful. Made a cheap steak much better.
Leftover eggs with gruyere (see above). The eggs recipe made four servings, and I WAS ASSURED you could refrigerate them, even though I've heard that you really should eat sous-vide things immediately so the pathogens cannot ressurect themselves. I laugh dourly at that now. I took one out of the fridge the next day, ate it for breakfast, and four hours later I was at work and the egg was leaving my system violently. And I would say, "Sure, some part of the egg was undercooked, and I have an egg white intolerance, AS I NOW REMEMEBER," however I don't vomit with the egg white intolerance, and the bowel distress starts after 45 minutes, not four hours. "No more eggs!" I thought, as I puked. And, had I not had the steak, I would have thought "No more sous-vide."
Carrots. I've heard a lot about how awesome carrots are when cooked sous-vide. I think I may have heard this from people who never eat raw carrots. After 45 minutes they still had a crunchy center (with a nicely tender outside) and they did indeed retain their carrot taste. But ... why not just eat raw carrots?
Bottom Round Roast. I have tried to make roasts, and they are always disappointing, because they are always some horrible cut of meat that I think will taste like seasoned lunchmeat right out of the oven. Still, I sliced up a bottom round into four-ounce portions and cooked it at 180 (a little high) for eight hours (really, that's what the recipe said). It was tender. Sadly, it still tasted like a very tender, very dry, very tasteless bottom round roast. For the next portion I try will requre a lower temperature, more time, and more gravy.
That's it so far. Next I'm going to try:
Frozen chicken. I often come home to find that nothing is prepared or even thawed. Supposedly I'll be able to increase the cook time by 50% if the food is frozen. Let's see what happens when I plop a frozen breast in the pot. Supposedly after ninety minutes I'll have a succulent chicken breast.
Filet mignon. They were on sale for four bucks each, so why not. And supposedly I can toss the frozen cuts right into the pot still in their vacuum packaging right from the store.
Brisket. I love brisket. I have a fun brisket recipe that calls for Mogen David wine. However, the sous-vide brisket recipe calls for FIVE DAYS OF BRINING and then TWO DAYS OF COOKING. Hope it works out. I'll see Thursday. They say you put ping-pong balls in the pot so the water doesn't evaporate after day one.
Chuck Roast. I love chuck roast, particularly the collagen. I haven't had a proper pot roast for years because Gary hates the collagen. Hoping the sous-vide will do some amazing thing that will make it palatable to Gary.
Pudding. When I tried to make home-made pudding before, it was very tough with a nasty skin. I'm going to try making some today with the sous-vide, but this time I've got the right jars, I'm literally rinsing off the egg yolks, and I'm dividing the recipe so I don't try to eat any leftovers.
Long time commenter Hattie (real name :Marianne) has passed away of cancer.
She was endlessly fascinating, tremendously well-read, and blogging almost to the end. Like my Mom, her hospice was brief. I will miss her nudges on my blog to remind me to make updates.
If you haven't,viisit her blog at http://hattie.typepad.com/hatties_web/
Gary just called in from the other room.
"Ellen, what the name of this thing on the bed?"
"The THING! On the bed. I have to buy a new thing!"
"Oh. The coverlet?"
"Thank you." I could hear him typing.
I kept quiet. I haven't slept in that room for years now. I suppose Gary saw me feathering my nest and felt an urge to decorate what we've taken to calling "his" room.
I immediately thought of all the garish coverlets he could be looking at, all of which would require repainting the walls and rehanging the collection of Mucha prints I've started in college. Still, I thought, I've lost control of the kitchen and it didn't kill me. He's a grown man. He can pick out his own coverlet. Long gone are the days I would tear a room apart if he overrode one of my decorating decisions.
He started to make noises. "What is this again? A duvet cover?"
Then a few minutes later, "You said it was a featherbed?"
"IT'S A COVERL - ugh. I'm coming." Obviously he was making stuff up so I'd come in there. This is how we "do" now.
I think he's going to narrow it down to a few, read reviews, and talk himself out of it.
Marriage is a lot easier when you know what's coming.
Interesting. He was headed straight to a nautical themed blue one, and at the very last veered instead for the butter yellow floral.
He nixed the "Relax" pillow. ("NO PILLOWS WITH WRITING THAT IS STUPID," he bellowed in the Macys.) He also went with a grey striped sham, not the matching sham, plus the solid yellow knit pillow and the grey tassel throw. This photo doesn't show the three sets of coordinating sheets that are available - all matching dots and stripes - all of which he bought. Huge Black Friday savings.
The hobby situation here is in flux.
Knitting: I came close.I looked at a book, I researched the internet for "easy sock patterns." That was as far as I got before other hobbies swam to the surface to pull me away from the maelstrom that is knitting.
Jewelry: After puzzling all summer over how to make a necklace out of a wooden jigsaw, a new thought occured to me and I promptly ordered two very nice wooden puzzles to test it out. I haven't drilled into them yet because my NEW hobby pulled me downstream toward...
Cleaning. My new hobby. I know. I gutted and perfected and tweaked the medical bathroom and it felt so good that I pulled everything out of my nest/guest room and gave it the same treatment. I also bought the room a new wastebasket. Did you know there are wastebaskets to be bought for over 500 U.S. dollars at Houzz? I felt virtuous that my new wastebasket was a steal at $45.
Here we are in costume for Halloween:
Yes, we are trolls, but out name tags say:
So, we are Russian trolls.
When I got the idea, I thought, that's obscure, because no one is going to remember troll pencil toppers. I remember them every day I brush my hair toward the ceiling. With an application of hairspray, I think, I would look just like a troll pencil topper.
It was surprisingly easy to find troll wigs on Amazon, but you can find anything on Amazon. It was harder to find a good font for the Russian Hello My Name is tag.
As it turns out, I didn't have to explain troll pencils to anyone at the party we attended. When we walked in, the hostesses daughter accosted us before we even made it out of the foyer.
"O yewa poppy! POPPY moo vee inex roo NOW."
I do not spesk fluent Child, so I just nodded and smiled.
Then she pointed at my blue shirt and plainly said. "Smurf," so I was to engage her in a conversation about Smurfs until she went back to babbling.
Turns out, and people with children you already know this, there is a popular children's movie called Trolls, based I assume on troll pencil toppers, and that's why the wigs were so easy to find on Amazon. The people explaining this kept pointing at the big screen tv in the next room, and it turns out that AT THAT MOMENT the movie was on and the children were enrapt. And then we walked in as the main character. If only I spoke Child, I could have convinced the daughter that Gary and I were Poppy's relatives, there to punish her for her sins or whatever trolls do.
Amazingly enough, there was a native speaker of Russian there too. Win on all counts.
Remember we were going to the Pixies concert? Remember we bought tickets back in March? Remember? Well, we didn't. Neither of us put it in our phones, and then when I won tickets to the Katy Perry concert my concert neurons fired and I thought - oh no - wasn't there a Pixies concert we were supposed to see? And we missed it by three days. Damnit. Damn. It.
Still, we did get to see the Katy Perry concert from the TeddyJ suite, and that was nice. Left Shark was on stage a lot. I wonder if he's been a feature of all her concerts since he went viral, or if this is a resurgence. I don't think I've ever seen a show with so much stage work: sets, platforms dropping from the rafters, singers flying over the audience, dancing televisions, aliens and UFOs, and such like. It was about as far from a Pixies concert as you could get.
Gary even enjoyed it, and I had really pissed him off when we walking in. We'd walked three blocks in the pouring rain when we encountered a ticket scalper. I didn't break stride, only to say, "Stay dry," because he was in the pouring rain in a ball cap. Scalper guy said, "I can't. I don't have an umbrella."
Thirty five years ago, Gary and I were driving when he saw an elderly lady crossing the street in the rain. He pulled up next to her, shoved an umbrella at her, and drove off. That is why I only made a few more steps before I spun around and gave the scalper my umbrella.
Or, "MY umbrella!" as Gary would say for the next half hour. "IT WAS MY FAVORITE DUCK HEAD UMBRELLA IT HAD A BUTTON THAT OPENED IT WHAT WERE YOU THINKING" and so on, even while I was on Amazon buying an identical replacement.
What can I say, I am dumb. I forget expensive concert tickets, I get free concert tickets, and umbrellas are the concert tickets of the world. They float to people that need them.
When I spotted this T-Rex skeleton at the Home Depot, I had to think for a moment before I summoned Gary. Because I knew he would want it.
This was his response:
"Oh my god! What IS that? It's a dinosaur. For Halloween? IT'S A HALLOWEEN DINOSAUR. We could buy that! It's only" [sic] "two hundred and ninety-nine dollars. We would be 'the people in the house with the T-Rex.' We could put it in the yard. We could put an iron stake in the ground and use those heavy chains in the basement and padlock him to the stake so no one would take him. Oh wait, he lights up. AND HE'S ANIMATED! His mouth moves! Does he roar? He roars and his eyes light up! We would have to plug him in. No one would take him off the porch. That would be so great if we could put him out for Halloween. Or any party, really. Any time we have a party we would just sit the T-Rex out on the porch. You would have to start having the tea party again. AHAHAHAHA He would be a Tea-Rex! For the tea party! And you could put the party favors on a silver tray and wire it to his tiny hands!"
He slowed down when he realized they're mass produced and we might not be the only people with a skeletal T-Rex in our yard. I just know I'd better not come home Monday night to find this thing on the porch.
Day 1 - I washed my hair, did makeup, wore deodorant.
Day 5 - Did none of those things. Why would I? The heat and humidity in Florida knocked out all my good works by noon.
Day 1 - Fruit for breakfast, smoothie for lunch, salad for dinner.
Day 5 - Cheesecake for breakfast, cookie for lunch, gelato for dinner.
Surprisingly, I didn't gain any weight while there, no doubt because I walked 30,000 steps a day.
Speaking of weight - Gary couldn't fit in several of the roller-coasters. That was fine with me: I'm no longer a roller-coaster fan. Similarly, I couldn't fit in one of the rides myself. (I didn't want to go on the Mummy ride anyway. Nyah.) It was an indoor roller-coaster, and I don't do roller-coasters anymore. (Stupid roller-coasters.)
I do love those new virtual roller-coaster rides, though. They are genius. You're never more than five feet off the ground, but with the 3-D visual input and the jolting of the machine your brain is convinced you are on a roller-coaster, or being picked up by a giant ape, or plummeting to the earth. And - the best part - if you start feeling motion sickness you close your eyes. You suddenly realize you aren't really moving that much. (For some reason I forgot that little trick when I was on the Harry Potter Forbidden Journey ride. You could as well call it Hurl Over Hogwarts. It's a very convincing flying ride in which you play Quidditch and fly on a broomstick. I will not be doing any real or virtual Quidditch in the future.)
First, just like everyone who has stayed at the Universal Portofino Bay Hotel, I now want to go to Portofino Italy. I don't use the term "everyone" loosely. I was walking on the piazza, thinking, "This makes me want to go to Portofino," when a man passed and said to his companion, "This makes me want to go to Portofino." Of course, there won't be a Starbucks at the real place and I imagine the room won't have twelve foot ceilings or a water taxi to take us around.
Second, I understand that Disney wants to compete with the Harry Potter World. There are only a few actual rides there - the attention to detail is the "ride." To that end Disney is supposed to open Star Wars World in 2019. So, Gary's saving up for that now.
For the last thirty-plus autumns, Gary will see a Haunted House billboard and say,"That sounds scary! We have to see it," and then every year we don't see it. We've never gone to any of these haunted houses because Gary always decides it won't be scary enough. "We have to see it" changes to "That looks dumb."
Still, I bought tickets for one of the Halloween Horror Nights. On those nights, Universal closes at five so that they can convert empty rides and spaces to haunted houses. These haunted houses are not dumb. They ruined me for all lesser, local haunted houses. These are top-drawer professional scary set design from movies like The Shining and Saw, populated with equally professionally made-up vampires and ghouls, and layered on top of it all is a hideous soundtrack of bone-crunching and blood-slurping.
For anyone else who has never been to a haunted house, you shuffle through a maze that winds through a set while terrifying creatures jump out at you. And even though I was expecting a scare around every corner, around every corner something jumped out and it still scared me! I screamed every single damn time. I can't imagine why it didn't bore me after a while, but they did such an excellent job of orchestrating the cadence of the scares that it was always a surprise.
The first house was scary, and each house after that was scarier. One house was designed so it pointed you toward a false exit then trapped you in a small corner with monsters. By the fourth house my psyche decided to fight back, and every time some thing clawed at my face and screamed at me, I screamed NO back. Yes, as if was the nineties and they were strangers in a dark parking garage.
They also set up "Scare zones" though the park where you could be frightened without waiting in line. This was personalized open-air scaring. Those ghouls had a harder job of it, because you weren't trapped and tense. On the other had, you never expected them. There was a nice man on stilts, for example, wearing a tuxedo and white face paint. I smiled up at him. He stared impassively. When I turned my back on him he doubled over so his face was hanging upside down in front of mine. I shrieked and saw him give a tiny little satisfed upside-down smile before he unfolded from his jack-knifed position.
You can get a peek at him, along with some other creepy characters in the dark video below.
Once the open-air ghouls realized we were easy marks (as opposed to the sullen teenagers), they played us like puppets. I gave the Grim Reaper the high sign and pointed at Gary, as if to say "Sic' em." The Reaper expertly side-swiped Gary and Gary screamed like a woman.
Since I'd been using the "NO" technique in the houses, I tried that on a street vampire who spotted me. "DID YOU SAY 'NO?'" he bellowed. "I HEARD YOU SAY 'YES, YES, SCARE ME!'" Then he lunged at me. I screamed and cowered.
Of course, the worst ones were the chainsaw-wielding clowns. As individual clowns revving up chainsaws, they were bad, but when they surrounded people and threatened them with a circle of chainsaws, well, I was glad I had not been targeted there.
Finally, one added bonus to the Halloween Horror Nights is that you also get to see the night-time version of this scary event:
Fox - We saw our fox as we were leaving on vacation. Let me back up - we have an old, ratty fox. Squinty eyes, mangy fur. When we met him his tail was bone with a tuft of fur at the end, but it's grown in a little. His tail's like a Brazillian landing strip now.
What I'm saying is: he's a distinctive fox. We spotted him on the first day of vacation when we were driving out of the subdivision on the way to the airport. One o'clock in the afternoon, padding down the sidewalk, like he was going to his Job as a Fox early because these people were leaving and someone had to watch the house.
We felt it was a good omen.
Boo Boo The Poodle - Our hotel, the Portofino Bay Universal resort hotel, is a "pet-friendly hotel." We were on the bottom floor, where I think all the pets stay because the rooms have sliding glass doors that open on to the piazza and the little lake there. Actually, our room is at very far right of this photo:
(No, I didn't take that photo. I got it off Wikipedia.)
We had two very quiet pugs on one side and a lonely poodle on the other.
Our room adjoined Boo Boo's via a locked door. We heard the poodle bark often, we heard his parents argue, and we heard them say, "Bye, Boo Boo" when they left for 18 hour stretches. Boo Boo barked like a fading smoke alarm: just when you'd forgotten about it: beep! there it is again, just for a moment.
I met his owner one day on the lake. "Has he been keeping you awake?" the owner asked. "Oh, he doesn't bark at night." I said POINTEDLY.
Ducks - Of course, there were ducks, and of course I fed them room service bread, as you do. I fed them twice. The first time it was by the clock tower in the photo above. Then, two days later, I was sitting right outside our room (as I say, to the right on the photo above), when I saw a duck in the center of the lake swimming my way and quacking. By the time he got to me he had five of his friends in tow, demanding bread. I had to oblige. It felt very much as if he saw me across the lake and called out, "Hey, there's that plump lady who fed us Tuesday. Let's hit her up."
Raccoon - Well, the vacation began with the good omen of the fox trotting to our house, but the first thing that greeted us on our return was a dead racoon splayed across the backyard. Of course, I thought it was a mafia hit, but the corpse had no holes. I thought then it had been found in a trash can and flung in to our yard, but that thing weighed fifty pounds. Then, naturally, I thought it had died of the distemper that is affecting raccoons in south St.Louis city. But, none of our raccoons have shown any signs of distemper in the hours of videos we take of them.
I don't know. The raccoon party may be dying down at our house. It's been two years, surely Gary must be tired of this hobby by now.
I fell hard for the Harry Potter section of Universal, for the incredible attention to detail, and because the park has a technology that will let you perform "spells." You stand by a brass plaque, use your wand to perform the gesture engraved on the plaque (such as a figure 8 or a letter W), say the engraved incantation, and magically something will animate: a fountain will shoot water, or a stuffed owl will flap its wings.
I assumed Gary would want magic wand technology as much as he wants new muggle technology (that is: immediately and for the highest price) and I was right. I could tell because he began telling the saleswizard how much I would want it.
So, $53 dollars later, I had a wand that I could hold while I stood in line and watched children use their wands to perform the same spells I would fail at minutes later. Eventually, though, when you get it, it's quite an irrational sense of power. There's a reason witches are known for cackling.
The next day, i found a spell spot that wasn't surrounded by children. There had been a few that were not operational, explained away by the staff as "this area is hexed" or "our house elf is on vacation." When I couldn't get it to work, I immediately went into Debug Mode.
I summoned a roving IT Wizard. They help with spells, saying where to point the wand or how large the gesture should be. (Evidently the corresponding incantation is just as effective "if you say it in your head.")
The IT Wizard asked me to try the spell again, assessed my form, and judged it to be good. He asked to look at my wand.
He played with the tip of the wand, then raised it to his ear and listened to it. Intently. For at least thirty seconds. He then announced, "you wand is in need of repair."
"Bullshit," I wanted to say, but he was giving me directions to the wand sales and repair shop.
So I went and stood in line while another saleswizard explained to a ten year old how the wood in his selected wand was more decorative so it would enhance the bond his wand felt for him.
At that point I was feeling my age, finally, but instead of having some adult dignity I just sighed, closed my eyes, and said my wand was evidently broken.
"Oh, I'll give this to our wand technician in the back and he can fix it right away."
When he came back -- after unboxing a brand new matching wand -- I'm not STUPID -- I thought, I can play too. So I soberly asked, "So, why did my wand fail? Is it because of my dark heart?"
He almost smiled. "Oh, no, ma'am. You should be all set now."
Everyone else takes stress-free vacations. Right now my stomach is twisted, hands are shaking, and I'm stress-coughing, if that's a thing, because I'm leaving on vacation.
If ever I needed a vacation, it would be now.
I'm going to Universal in Orlando, because Orlando, Florida in hurricane season is a tremendous value. All I have to do is get in the car, then get in a taxi, then get on a plane, then another plane, then a taxi, then chill out. Easy, right? You would think, but I am in a state.
These are the things that led up to this vacation:
Hurricane Irma decided to head for one of the airports we'll go through, then take a turn toward Orlando. This began a week of Gary announcing there would be:
1) no gas there, so no taxis
2) no electricity
3) looters in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter (I am not making this up)
4) displaced evacuees ("We can't take a room that could be used by an evacuee! What are you thinking?")
Then, of course, he got sick, then I got sick. Naturally, he had A HORRIBLE COLD while I had a mere cold. I would ask him if he'd taken any medicine and he would scoff, "That's only symptomatic relief."
I CAN'T CURE YOUR COLD. RELIEVE THE SYMPTOMS ALREADY.
I ended up writing out a schedule and handing him the pills with something to drink. Give me a paper cup and I would be the hospital nurse. He was amazed at how much better he felt. I still feel sick.
Truly, I have headed overseas for once-in-a-lifetime trips in a calmer state than I am right now, heading three states away to a family vacation.
The best I've ever done at Trivia was winning a disputed first place at a very small school fundraiser trivia event.
So, when Marcia (Friend #3) announced her intention to Win It All at the Teddy J United Way Trivia, I was skeptical. TeddyJ Trivia is the biggest in Saint Louis.
She said she was assembling a dream team and I was key. We agreed Gary was not as key, but he could come if we couldn't rustle up another player. As it turned out, he came and filled out the team, which also included Friend #2 and Spouse, Laura and Spouse, plus Anne, who deserves a number (I dub Anne Friend #9).
The powerhouses were Marcia and Evan, Laura's spouse. I was useless and only contributed one answer during the Governmental Departments round. I also think I spawned the good-natured chorus of boos for the Department of Labor, given the worry they've caused us these last few months.
My other contribution was to back Anne up during a debate over one question: “What Southern Hemisphere constellation is half-man, half-horse?”
Marcia in her lust for gold scribbled down Sagittarius without consulting anyone, but Anne stopped her. “Southern hemisphere. Sagittarius is northern hemisphere. We never see the southern hemisphere constellations.”
“This is true.” I said. “Big Dot in New Zealand sees a rabbit in the moon and all sorts of peculiar things.”
Marcia scratched out Sagittarius and said, “So what's it called?”
Anne said, “I don't know. The Centaur? Centauri? Centaurus? Centaurum?”
Marcia wrote “Centaur.” Then she scribbled it out and wrote in Sagittarius again.
“No” I insisted, “It can't be Sagittarius, that's the wrong hemisphere.” She scribbled out Sagittarius and wrote "The Centaur."
Then I had an inspiration. “It's not The Centaur! It's Centauri. Like the nearest star, Alpha Centrauri.”
“That's not a constellation, that's a star,” She stubbornly scratched out "The Centaur" and replaced it with “Sagittarius.”
I lamely argued that Alpha Centarui could be a star in the Centauri constellation, but she was not moved. We went with Sagittarius.
I am sure that at this moment, you are all saying, "Alpha Centarui IS a star in the Centaurus constellation, everyone knows THAT.” And you are right, so it follows we were wrong. It's moot anyway, since we never wrote down the actual name of the constellation, which is “Centaurus.”
It only came up again when we eventually actually placed third, right behind a two-way tie for first. Anne laughed, “We could have said we were first if you'd listened to me about the constellation.”
I am very smug about coming in third, actually. It's quite an accomplishment, and came with a ten dollar gift card. I could use it to buy this ...
... and put it on Marcia's desk.
Gary and I again made our yearly visit to Big Joel's Animal Adventure Park. Big Joel has expanded a lot of his exhibits, and there were some piglets born four days ago that were draining the mother DRY, but the most remarkable things were not what we saw but what we heard.
For example, we saw tortoises being made. Even more remarkable was the sound of tortoises being made. Listen closely to our video and you can hear it.
(Also remarkable was the tone I use with my husband. A drawl of contempt.)
Just as I didn't expect to hear tortoises quacking their way through sex, I didn't expect to hear a zeedonk scream "J'ACUSSE!" at Gary.
The zeedonks ("Zeedonks may bite!") were directly across from where the tortoises were making love and I'm afraid Gary didn't give them any food. We followed a footpath that circled from the zeedonks and tortoises to the porcupines and water buffalo and then back again. When we returned, the female tortoise had crawled under a bush and at least three families were feeding the zeedonk, who either:
I can tell you, whatever it was it was pointed directly at Gary. The thing spotted Gary, made eye contact, started simultaneously hyperventilating and braying, and followed Gary along the fence as Gary cried, "Sorry! Sorry! Sorry! Here, here's some food! Sorry!"
It would be scary if zeedonks remember people from year to year. It would be really scary if there's some baby tortoise next year who follows Gary around like he's its godfather.
We totally saw the total eclipse. When I booked the hotel in Cuba MO (where my Grandpa had a farm), the Path of Totality wasn't over my house. Then, last month, NASA played with the estimates and I was one mile inside totality.
Too bad. I still needed to go to Cuba for the eclipse. I needed that extra few seconds of totality, plus I had another reason to go to Cuba. I had to fulfill my destiny. I had to conquer my white whale. I had to go to ... Onondaga Cave.
If you remember, I have missed many chances to go to Onondaga Cave. Every visit to Grandpa's farm, we would beg to go, and every time the parents would say no. Then I tried to go with Gary but we foolishly went on the Lord's day. Finally, we intended to go when we went Branson, but we were waylaid by the Cathedral Cave in the same park.
But now, I can check Onondaga off the list of 6,400 caves in Missouri that I need to see. I was no more awed by Onondaga than I have been by any other cave, until we were given the option to clamber up to see the Lily Pad room. Until I saw that room I was thinking, "This is my last cave. It's slippery, it's dangerous, and if I never hear about soda straws again, and never see pitch darkness again, I will be happy." Then the Lily Pad room restored my wonder.
How weird is that? Something happened in that room so that when the stalactites dripped on the stalagmites, they didn't create a point, instead they hit the water and spread into a lily pad shape.
So, from the bowels of the earth to the glory of the spheres: two days later we were looking at the total eclipse. Amazing. If you haven't seen a total eclipse, here's what happens:
And, amazingly, what we saw was even more freakish than anything seen in any other solar eclipse, because we got the buildup. Past generations haven't had the glasses, we had to use the pinhole camera. This time we watched the sun be nibbled away into just a sliver, then total darkness, THEN you take off the glasses and it's like switching from a blurry 12-inch black and white TV to a 56-inch high-def full color television. The riot of color was amazing. None of the representations I saw showed the colors. The sky wasn't black, it was blue-violet. The sun wasn't white, it was a yellow ring around the moon with a burst of what looked like feathery white cirrus clouds (that roiled just enough to freak you out) and then of course, yeah, the moon was black. Blacker than anything I have ever seen. And then when the sun began to peek out again, the "Diamond ring" effect, the diamond was red!
Then of course, you have to put the glasses back on, and you're back to blurry black and yellow. Like being blind after seeing color for 1 minute and 50 seconds.
Just incredible. Loved it. And to think, it happens again in seven years in my vicinity.
"Too much adventure!" Gary complained. "You scheduled too much for one week."
Hey, I thought, it's not like that week we saw BNL in Albuquerque and then flew back and drove to Chicago to see Steven Page.
Granted, we did pack a lot into this past week. So much that early in the week that I hit 10,000 steps in one day on my new fitness tracker. It buzzed and lit up. It didn't light up enough to compel me to hit 10,000 any other day, of course. Nice try, Fitbit.
The concert we went to mid-week was almost a washout. There was a torrential rainstorm that hit with straight-line winds and horizontal rain just as I was crossing the bridge. It let up and we went to see:
Holy God, why haven't I seen Foreigner live before? We were seated right by the sound boards, and at one point the lead singer ran to the sound pit, strapped himself on top a tiny platform, which then rose into the sky on top of some ... some ... some expand-y phallic thing. And there was fire and blasty jets and all the hits, ALL THE HITS, of the last forty years.
The next night we went to an escape room. We did not escape. We came, really really close - honestly, if we'd just turned over two more documents we'd have been out. Six out of our group of ten bailed, so we had that going against us. The next time I try an escape room, I'll know that if I am to be handcuffed, I won't be handcuffed next to my husband. He berated me so hard while we were trying to get out that the other other two players began giggling nervously.
And it doesn't end! We're off to see some caves this weekend, so we'll be well out of Saint Louis when everyone arrives for the eclipse. In fact, we'll be in the sleepiest town I've ever been in: Cuba, MO.
I promised Gary one day this weekend would be an entire day of sitting and watching TV, just like a normal weekend. He's right! TOO MUCH ADVENTURE!
Aging was the theme for the week, beginning Thursday, when I turned 55. I've done everything new there is to do. Time to turn old.
We've been playing with all the aging cliches lately. Every weekend Gary fills his pockets with Werther's candy and we go to the matinee, so, two cliches down right there. We tried another elderly treat: eating at a cafeteria. I was expecting frail old grannies debating between the soups and treating themselves to a half slice of two kinds of cake, like my grandma did. Not today's cafeterias. The people at the Golden Corral would have eaten my grandma if she fit on the plate. No one was frail and old. The were huge and voracious. They were so huge and voracious Gary had a nightmare that night in which he was pursued by fat people.
Gary himself seems to be experimenting with how his old age will look. We had a delightful time last night, driving on new roads, going to a new grocery store, seeing a new act. Retirement looked good when we were having fun yesterday, but today he pooped out and slept for hours. I tried to nap but I was unable to and we wasted a perfectly beautiful August day. And how often do those come up? Just this morning someone asked me when I was going to retire. It might be conceivable in just three short years. I need to craft a retirement that doesn't bore me silly. One that's full of "newness."
Another aging cliche popped up at work. We have some Millennials on our team. (They are self-aware millenials, so they joke about their need for participation trophies.) I was complaining that any audio we put in our training would cause problems when we had to edit it, one of he Millennials told me that software has advanced enough to take existing audio and invent new words the person never said. I would have felt shame for my ignorance, only ten minutes later I was able to solve a problem with a 32 year old DOS command. I was pleased. ("DOS! Suck it, Millennial!" I crowed.)
I need to remember how Mom dealt with her retirement. She was fifty. She had some rules:
I should have thought of that advice earlier today. I got dressed: that was the only thing I did right.
Last night when I turned in to the subdivision I notiiced a group of little girls running a lemonade stand. They waved wildly at me and yelled, "LEMONADE."
I didn't stop. I've never even seen a real lemonade stand before. I didn't quite know what to do.
When I got home I hauled Gary out of his chair and got some shoes on him. I got some cash and we headed back to the lemonade stand on foot.
I addressed the entire group of five girls. "How much?"
"FIFTY DOLLARS" one screamed.
I was momentarily taken aback. "No, really, how much?"
Another girl looked at me with pity and chirped, "It's free if you DON'T HAVE ANY MONEY."
"I have money. Do you have some lemonade that is priced somewhere between zero dollars and fifty dollars?"
The girl who tried to shake me down for fifty dollars demanded, "How much money do you have?"
"Three dollars in bills and four dollars in quarters."
Some other girl said, excitedly, "You have to wait until Jessica comes out!" She ran off to get Jessica.
Shakedown Girl yelled, "YOU HAVE TO WAIT." I wasn't going anywhere. It gave me a chance to actually read the sign, which did indeed say LEMONADE, and below that it said "JDRF," for Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Ah, I thought, someone must have handed them a fifty and now that's what the market will bear.
Jessica came out of the house, and she was much older than I anticipated, because she was clearly the Mom.
Jessica pointed out her daughter, a meek girl who had not said much. Jessica said her daughter had Type 1 diabetes and of course I suddenly remembered the twenty dollar bill I had in my purse. I truly had not considered it before, because I didn't think of it as lemonade money. A twenty? That's Starbucks money.
When the twenty was in my hand I tried to hand it to the closest little girl. She was horrified and said YOU HAVE TO GIVE IT TO THE LADY (also known as Jessica, also known as Mom.) Given that the lady took the money and also poured out the lemonade, I felt the little girls were not getting a good education in finance or fund-raising.
That was yesterday. Today at the bank I heard some girls in line behind me talking about the eighty dollars they'd raised for JDRF. "We got a fifty, and a twenty, and two fives." I whirled around. They looked a bit older, and were not screaming or doing cartwheels, but I still asked for details. Turns out they were not my girls, but they had a lemonade stand one subdivision away. I went to the website and while it wasn't JDRF Lemonade day yesterday, that is one way they suggest for raising funds.
So, I still haven't been to a classic lemonade stand. What is the going rate? It's five bucks, right?
In the early 90s, there was a serial murderer, the I-70 killer, who killed six young woman in strip malls and shopping centers along Highway 70. One was murdered near our house. Well, 8 miles from our house. It felt nearer, since it was only a mile and a half from our old apartment. (Narrow lane-way full of serial killers.)
She was killed in the Bogey Hills plaza, at the Boot Village at 2079 Zumbehl Road. I never had that chill of "My God, I was just there," because I'd never set foot in Boot Village. (Boots. Can't get them on. Can't wear the Large Calf boots either. When they start producing Large Ankle boots I might be tempted.) I frequented the Michael's craft store quite a bit, though, and Gary still buys his birdseed in that plaza.
I'd long forgotten about the murder, when some article brought it to mind, and it occurred to me I'd been to Bogey Hills frequently (birds gotta eat), but I hadn't seen Boot Village in a while. A little research and I found that the St. Louis Bread Company restaurant moved in to that address. And there's that "My God, I was just there" chill. I eat there at least twice a year.
So, when we were considering where to eat after the weekly seed pickup at the Bogey Hills bird store, I suggested the "Serial Murder Bread Company." To which Gary said, "CEREAL? For dinner? They sell cereal now at the Bread Company?"
No, but they sell bagels.
I tried to see if I couldn't tap in to some lingering psychic energy, but that faded when the real food came and I remembered I don't believe in ghosts or psychic energy. I did look closely for any men who might have looked like this twenty-five years ago:
I stopped when I realized Gary looked a little like the second photo twenty-five years ago.
Friends: the Lost Episodes - Last night I saw an episode of Friends I had never seen before, even though I made a special effort to check off every episode a while back. (I bought the ones I hadn't seen on Amazon, only a month before they went free on Netflix.) I just recently found The One Where Chandler Greets Every Woman With a Kiss after he's caught kissing Monica. For other people, this would be like finding SuperBowl II.
Exhausting dream - You know the unpleasant experience of searching for a word? Last night I spent an entire dream with Sandinistas in a tavern searching for "a word that means rendezvous, but it's Spanish and it starts with an S." "Sabotage?" "That's not it." "Tryst?" "That's not not it." HOURS OF THIS. Of course I woke up and went for the thesaurus. No such word. Cruel dream.
Movies - Gary's been on a summer blockbuster kick lately, but I convinced him to go see The Big Sick instead of whatever action movie's out this week. I found it hilarious. He hated it. I don't know if he hated the movie as much as he hated me controlling what movie we saw. Evidently there are some areas where he is the Authority, and areas where I am the Authority. Now that he reminded me of the rules, I'm resisting the temptation to exercise my authority in the gardening area. I could redesign all the landscaping and he couldn't question it. I'd better go do that before he wakes up.
Less than twenty people in Saint Louis. Counting the four speakers.
As the President would say, Sad!
It wasn't organized until a few weeks ago, so you could say Saint Louis was late to the party. (Or, you could say, we were early - even Gary thinks we need more evidence before an impeachment would fly.) I must say, the woman who organized it brought along the very best speaker system I have ever seen at any march. When the Park Service sent over some bike police, she assured them there would not be a rowdy mob. One authority figure stayed behind anyway.
It was interesting expressing one's political views as one pf a merry band of twenty, instead of buried in a mob that fills the street for blocks. We were dead in front of the Arch beautification effort, right on the edge of the area where tourists ...well, where tourists find out the Arch is sold out for the day by two o'clock. Poor planning, tourists. And when there are more tourists at any one moment than there are people in your demonstration, the tourists are emboldened to express their views, too, especillyif they can't go up in the Arch.
While we were listening to the speakers, one tourist yelled, "You lost!" The speaker at that moment was prepared with "We all lost, brother."
When the state senator was speaking, one tourist moved off to the right and started yelling over her. "YOU THINK YOU KNOW EVERYTHING WHY DON'T YOU RUN FOR OFFICE?" I could have pointed out the irony but decided to "go high."
One little child was following his family, then turned back and made mocking gestures. I decided to interpret that as his mockery of Trump.
Our low turnout made us feisty, though. We cheered and chanted with what little might we had. We did not march, but we rallied.
I wish I could show you a photo of our lawful assembly, but I didn't turn around and take one. I did take a photo before we began, and given that there are NO photos online, I give you this as the documentation that Saint Louis called for Trump to be called out for his crimes and misdemeanors.
That last Doobie Brothers / Chicago concert I went to was back in 2010 - seven years ago! I went back to read up on how I felt about the last one, and it appears that it was so hot that I took to my bed the next day.
And, strangely, in 2010 I seem to have formed an affection for this member of Chicago:
I said I was going to Wikipedia him. I can't really tell if that's a bass, but if it is, it must have been Jeff Coffey. I must have been captivated by his voice, because we know I love a tenor. This year, he sounded a bit like he'd sucked on some helium before the show.
I was so young seven years ago that I completely ignored the hot trombone player to his upper left in that picture. I was such a child then that my eye was drawn away from the 69 years old founding member of the band, James Pankow.
This man has it all.
Enormous sexual self-confidence. In fact, such self-confidence that Gary rolled his eyes when Mr. Pankow began wiggling his hips in his v-neck shirt, and suggestively thrusting his trombone.
"Puh-leezze" Gary said.
"Shut your mouth. I love him. He is selling sex and I am buying it."
"He is FINE."
He is FINE and 69. Sixty-nine years old. This gives him the gray hair I love.
Is in the Rock and Roll Songwriting Hall of Fame. For songwriting, and of course in the regular hall for being in Chicago.
Born in Saint Louis. I don't know exactly where in Saint Louis, though. I'm guessing Baden. NOT born in Chicago. Strangely, though, he is not on the Delmar Walk of Fame of People Who Were Born In or Even Briefly Lived in Saint Louis.
Is of German and Irish descent. This is a heritage I have learned to deal with. (Gary's 25% Irish and 25% German.)
Has a famous sibling. His brother plays the vile Merc Lapidus, the network head/game show host on Episodes.
Has staying power. Been in Chicago since 1967.
And did I mention the suggestive tromboning?
Every year for the past decade when the Pride Parade rolls around, I want to go, but then I think, "Since I'm not personally proud to BE gay, I'd only be going just to gawk at the fabulous gays, and that's not kind."
Then I saw that TeddyJ as a company was marching in the parade, Gary read that more straight people march in the Pride Parade than gays now, and when I found out Planed Parenthood had a contingent (being a gay parent probably does take a lot of planning), I decided that the Pride Parade had been commercialized by straights and that I should go before it became completely appropriated. When we got there we realized that ship had sailed.
Then it became a quest to find anyone gay and fabulous. We were there an hour early, so we wandered past the Gay Purina Pet Food float and the Gay Local Electric Company float and finally got off the main drag, to a side street where (possbily) Gay Fredbird was waiting to march, and then finally we rounded a corner to the staging area for the Balloon Brigade.
There are people inside those balloon wads! Non-corporate dancing gay people! It takes them a solid day to blow up all those balloons. We had a nice conversation with one man who confirmed our fears that we'd missed the real Pride Parade. He told us about the time and money they personally invest and then pointed out FedEx's devotion to the cause was taping a tatty sparkled banner to the bottom of a van minutes earlier. I felt bad, because all I did was wear a colorful shirt. Lame.
I also felt bad because the parade reminded me that on April 1st I made an April Fools' joke and I had still not gotten my payoff.
On April 1st we were discussing on Facebook that the creator of the Rainbow Pride flag had died. I commented, "I thought Mr. Roy G. Biv created the rainbow flag," and I bet some of you just remembered that ROY G BIV is the acronym you use to remember the order of he colors in the spectrum, and perhaps you laughed.
Friend #2 (Hot Mom) did not remember, and did not laugh, and suggested that maybe Roy ripped off the rainbow flag creator instead.
I countered by suggesting that anyone unfamilar with.Roy G. Biv's work should go visit Wikipedia right now, because I didn't want to end what was turning out to be an April Fools' joke with "HAHAHAHA STUPID." That's no fun.
But Hot Mom didn't go to Wikipedia. April Fool's came and went. However, Friend #3 got the joke, and added the next Monday that she was familar with both Roy and the work of his cousin, rapper Bell Biv DeVoe.
Unbeknownst to me, that Monday Hot Mom heard our snickering and finally went to Wikipedia, remembered that she was familar with Roy G. Biv, but said nothing. Instead she made me wait until I asked about it two months later after the Pride Parade. She'd better watch out next April Fools'.
It was a busy week, what with the Doobie Brothers/Chicago concert Wednesday and the opera Friday and the Pride Parade Sunday.
Let's start with Friday. Anne planned the Opera evening, becuase she's been to the opera several times before. I've only been once, with Mom, some time in the early seventies. It was in the days of the St. Louis Municipal Opera, before the current Opera Theater of Saint Louis. Mom and I saw Die Fledermaus. I remember it was funny, and that I was perplexed that an obviously English opera had a funny German-sounding name. (They translate the opera for us here in Saint Louis, and even then they still project the subtitles on the wall. I suppose they do that everywhere in America.)
Anne planned for simply lovely weather, and we took advantage of all the opera trappings: the valet parking, the pre-opera picnic lunch in the garden, the pre-opera liquor, the desserts, and the flunkys who flank every door and open it when they see you headed their way.
Anne also scored us primo seats, Dead Center, mezzanine. Seats so good that the General Director of the Opera came by to schmooze with the people in the seats right next to us.
Lovely weather, lovely company, lovely venue, lovely seats. The opera itself? Was it Kafka-esque? Why yes, it was, since it was an opera based on Kafka's The Trial. Was it atonal? Why yes, since it was Phillip Glass' adaptation of Kafka's The Trial. Was it elevating? No, but it was interesting. And the music which underlay the meandering libretto was very lovely, and ominous. Anne commented."We can't expect the libretto to have a resolution, since the story probably won't."
And, it had quite a few funny moments, because underwear is funny in any genre. And there was some great work with sraging and shadows. And there were and menacing minor characters that just stood on stage and judged. The costuming went full chiaroscuro: there were seven shades of grey and exactly one gold coverlet.
The work itself was a nice counterpoint to the lovely evening. I will admit, it was hard to buy in to Kafka's rage against the system while the system was working so well for us, what with the lovely cocktails on a lovely summer night at the opera.
Latest march? Truth March on June 3rd.
(For some reason, I woke up with the urge to make a sign. Before you jump on me, that's the way Thomas Jefferson spelled it in the Declaration of Independence. Evidently unalienable is not the same as inalienable, and Jefferson went with unalienable.)
Speaking of urges, I didn't get to hang out with other marchers before because I needed to find a bathroom. I'd gone before we left the house, but signals were crossed and I was not really done. I was out of luck until Union Station finally opened at 10.
Union Station, in the past, was a hopping tourist place to be. Now it's deserted. It's a year away from being one of those malls on the internet with weeds growing through the floor in the food court. So, when I saw a couple inside I deduced, "You've been to the bathroom."
They explained the bathroom was to the left, past the sandwich shop, but you had to buy something to use it. People, I wanted to say, I have never blown in anywhere to use the bathroom without buying something after. It's the RULE.
Got to the sandwich shop. No one there. Because, as I said, it's a wasteland.
A security guard was in the vicinity, told me exactly where the bathroom was, and reiterated the rule about buying something.
After I was done with the bathroom (which was ten empty storefronts yards further down the mall, I don't know why this place thought they had dibs on it), I came back and still no one was manning the sandwich shop. I found the guard again, gave him five dollars and said to buy himself a cookie on me.
It was almost - almost - like bribing someone, and you know that's on my bucket list.
As I passed a glass storefront on my way out I realized why people kept explaining the Pay to Pee rule. I looked homeless. My hair was crazy, my jeans were frayed, and I and I had a Cheeto strung around my neck. Plus I was staggering more than usual because I was very hot.
The heat was a topic of discussion on the march. "It's too hot!" "It's June!" "He was supposed to be GONE BY JUNE."
I did not like Wonder Woman. This follows my dislike of Mad Max: Fury Road, cementing me as a female chauvinist pig for not applauding kick-ass females.
But actually, it follows my dislike of The Shop Around the Corner, In the Good Old Summertime, You've Got Mail, and any other movie where the woman is oblivious and it's "cute" that she's not informed. I know some of the humor was supposed to have come from her chirping at Chris Pine about how the Greek god of war was responsible for WWI. It just made me grind my teeth. Perhaps in Wonder Woman 2 they can drop the fish out of water business and she can nail the trifecta: beautiful, strong, and actually smart, too.
Of course, I generally don't like action movies. Unrealistic, staged violence, where the evildoers line up and politely set upon the good guy one at a time. I start drifting off during action scenes because seriously, what's going to happen? Character growth? Plot advancement? Never, nothing but noise and violence. (Except - spoilers - for the Star Wars movies. Those movies kill off beloved characters and chop off hands and interrupt the swordplay for big DNA announcements.)
I did nap a bit during the climactic action scene. After the credits, the guy next to us didn't leave his seat, and when I looked over he was dead asleep. Head 90 degrees to the side, arms and legs all splayed out. I didn't wake him up. I suppose the cleanup staff must have done it. (I did Google "Dead body St. Charles 18 cinema" the next day and nothing came up.)
There were some good points, but the pros of the movie did not outweigh the cons.
Pro: Robin Wright's aging skin folding around her metal armor. She was strong and savvy and attractive AND old - what's a trifecta plus one? Is there a quadfecta? Con: Robin Wright and all the Amazons speaking with an accent. Why? Because the female lead has an accent? Wouldn't it make more sense to coach the lead than to have all the other actresses adopt an accent?
Pro: Costumes. They actually covered her up for a good part of the movie, yet she could throw off the Edwardian garb when it got in her way. The bookended it all with a very nice red coat / turtleneck combo. Con: Eyebrows. I'm sorry, eyebrow wrangler, I don't know if you were trying to show us Eyebrows Through the Ages, or if the eyebrow evolution was supposed to mirror changes in the character, or if you were just committed to realism, but you don't let a child's GIANT TEN FOOT eyebrow go unplucked like that. I can't find a still but there was a hair on her EYELID. Then when the character grows up there was no continuity around the WWI eyebrows, and just when I accepted that's just the way the lead's eyebrows look, she's all tidied up when we return to present day in the last scene.
Eyebrow continuity. Get to work on that, Hollywood, along with filling out the trifecta and keeping me awake.
A month or so ago I bought some cake flour and made this excellent black and white angel food cake.
I thought, sure, it looks good, but let's just see how it tastes. I cut into it ... ah, people, it cut clean. It was not rubbery. I put the slice on my tongue. It was delicate and sweet. It was like eating a cloud. That's when I took the photo, to commemorate a successful angel food cake.
I had made angel food cakes from scratch before. All hideous. I've made it from the box mix. Fine, but not heavenly.
Of course, back then I didn't know about bleached flour. Did you know they didn't even make angel food cake until they invented the process to bleach flour? Evidently gassing flour with chlorine bleach does something to to the protein content so it's almost gone, so ... so ... some magic happens. I don't know. All I know is that bleached flour that's been milled superfine is close enough to air that it will make an angel food cake.
The idea that some flours make better foods compelled me to expand my flour palette.
That's whole wheat pastry flour (for Wheat Thins knock off crackers), bleached white flour (for pie crusts and cookies what won't spread), oatmeal flour (oat cakes), a bag of almond flour (leftover from a cookie recipe) on top of the tub of all-purpose flour, bread flour, and the magic milled cake flour for the angel food cake.
I wish there was a happy ending for this post, but since the cake above I have made four additional angel food cakes. None of them have been as good. They've been presentable, but nowhere near what the first one was. Rubbery, fallen, distorted, no better than store-bought.
That make two things I've made perfectly only once: one perfect angel food cake, and one perfect batch of meringue cookies in the late '70s with my Mom. Believe me, every day that the humidity in St. Louis drops below 50% I consider trying those meringue cookies again. Strangely, the humidity on the day I made this cake was 90%.
I'm going to give it one more try. I didn't use baker's sugar with cakes 2-5. I could just run regular sugar through the food processor, but why, when I could have five types of sugar in my pantry?
BNL gave a great, sort of manic concert. Usually, they'll giggle slyly at their own jokes. This time around they were snorting and convulsed with their own jokes. Ed was greatly amused with his own description of Jim eating salmon by hand in his underwear. There was also a frankly alarming story of how Ed had a shouting confrontation with some pinball player in the last city they played. At the time, it was peculiar. Funny, as always, but more of a desperate uncontrolled funny. Frankly, a manic funny.
Then, they'd segue to a minimalist somber song upstage that just begged for a large group of a capella musicians. They'd clearly staged that (and a few other songs) so they could be joined by the Persuasions, who weren't there because of some emergency that called them home.
As it turns out, the emergency was the pneumonia of the Persuasion's bass singer. The singer died a few days after the concert I saw.
I just cannot imagine what it would be like to perform as a happy band, and yet to think at every turn: we have to cut this song because out friend's dying, we need to keep this in the set though it won't be the same ...
So, it was hilarious. Happily, not a manic hilarious that made me worry a moment about cocaine, but a laughing in the face of death hilarious.
The opener for BNL was supposed to have been The Persuasions: the acappella group BNL just collaborated with on a CD.
That's why I was surprised to see Mike Evin post this on Facebook a few days before the concert:
I heard Mike Evin before on one of the BNL cruises. I remembered how he said a long talk with his grandmother had led to a song. I liked that songs enough to document it in the post above. I didn't like it enough to remember all the details carefully, and I confabulated it with another song I heard on the cruise, Dancing Partner. That led me to leave this comment on his Facebook post:
So, a little humiliation on my end, but you know me, gotta take that humiliation and parlay it into complete disgrace. (Wait for it. It's just a few paragraphs from now.)
Fast forward to the concert. The second song he played was Wait for the Tea to Steep (video here). I listened closely to all the lyrics. There is nothing, nothing in the lyrics about any grandmother. Not a word. Had I not chronicled his grandmother reference in that link above I would have thought I was demented.
So of course, I had to find him and confront him in the merchandise booth during the intermission.
"Hi. Okay, so now that I know Dancing Partner isn't about YOUR grandmother - "
"Oh! That was you."
" - didn't you say on a cruise that Wait for the Tea to Steep was inspired by a conversation you had with your grandmother? Or am I crazy?"
"Ah. That was a ... made up story." He left it vague so it wasn't clear if he'd made it up, or if Crazy Facebook Lady made it up all in her head.
I took care of that ("Oh, so it was a LIE!") and extracted a promise that he would write a song about his grandmother. By the time I got back to my seat I vowed never to try to speak to a musician again. It just never turns out well when I do it.
And I suppose embroidering ones grandmother into the intro for a song is fair play when you have to entertain strangers and keep their interest. He really did a great job of showmanship at the concert. Just a few songs in we were all captivated, clapping, singing along. And now I have another story to think of EVERY DAY while my tea steeps.
We went to the Peabody Opera House to see Barenaked Ladies, but while we were there we had other musical experiences. The first of those involves Pixies.
We were waiting by the Peabody box office because Gary now likes to arrive at movies and concerts hours early, as if he's going to have to go through a TSA interrogation. He noticed that Pixies tickets are on sale.
"Oh, I love the Pixies," Gary said, "Let's buy tickets."
"Name a Pixies song," I challenged.
"Everyone knows the Pixies," he answered, and pulled out his credit card and bought tickets. I was fine with that, because while I couldn't name a Pixies song, I had heard their name before. This puts them in a league with The Black Crows and Goo Goo Dolls and MegaDeath: they are Bands That I Know Exist but that's all I know.
The first hint I had that they were a good band was that the best seats we could get were past the orchestra. The concert isn't till October.
I had to go to the bathroom next, and of course I pulled up Pixies on Wikipedia. I scrolled through the photos till I saw the red-headed female bass player, that's all that Gary has to know. That's why he likes them. Then I read on and saw that "their jarring pop sound influenced bands such as Nirvana, Radiohead, the Strokes, Bush, Blur and Weezer." Cool, I thought, sounds like we'll enjoy them, because three of those are Bands That I Know Exist. (And I can even name a Nirvana song.)
I found Gary standing outside the men's room on the other side of the lobby.
He said, "I think you'll like the Pixies. They influenced lots of bands, like Nirvana and Radiohead." (See above. SEE ABOVE.)
"You bastard! just read the same Wikipedia page I did! Well. Did you see they have a red-headed bass player?"
He confessed, and we committed to the joke of being Pixies experts for the rest of the night. For example, after BNL particularly killed a song, I leaned over and said, "Still, they're no Pixies."
Of course, he has a lot of free time and there's probably a Pixies documentary. By October he really will be a Pixies expert.
It's been a busy week for the resistance, comrades!
We braved the weather, and the thunderstorms let up for the Climate March. This is the type of thing that made the ancient believe in Gods. "We are marching for you, Earth Mother, have pity on us for the two-hour window of our March." And lo, there was no rain for the duration of the March, and afterward we sacrificed a chocolate glazed donut at the Tim Horton's downtown.
Then of course, Thursday the House voted to massively personally screw me over. In the past, the ACA was a nice thing I supported for other people, and it did increase my insurance premiums at work for $100 a month, that was okay. This time, though, the AHCA didn't hit me in the pocketbook for $100, they gouged me for my health plus potentially tens of thousands of dollars a year.
The first place I went for information was redstate.com, because I figured I should go to a Republican source if I didn't want any liberal bias. What I heard was "There aren't that many people with pre-existing conditions." Given that everyone in my family had a pre-exisitng condition by 15, except for the people who got cancer by 40, that gives me no comfort.
Here's a quote from the second place I went for information: "[Older Americans not yet eligible for Medicare] will face higher premiums than they currently do, and the younger people will face [lower] premiums." So, like life Insurance, and car insurance. Fair.
But then I started to hear about how this will ripple directly into my work insurance. It could take away my home ("States get to decide if they'll cover you") and my security (My medicine will be covered until the work insurance decides I've hit a cap ... which would happen every March, I imagine, as soon as the clinical trial stops covering it in 2018).
And I know, I should look at this as "Old sick people make sacrifices so young people can have health care," only wouldn't those young people start being changed higher levels when they get sick? So, even they don't get anything out of it.
So, I was enraged. That's why Gary and I took a long lunch on Friday and gathered at Senator Blunt's office, where I accepted the first sign I was offered and was randomly interviewed by someone from KMOX.
Come to think of it, maybe the sign is what drew him to me. Before he even asked me my opinion, he asked me to read my sign into the microphone. I suppose he thought if I was too shy to say "VAGINA" I wouldn't have an opinion.
(Also, my hips look freakishly narrow in that photo. I wish I could pivot to that angle whenever I meet someone in the hallway at work.)
I was actually able to string two words together, and when I was stumped I punted the question over to Gary, who answered well but was NOT quoted, because that article has exactly one point and evidently I summed it up with:
"I know how much my medication costs for my MS and they would just blow through that $8 billion pretty fast.”
.... and that was all they used of my many pithy statements.
Afterward, I did the math, and actually if you multiply the 360,000 Americans with my type of MS and my meds, that's $25B a year right there. Then I realized, nah, the givernment's not giving out the premium drugs, they'll dispense the "cheap" $1,300 a month medicine. That only adds up to $5B. Fellow MSers, let's make sure we get dibs on that extra $8 billion before those slackers with diabetes try to get some.
Gary keeps saying it'll be killed in the Senate, but that sounds too much like, "Trump will never be elected."
I don't think Gary's ever had a hobby that lasted over a year, but feeding the animals seems to have stuck.
There are two foxes visiting three times a night now: the unimaginatively named Foxy Fox...
and the more imaginatively named Vincent Fox:
(If you watch carefully it will become obvious that he isn't named after the president of Mexico, but after the artist. I don't know if he lost his ear to guilt over a gambling debt, or gave it to a prostitute.)
A week or so ago I was watching the raccoons while I was looking out the kitchen window. One walked directly toward me, so close to the house that I lost sight of him. I went to the back door to see if he was snuggled by the water faucet and instead, he was six inches from me, looking at me through the French door.
"You don't love us like you love the foxes," he said. With his eyes.