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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

HOLIDAYUS TUMBLEWEEDUS: A GHOST OF CHRISTMAS PAST

This piece first appeared as a column I wrote for The Kent County Daily Times many years ago. It is included here verbatim, with fond greetings to those who worked with me in the newsroom back then, folks I consider very dear friends today.


I've already seen one.
It was on the sidewalk, a sad husk lolling to and fro in the slight wind.


And soon, there will be many more.
They are a type of shrub called "Holidayus Tumbleweedus," or something like that, but I've never seen them in plant books. "Holidayus" resembles those bushes in Western movies, the ones that roll around in a puff of dust down a deserted street, just before the shootout.


"Holidayus Tumbleweedus" appears quickly after December 25th, sometimes in the middle of the night. They sprout hugely around New Year's Day, and the growing season ends about two weeks later, give or take a day or two. Weather has no effect on the shrubbery, as it seems to thrive under all types of adverse conditions.








They have an incredibly strong resemblance to another type of vegetation often seen growing on top of station wagons and mini-vans, but that variety appears in early December and those plants look healthier than "Holidayus." 
You might see an occasional "Holidayus Tumbleweedus" in February, but those are extremely rare.


"Holidayus" comes in all shapes and sizes, the greenery more abundant in some specimens than in others. If you look closely enough, many have little bits of a tin foil type of substance clinging to the branches. It is not clear to me what causes that.
Unlike the common, ordinary tumbleweed (which appears to live predominantly in old John Wayne movies), "Holidayus" lives all over the country and travels at varying rates of speed.
Most of them live out their drab existences in front of houses, on occasion dangerously close to the curb. And that's where most of them stay.


A few errant varieties of "Holidayus Tumbleweedus" make a run for it, however, after the wind hits 10 knots, and those are the ones that cause serious mayhem.
I've seen "Holidayus" rolling down the road at breakneck speed worthy of all the Andrettis combined. Cars must swerve to avoid hitting the pesky plants and getting into collisions with other vehicles.
During the peak of "Holidayus" season, driving down the average street can become a deadly game of chicken for the inexperienced. And even for those of us accustomed to "Holidayus Tumbleweedus" and its peculiar habits, this is a period of time we absolutely dread.


Unfortunately, "Holidayus" season is here again, and there is nothing we can do about it. Their numbers will increase in the coming days until for some inexplicable reason, they disappear as mysteriously as they arrived.
Until then, we will all just have to cope. (Or maybe we can recycle our Christmas trees by calling up the folks at the Department of Public Works?)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

WOMEN WITH SUVS ARE THE NEW OLD MEN WITH HATS, PART TWO

My apologies in advance that I'm about to revisit one of my former rants, but when you see your life flash before your eyes, it's time for a re-rant.
To the woman in the white SUV who nearly crammed the front end of her behemoth into the rear of my little car: GET OFF THE ROAD YOU IDIOT and yes, I shouted.
There are people who should never be allowed to drive a vehicle of any kind, and she's one of them. Via my rear view mirror (where I was staring in a major panic thinking this dumb bunny isn't ever going to hit the brakes) I saw that she was engaged in lively conversation on her cell, simultaneously fishing around the passenger's seat for who knows what.  
Meanwhile my eyes nearly popped out of my head as she careened closer and closer to me (we were at an intersection and the light was red) meanwhile searching out of the corner of those eyes to see if there was any way in Hades I could scoot out of the way in the seconds left to me before the BIG BANG happened. 
Mercifully, someone was looking out for me because she stopped short, her own eyes opening wide and then she slumped back into her seat.
When the light changed I rolled down my window and communicated digitally (the old fashioned way using one of my fingers) just exactly what I thought of her. 
The kicker? As she turned the corner I noted various marks and bruises around the bumpers of the truck and ironically, one of those "Baby on Board" signs flapping on the window, which only meant that she had made another dingbat just like her. 
And I didn't have kids? Heaven help the planet.
Amen, and pass the mustard.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

BIRDCAGES FOR BIRDBRAINS

When it comes to home decor, I'm a sucker for all things unusual or pretty. My taste runs from the conservative to the ultra modern, and everything in between. Anyone who has ever visited my various digs can testify that to me a house is nothing but a stage in which to live my life, and the more it looks like a movie set, well, the better. 

That said, the other day I ran across an item that even I had to look at twice and wonder what in the world the designer was thinking when it was created.


Tah-dah, roll them drums, behold the Birdcage Chandelier. 

Now a brief survey of my home will turn up quite a few bird motifs -- I adore birds -- but in the wild, viewed in their natural habitat, preferably in flight. The notion of keeping birds inside the house in a cage, no matter how pretty, horrifies me.

Imagine my confusion when I happened on these pretties on a website -- a chandelier that lives within a birdcage. The oxymoronic nature of the concept mystifies me - it's not as if the chandelier was going to fly away from the owner anytime soon. 

Do the buyers of these contraptions feel that the crystal is so precious that prying fingers must be kept away at all costs? Or are they indulging in some peculiar bondage fetish that some of us just don't understand? 

While I'm happy that these folks are not keeping a little animal trapped in such a gilded palace, the fact that they have to keep an inanimate object held captive says something very odd about them indeed. 

Somebody should call the chandelier police and press charges.

Amen, and pass the mustard.


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

MAMMOTH MADNESS REDUX

The Japanese and the Russians are at it again -- yapping about how they may clone a wooly mammoth in as little as five years.


This is not my first rampage about the stupidity  of perpetuating pseudo-pachyderms: my mammoth musings are miniscule given other, more elephantine problems we all face.


But seriously?


Pyrenian Ibex
Scientists already cloned the extinct Pyrenean Ibex, but the poor creature lived only minutes after it was born because of apparent defects. Bear in mind, however, the Ibex did not have mammoth proportions. One of the issues faced by the researchers is just what sort of animal would carry the clones -- even today's elephant might not be up to the tusk, er, task.


Bottom line they would end up with a hybrid at best.


Given the potential danger (runaway mammoth on I95!) and the expense, why bother?


Amen, and pass the mustard.






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Saturday, November 5, 2011

I'M $104 SHORT OF A TURKEY

I was at the supermarket two nights ago -- shopping for just your average stuff, when the kid who was at the cash register gave me a very serious look just after I finished my transaction.
Not only a serious look, but a rather cryptic message, "You are $104 short of a turkey."
The kid at the market was the simple sort that frequents supermarkets in my home town these days, young men and women who graduate from the local high school and are clearly not headed down a career path that will make much of a mark on the world horizon.
This kid would be lucky if he got back to his car in the parking lot after his shift. 
So I raised my eyebrow after his cryptic statement and he just repeated it.
Twice.
"You are $104 short of a turkey. You are $104 short of a turkey. That means if you spend another $104 in the next couple of days, you are eligible for a turkey."
I had a flashback to the Blues Brothers movie line, "It's 106 miles to Chicago, we've got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it's dark, and we are wearing sun glasses."
(No, I didn't hit the kid, but the thought briefly did flit through my head.)
I understand that during the usual Thanksgiving pre-hype that many food vendors will do whatever it takes to bring in as much $$$ as possible to their stores.
But not everyone wants, or has the room for, a frozen dead bird.
Turkeys in November are the equivalent of fresh zucchini in late July -- something you find everywhere. 
I know of someone who had a zucchini emergency and ended up putting bags of the things into friends' cars without their knowledge, but that's another story.
I just hope I don't find myself with a frozen dead bird in my cart next time I go to the market.
Amen, and I will pass on that turkey.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

OCTOBER'S GREAT GLOP

It's blowing stink out right now, a whooshing, high pitched wailing wind that is the earmark of a Nor'easter. An occasional vehicle can be heard passing by the streets, kicking up semi-frozen water that also makes a very particular sound, one that becomes quite recognizable to those who have heard it before.


That said, I grew up in this neck of the woods and have strong memories of snow storms on Halloween, having to wear thick woolen coats over my costumes as the kids in the neighborhood went trick or treating. It took some of the joy out of the whole shebang.


THE GREAT BLIZZARD OF 1978


The newscasters are positioning this "storm" as a freak of some kind, an event simply too early in the season. To hear some of them it's as if the Great Blizzard of 78, which shut down the northeast region for over a week and left cars stranded on the highways for days, was about to hit. 


And yet, because of changing global conditions, this once customary event --SNOW IN OCTOBER! has now been labeled an unusual situation, and managed to freak out the locals into making major purchases of bread and milk in preparation. One local bakery owner told me they had sold $450 worth of goods within an hour as a result.


This weather pattern is only supposed to drop an inch or three on us, right now the cars outside sport a light dusting, but nothing earth shattering. 


At most it would definitely signal the time was ripe for the first fire in the fireplace.


Given the winter of 2010-2011, which dropped a boatload of snow on us, precautions are indeed wise -- but after the massive purchases of generators, snow blowers, road salt and assorted other flotsam from last year -- you think most of us would have some leftover?


I mean yes, stock up on batteries since those do get used up -- maybe bring down the blankets from the attic to add extra warmth to the bed. 


But really, people, don't you think you should have done that already?


The Boy Scouts call it being prepared. 


Amen, and pass the extra blanket.

Monday, October 24, 2011

GHOST BUSHES

There is a lovely vineyard that I pass by every day as I go to and from work -- and during this time of the growing season, the owners drape the vines with yards and yards of white netting.

The bridal style veils are to keep the birds from eating the smaller grapes that will help along next year's crop, or so I'm told.

Whatever the reason, a few days ago it struck me that these vines looked very much like "Ghost Bushes."

The "Ghost Bushes" term is not something I dreamed up, frankly it's a derivative of "Ghost Plants," a nickname given by a very dear friend of mine, Jane, who was an avid gardener.


GHOST BUSHES



Jane loved growing things. Jane loved growing people, too, by the way, and I was one of those fortunate ones in her garden of human flowers.

Her garden consisted of so many different items -- but a very common element in Jane's pastures were the plants better known as Dusty Millers.  Dusty Millers are those plants with silvery leaves that have a way of shining bright on moonlit evenings.

Jane grew many Dusty Millers, and she had a way of describing them that was uniquely hers. She called them "Ghost Plants," and as she used these words her eyebrows would rise and her voice would drop an octave to speak of these oh so mysterioso plants.

Needless to say, the other day I found myself driving by the grape vines in the vineyard, draped in fall netting, and I heard Jane's voice calling the sight, "Ghost Bushes." A smile grew in my heart.

Jane has been living in the Great Beyond for a bit, and those of us who were in her orbit while she was among us were lucky people indeed. She had a lot of adoptive daughters in addition to her own brood, fortunate women who enjoyed her presence, laughed at her jokes, called her "Mom" and most of all, to this day are able to identify "Ghost Plants" or "Ghost Bushes" thanks to her incredible mindset.

During this autumn season, may I suggest that you try to spot silvery trees or bushes or plants, and smile broadly when you realize that you are looking at "Ghost Plants."

Jane would so approve.

Amen, and pass the mustard. I miss you, Mom.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

OCCUPY THIS

They are everywhere.


"They" are a haphazard motley that has turned up at assorted U.S. cities big and small, in an apparent movement to get corporations, banks what-have-you to part with cash. 


It's all in the name of the common person, supposedly, a protest against "corporate greed" and "capitalism" and how life is just so unfair.


It's all about how some organizations and people have all the luck to have a boatload of money, while others, well, others just do not.


It's all about a sense of entitlement.


And so the hordes occupied Wall Street and they occupied that and they will occupy this, all the time thinking that somehow they are going to break down the barriers and just like at Jericho Wall Street will come tumbling down and everyone will be equal.


Right.


I don't know about you, but if there is a dollar out there to be had, I will do everything in my power to get the whole thing.  This means I get up in the morning and go to work to earn that dollar. And when I get my mitts on it, I'm not sharing it with anyone who squandered a day waving signs and being a public nuisance. This is not to say that I don't believe in helping those who truly need assistance. Not a single bit.


But, guys, it's costing cash strapped cities and towns a lot of money to get extra police out to make sure you don't destroy property which does not belong to you while you are out to make your point.


Think about it: if all you occupants showed up at the polls next go round, you could, as the platitude goes, "make a difference." Are you upset that the politicos voted to bail out the banks? Then mobilize and get those politicos out of office. You might even get one of your own elected. I could totally respect that. 


Amen, and pass the mustard. And by the way, I mean all of it because I worked hard to get it. Can you say the same?

Friday, September 30, 2011

FLIP FLOPS VS. THE TIES THAT BIND

So sue me, I'm writing this for the men out there,.


Don't get me wrong -- I will be the first person to fight for your rights to wear whatever you choose to drape on your body.


That said, the recent spate of TV shows based on the 1960s -- an era in which all men sported serious suits, closed cropped hair and pocket squares are popping up everywhere I look. 


One of them, Mad Men, features a horde of those aforementioned fellows. Each and every one of them wearing a killer power suit as they go about their daily business. There's not a hair out of place, nor a wrinkle on their lapels. And yes, they wear that ubiquitous article of male clothing that makes no sense whatsoever -- a tie.


Meanwhile, these shows are popular in an era during which most of the guys I happen upon sport wardrobes consisting of sweatshirts, ripped jeans, old flip flops and a buzz cut that eliminates all hair, making most of them look like hard boiled eggs. I'm sure that Mark Zuckerberg, the gazillionaire owner of Facebook, whose look is exactly that, has been a strong influence on most of these dudes.


Now don't get me wrong -- I admire Zuckerberg's business savvy, ability to get the planet engaged in his enterprise and well, his insistence on a personal style.


But, guys, can you hear me out? While I don't like the notion of you sporting the proverbial ties that bind each and every single day, would you mind gilding the lily once in awhile?

We like it when you spruce up, enjoy when you don (pardon the pun) the Draper look simply because, well, it looks so damn good on you. Even though on many occasions I have worn a suit myself, fellas, they suit you so much better.


Would it kill you to humor us and once in awhile, skip the sweats and strut the suit?


Amen, and pass the mustard.

Friday, September 23, 2011

RAIN RAIN GO AWAY



A rainy, New England fall night is part of the landscape. At least, it is where I live.
There are those who enjoy the "crisp" fall weather, and all of that which goes with the autumnal season.

But this time of year I always find myself in mourning, simply because I'm one of those people who does not naturally relish the upcoming months of darker, colder days that are on the horizon.

So tonight I sorted through my photo collection and came up with this one -- a simple photograph of Eden Rock near downtown George Town, Grand Cayman.
Eden Rock, Grand Cayman
It's a little bit of heaven, a spot I would frequent early on Saturday mornings, before breakfast, for a quick dip into the Caribbean Sea.

Ah, vida, as my friend Bela Madureira used to say with a loud sigh.

This Saturday I'll probably dig through the store of blankets and woolens that I stashed upstairs in the attic last April, somehow thinking that the time I would need them again would not arrive so terribly soon.

And yet, here it is.

Before I do that, however, I am allowing myself a short respite, a reminder that somewhere on this planet on which we live, it's not raining, the air is not cool, and Eden really does exist.

Amen, and pass the mustard.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

SUDDEN SUMO SATELLITE SPLATTER

First, I need to qualify that I have an unabashed admiration for NASA, which unlike many governmental agencies really does deliver a lot of bang for the bucks.


However, these great folks have let us know that in the coming day or two or three, large chunks of their Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS) may crash land on assorted, as yet unclear, parts of our planet.


Yep, satellite splatter.


The news sites are all a-twitter over this idea, and at this juncture so am I, especially when you consider that the UARS weighs about six tons -- roughly the size of a bus.


Kisenosato Yutaka
Now those cut ups at NASA, who love a good joke like all the rest of us, assure us that the UARS won't be landing all in one piece, thank goodness. It's likely to break up on re-entry, and they speculate that these hunks of space junk may range in size from the miniscule to some that could weigh more than 300 pounds.


That's like having Japanese sumo wrestler Kisenosato Yutaka coming at you from above at hundreds of miles per hour, without any prior warning other than perhaps his shadow looming overhead seconds before he lands. 


With apologies to Mr. Yutaka, that's not something any normal human should have to experience.


But worry not, NASA claims there is one chance in 3200 that any of these pieces will land on you.


Amen, and pass the mustard.



Sunday, September 18, 2011

BUMPER CARS, BIG PIG STYLE

In hindsight, perhaps it wasn't such a hot idea to attach the chain around the car's bumper. 


Once again, the story takes place on the island some call simply, "The Big Pig," another tale of transportation trials and tribulations, involving a very old Ford Fiesta with clutch problems, heretofore called FSquared. 

Incidentally, FSquared is way past its prime, lacking headlights and other amenities, used now only in a place where a scant number of vehicles exist and the preferred mode of transport is gonzo golf carting


The Old Truck & FSquared


N. and B. had been knocking heads trying to figure out how to "pop" the aforementioned clutch in a location that is fairly flat, and they hatched a scheme in which FSquared would be somehow moved along by a very, very vintage Ford truck, heretofore known as The Old Truck. They linked The Old Truck to FSquared using a very hefty steel chain they were itching to put to some kind of use, looping the chain around FSquared's rear bumper. The effect was the automotive version of Dr. Doolittle's Push Me Pull You two headed llama. 

I'm not entirely sure of the particulars of the whole scheme, but I think it involved trying to pull FSquared just enough to build up momentum for the clutch popping/whatever maneuver. 

N. got in The Old Truck and B. got into FSquared, and the fun began.
It didn't help matters much that The Old Truck's engine makes more noise than the entire drum section of ten full orchestras with a Sousaphone or two thrown in for good measure. 

They pushed, they pulled, they pushed, they pulled, kicking up a fair amount of dirt, drawing cheers and jeers from the rest of us and adding to the overall din with the grinding sound of metal on metal as the attempts continued.

Finally, the result they had not counted on -- The Old Truck ripped the bumper right off FSquared and clattered down the path until all activities ceased. N. and B. jumped out of their respective vehicles and begin to inspect FSquared, with much scratching of heads and getting down on the ground as they assessed the carnage.


At least, FSquared was now running., so N. and B. cashed in their chips, drove FSquared back  to a good spot and tranquility reigned once again at the Big Pig.

Amen, and pass the mustard.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

WOMEN WITH SUVS ARE THE NEW OLD MEN WITH HATS

Enroute to work this morning I found myself trapped in a line of SUVs, each and every one driven by a woman.

Now before anyone goes ballistic, I'm a card carrying feminist and prize the friendships I have with several highly intelligent and competent women. 
However, the women I encountered this morning are of another ilk, people whom I'm now going to put in the same category as "Old Men With Hats Who Drive Buicks." 

The lower sections of each and every vehicle around me had sustained some kind of damage to both front and rear bumpers, ranging from serious scratches to miniature versions of the Grand Canyon. 

To make matters worse, one had the ubiquitous "Baby On Board" banner and another had one of those bumper stickers bragging about their honor roll student offspring. Both, incidentally, were simultaneously talking on their cell phones while driving what is a fairly busy road that time of the morning, with school buses and commuters zigging and zagging.

What are these women doing behind the wheel of a vehicle they are clearly unable to manage? The damaged bumpers tell the story of a driver completely incapable of maneuvering the SUV into a parking situation because they are either not paying attention (that cell phone!) or else dumb drivers who should stay off the roads instead of posing a hazard to all others and a complete embarrassment to the rest of us women who know what we are doing when we get behind the wheel.

Amen, and pass the mustard.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

THE LIGHTS ARE ON! AND IN SOME WAYS, I'M SORRY ABOUT THAT.

There's a part of me that doesn't mind roughing it -- for eons I've been visiting Hog Island, where for many, many years utilities were simply not part of the picture.


Although these days folks have solar panels and cell phones and assorted other things that have made summer on the Hog much more "civilized," (to quote my Caribbean friend Denise who resides on another island I love), when I was a kid most of those houses had gas refrigerators and simple oil lamps to keep the darkness at bay.









There were no cell phones, no TV sets, radios were battery powered and the entertainment in the evenings would involve board games or just sitting outside staring at what was a gloriously starry sky. Bare feet or flip flops were de rigueur. Time passed slowly, it seemed, and a weekend on the Hog was well, a little slice of Paradise.

In the aftermath of Irene, many of us on the mainland have been without power -- forcing some to entertain themselves in old fashioned ways. Last night on my way home I saw some neighbors with a little fire pit, several folks sitting in lawn chairs whiling away a summer evening and apparently enjoying themselves quite a bit. 

Now that the lights are back on, of course that fire pit is back in the garage, and everyone has settled into the routine that is every day life.

There is a part of me, however, that wonders whether or not we received a bit of a gift from Irene in a very roundabout sort of way -- an opportunity to reconnect with our families and friends without the distractions of electronic toys that sometimes keep individuals under the same roof so far away from each other.

I'm not sure about you -- but I'm planning a few evenings on my porch from now on in the company of friends, nights by candle light in which conversation and just being together will be the entertainment.

Amen, and pass the mustard.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

USELESS POST IRENE UTILITIES

It has been four days now since Irene screamed through my neck of the woods, knocking down trees and power lines and basically annoying the daylights out of everyone I know.  We are lucky to be alive, so that's not my issue -- what concerns me now is the apparent inability of alleged "customer service" people to provide simply that.

So far I've received voice mails from AT&T with respect to my phone and data service. I've no idea what is in them because I can't open or hear them.  Ditto for the emails I received  from Cox Communications about my internet service. 

National Grid has kept me in the dark, literally and figuratively, about when they plan to reinstate my electric service. More voice mails I can't hear. 

The best part has been listening to their local "public relations" dolt for the last few days, a woman who keeps popping up on local radio spewing even more tired platitudes than political P.R. hacks. You know the drill, terms like "working closely" and "getting the job done" and "commitment to customer satisfaction." Blah, blah, blah. 


I applaud the men and women out in the field, those technicians who ride bucket trucks and stand dangerously close to downed power lines and huge, fallen tree branches in horrible conditions. They don't pay you enough. 

But customer service? These clowns are lucky they don't work for me because I would have fired the lot of them. Customers who are in the dark and concerned after such an event deserve more than just platitudes.

What would these turkeys have done if Irene had turned into Katrina? Maybe we should ask the folks in New Orleans, I'm sure they have some choice words.

Amen, and pass the mustard -- carefully, because I can't see you or hear you -- my electricity is out and my phone is not working.

Friday, August 26, 2011

IRRATIONAL IRENE IDIOTS

So at the supermarket this afternoon -- I spot a woman with at least ten packages of raw hamburger in her basket, presumably to stock up for whatever will happen with respect to Hurricane Irene.
I couldn't help but wonder -- what did she think would happen to all that meat if the power went out and her refrigerator went kaput? Steak tartare, anyone?
That's exactly what I mused on my Facebook page.
Then there were the people who responded to those ramblings pointing out how she might possibly have a grill on which she intended to cook all of that food.
My question is -- there she would be, risking her life outdoors in 100 mile per hour winds in torrential rains to what end? Why not just open a can of tuna and be done with it?
The odds that those burgers would cook are astronomical -- never mind that they could possibly airlift and wind up a splatted meat pizza who knows how far down the road.
I don't comprehend how people who are presented with something as stupendous as this monster storm still blithely think that they can carry out any part of a normal existence while such an event is swirling around them. 
Hamburger woman is right up there with the people who install generators in their basements so that they can continue to have electricity, completely oblivious to the fact that lethal amounts of noxious gases would build up in their houses and well, they could die from what they perceived was a solution to a problem.
News flash for the hurricane impaired: when Nature doles out major weather, we mere mortals should hunker down in a safe place and cope with the fact that our lives are going to be disrupted, so we might have to weather a few days in the dark, eating cold tuna and gadzooks, being unable to check our emails or send out text messages. And consider ourselves fortunate that we made it through with our lives.
As the Borg used to say on Star Trek, "Resistance is futile."
Amen, and pass the mustard.



Wednesday, August 17, 2011

BATS, THIS TIME IN CAYMAN

Some years ago I was fortunate enough to live in the Cayman Islands.
Yes, THAT place. It is a little bit of paradise in the Caribbean, a teeny island where if you drive just a couple of seconds the views are spectacular. Views of a sea that looks like somebody turned the lights on in the swimming pool in the middle of the night. 
An incredible shade of green that makes you want to cry when you see it.
A classic and gorgeous house in Cayman, minus bats.
I've been writing about bats in New England, about how I know some friends whose homes are infested with the blasted critters flying about. 
What I neglected to mention in my last post was how in Cayman, the bats don't necessarily bug you inside the house, but more accurately, when you are hanging about the swimming pool in the early evening.
My dear friend D. (you know who you are) and I were killing time one warmish summer evening when a different sort of bat from what you see in New England was making its presence known in the area of the swimming pool where we all hung out in the evenings.
D had jumped into the water and I was just about to join her when...yowsa, they came out of the rafters, bam bam bam splat.
Within seconds, one bat had managed to hit her on the head, just two seconds before I was going into the pool. All of our neighbors froze right where they were -- nobody really wanted to swim in a lovely pool where bats were zooming and zooming overhead.
Call us cruel, we just sat there and watched it happen until D. leaped from the pool and joined us on the perimeter of the pool to view more zooming and zooming.
There is nothing like a warm summer evening in the Caribbean region. Any of us who have lived there can testify to that, but there is a bunch of stuff the tourist brochures won't tell you, including the bats and, oh, yeah, the crunchy crabs on the roadways.  Maybe I'll write about that soon.
Amen, and pass the turtle stew.

Friday, August 12, 2011

BATS GOING BATTY

August is Bat Month.
At least it's considered that by some slightly batty friends, all of whom, including myself, have had Close Encounters of the Bat Kind. Bats, like many college students, pick up a lot of steam in summer and right about now engage in swarming behavior, which basically means that they fly around in large groups dive bombing everything in sight (differing from the college kids because the bats are not bombed). 
And since they can weasel their way through the smallest cracks, well, you get the drift.
Merlin the Bat Cat
My cat Merlin undoubtedly holds a dubious history within the local environmental department, having caught eight (count 'em) bats in mid-flight and presented them to her favorite human, still alive, of course. One of the last times I took the living critter in a mayonnaise jar (more on that later) for rabies testing (it wasn't) and the officer, on hearing my street address, said jovially, "Oh, yes, you're the lady with the bat situation." 
I was a situation?
That honor should belong to a friend's mother, who I will refer to as M. Years ago a bunch of us were on the porch when a blood boiling scream came from the house interior, and we looked up just in time to see M running through the dining room with a solitary bat flying circles around her.
Bats in that house were a customary enough sight so that the family had its act together. Another night we were again hunkered down on the porch (it is a cool spot) and spotted, well, you know what we saw. There was no cell phone (this was back in the Dark Ages) so we slithered out of the house and went to a pay phone and my friend C called her father.
The conversation went something like --
"Dad?"
Pause. "It's me." 
Pause.  "I'm fine, I am just down the street because there's a bat in the house. You have to catch it."
We ran back to the house in time to spot B, C's brother and M's son, bolting down stairs in his official Bat Fighting Gear: a vintage pith helmet over which he had thrown mosquito netting, a plunger, a mop and a large, empty mayonnaise jar. (Now you get it?)
After a lot of thumping and fumbling and thwacking, the unfortunate bat was ensconced in the aforementioned jar (holes on the top so it could breathe) until we could go to a nearby park and set it free, far from the house.
But somehow the jar ended up in the trash, and the following morning the creature had managed to escape and was making its way up the side of the barrel. 
More screaming.
The most recent escapades occurred about a week ago, the first at E's house -- B's daughter and C's niece. This one was flapping around her bedroom until she managed to shoo it away.  Meanwhile A (who is related to this motley via someone named Pinhead -- don't ask) reported that there were bats "flapping and crapping" at the church where she works. 
Yes, this is one batty bunch. 
I'm keeping an eye on Merlin, too, since Bat Love Potion Number 9 might put me over the edge.
Amen, and pass the mayonnaise jar.


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

TUBULAR, TOTALLY

I had an MRI today because my doctor wanted to find out the extent of any kind of damage to my left ankle, following an injury earlier this season.
Fortunately, I've had few health issues along the path of life so this MRI was a first for me, and there were the usual trepidations. I was not liking the idea of getting into a narrow, confined tube, for obvious reasons.
I am not officially claustrophobic -- though I should add here that every time I watch a TV show with Zahi Hawass (the hat wearing Egyptian official who spends a great deal of his life squeezing into tight spaces) I end up covering my eyes because I can't deal with the close quarters.
So when I walked into the MRI space I had some serious trepidations.
Fortunately since it's my foot that is injured they didn't shoot me in head first, which could have resulted in a crazy scene. 
That said, as I lay there staring at the ceiling wearing a headseat to muffle the tac-tac-tac-tac sound of the MRI, I started laughing uncontrollably whilst attempting to keep my foot as still as possible. 
I suddenly craved donuts and bagels, mountains of them, foodstuffs that are not really part of my basic diet in the overall scheme of things, but man, I envisioned piles of them higher than Kilimanjaro and Everest all around me.
The technician stopped the proceedings at one point to ask me if I was okay, presumably because there really were tears running down my cheeks. 
But I wasn't freaked, I just finally realized the true meaning of the phrase, "Tubular, totally."
Amen, and pass the mustard.

Monday, July 18, 2011

GONZO GOLF CARTING

First, I don't golf, frankly think it's a dumb game. Had to get that out.
So the only times I am apt to ride in a golf cart are whenever I am visiting friends who own a home on a lovely private island. On island, golf carts or walking are the sole modes of transportation.
This past weekend I was still in the recovery mode from the broken ankle, and my friends decided it would be best if they literally carted me all around, so I got to ride shotgun. The cart was piled up three feet high with coolers, umbrellas, beach chairs and other assorted paraphanelia, by the way. 
This particular chariot was having some issues that day, and my friend (whose name I'll leave out to protect the not so innocent) had never driven it before. Everyone else hoofed it down to the beach, while she and I got into the vehicle and started it up.




The tricky part of driving the beast involved a choke issue and a gas pedal that either fed it boatloads of fuel or nothing at all, or so I understood.
Seconds later my friend and I are heading downhill towards the water at an alarming rate, and visions of both of us flying out completely filled my head. I started screaming like a pterodactyl. I've never heard a pterodactyl screaming, but I'm willing to bet the farm that I sounded just like one. 
We managed to round the curve, narrowly missing the shoreline (okay, I exaggerate) when a couple of feet later, the thing just died in front of someone's house, completely flooded.
Several minutes ensued during which we were the hub of suggestions from well meaning neighbors, including one soul who asked us to move the thing so we wouldn't be in anyone else's way. 
Yeah, right.
I'm not exactly sure why we decided that trying to go backward might be a good idea -- and as  soon as my friend turned the key the cart shot out faster than the last shuttle launch in reverse.
Energized, she shouted "I'm gunning this thing until we get to the beach!" Her eyes were wide and crazed.
In seconds we careened past holes, rocks, narrowing paths and bushes while I kept up an alternate running commentary of upcoming obstacles.
"Hole!"
"Rock!"
"Another hole! Mud!"
"BIGGGG rock, BIGGG rock!"
Somehow we made it to shore in one piece. 
Several hours later when it was time to go back to the house for lunch, we both took one look at each other and just walked back.
It seemed the prudent thing to do.
Amen, and pass the mustard.



Wednesday, July 13, 2011

CHEESY CHINESE LAVA LAMPS

I broke my own axiom against purchasing Chinese products -- I'm not going into the reasons why here, you can just speculate.


And all this for a lousy lava lamp.


I have had several along the way -- odd looking things that arose first during the psychedelic era -- when stoners had nothing else to do except stare at odd looking things as opposed to their navels, clearly an odd looking thing but that's for another day. 


I don't do well with sitting still and I need all the variety around me I can stand, so of course I need to have a boatload of odd looking things to stare at during the day to keep myself from going totally out of my mind.


Thus the lava lamp -- which at first I didn't think of as the Cheesy Chinese Lava Lamp. I set it up quickly after purchasing it at lunchtime, expectantly hoping it would send up something soon, very soon. I needed to be entertained.


Imagine my surprise when the lava lamp -- now baptized the Cheesy Chinese Lava Lamp-- took almost three hours before the thing even shot up one small blob. And then it sat there doing more nothing.


But then that's what you get when you buy a Cheesy Chinese Lava Lamp.


Amen, and pass the mustard.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

KEEP MOUTH CLOSED WHILE CHEWING, PLEASE!!!

I was considering my dinner choices at a fabulous restaurant the other night when what should have been a delicious prospect was immediately spoiled when I looked over the top of the menu and caught a nearby diner chewing with his mouth wide open.

The guy was having potatoes, carrots and some type of meat. Yes, I know, too much information, which is exactly what I thought myself and of course, must share.

All of that food was churning around and around and around and around, much like what my friend Jack would have described as resembling "a blender with the top off." How the food stayed in there was anybody's guess.

Opting not to upset my dinner companion, I mentioned nothing and focused entirely on what was in front of me for the duration of the next few minutes. Fortunately, this guy was a combo Open Mouth Chewer/Fast Eater and devoured his rations quickly.

What amazed me most, though, was Mr.Open Mouth Chewer/Fast Eater was sitting right across from Mrs. Open Mouth Chewer/Fast Eater, an elegant lady who appeared very much engrossed in conversation with him, while the rest of us who were also able to catch the revolting and revolving view were just grossed out.

Mrs. Open Mouth Chewer/Fast Eater is living proof that love really is blind, or Mr. Open Mouth Chewer/Fast Eater must have a boatload of money.

I could launch into my rant about people who chew gum and snap it, but I'll leave it for next time.

Amen, and pass the mustard, with the top closed, please.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

PAPER IS PASSE, PEOPLE!

I just got home to as yet another large pile of useless paper junk mail -- flyers, a couple of grocery coupons and three copies of some other piece of crap.
Tah dah, roll them drums -- I THREW IT ALL OUT.
To all the marketing geniuses who spend their entire day designing this drivel so that it will eventually end up before my eyes to get me to buy something, news flash: your life is being wasted.
It's 2011, and we have a host of ways to communicate with each other without the need for the tree-killing, landfill-filling frippery that arrives in the daily mail. When I'm ready to buy a particular item I'll go look for it, and waving paper advertising in front of my nose isn't going to make me spend my dollars any faster.
Not to mention, it gives me perverse pleasure to crumble it all up and throw it all away as soon as I am physically able to do so -- in winter, it goes into the fireplace, ha ha.
So take me off your mailing lists, don't send me political campaign literature, as a matter of fact, don't send me any of this rot anymore. 
Because you know, as well as I do, that it's useless, no matter how many surveys you come up with...
Amen, and pass the mustard.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

CUBICLES AND DRAGONS

I've a hairline fracture on my left foot and have spent a few days house bound in hopes of resting the limb and hastening the healing. As a result, I've watched a lot more television programs than usual -- and was flabbergasted to note how many of these shows involve fantasy worlds and mythical characters. 


Vampires abound and live forever, Camelot thrives with a dark twist and a race of horse eating Dothrakis ride the grassy plains, in search of dragons while in the north soldiers stand guard over a wall of ice. Scenery is lush, the clothing worthy of a schizophrenic Paris runway and the music is one crescendo after another. 




It's no wonder these themes have captured the hearts of so many -- for we have become a nearly virtual society, whether it be work or play, tethered to some facet of technology which keeps many from participating in a real activity. 


Why leave the house to see theater when you can watch it on your phone? Why visit a friend in person when you can check in on Facebook? Why join a sports league when Wii is in your living room? 


So is it any surprise that the more technologically advanced we become, the more glued we get to computers and cubicles, are we subconsciously craving action, adventure and dare I say it -- a sense of romance in an era where it seems to be a lost art? 


Go into many homes and the evidence is all there -- gigantic television screens with "home entertainment systems" in sterile, utilitarian rooms devoid of any personality where pseudo-zombies sit and stare, eating microwaved meals in plastic dishes while texting on a cell phone. And yet onscreen dragons fly, swords clash, horses thunder over mountains and romance abounds -- things not likely to happen or fit within the confines of a cubicle. 


Amen, and pass the mustard.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

ELECTRONIC EVERYTHING!

I was reading some postings by assorted friends shocked that more people are buying electronic books instead of paper ones. Yes, I groaned and groused when I first read this -- the romantic writer side of me likes things which I perceive to be "real," as opposed to some figment of the original. 


Somewhat like I would think about a clone of a famous someone or other but that's another story.


When I was growing up, we had gadgets, because if it had something to do with electricity, my engineer father wanted to play with it. Over the years, a monolith of a stereo system (my Mom liked the furniture part of it but complained it was too loud -- Dad was big on volume), an RCA color TV, and as time waxed, newer stereo components and ever more powerful speakers. 


Clearly, I was genetically programmed for electronics and when it arrived, the internet and everything that went with it.  My early music collection took up space and had to be dusted -- these days I carry my collection in my pocket. 


The e-reader I hope to purchase will be as loved, as "real," as the dog eared Complete Works of William Shakespeare my parents gave me one birthday, now on my bookshelf along with others. 


Because the more people that have access to literature, to music, and to art, the richer we will all be, no matter in which format it is delivered to them. Thomas Edison would have loved it.


Amen, and pass the E-Mustard.

Friday, May 20, 2011

RAPTURE, REALLY?

As if we didn't have anything else to worry about, someone on the lunatic fringe pops into view with the notion that the world is going to end -- tomorrow,
in other words, the promised Biblical Rapture, not the 1980s song by Debbie Harry.


And I am shouting this next sentence.


HAROLD CAMPING IS NUTS.


A card-carrying, mind-numbing nimrod who has done a mysterioso study of the Bible and come up with a factoid that somehow has managed to capture the tiny imaginations of some, well, tiny, tiny minds.


Since the dawn of human history, philosophers and scholars have attempted to figure out the reason why we are glued to this orb that flies around the sun. I can guarantee that the earliest cave people were not hawking Geico but once in awhile probably stared at the stars overhead and wondered.


And whether or not you believe in a higher power, that's not my issue. Someday, someplace each and every one of us will discover the truth to that conundrum. 


Even Stephen Hawking has hedged his bets somewhat. 


But what I don't comprehend is how anyone could possibly think this guy is anything but a serious fruit loop who should be wearing a sweater with incredibly long sleeves.


Amen, and pass the mustard.









Tuesday, May 10, 2011

BAD BAG BOYS

Why do the boys at the grocery stores insist on stuffing all the heavy items into one bag?
After as yet another stint at a local market, I admit it took me awhile before I was able to walk out of the place with more than one bag for all the items I purchased.
I am of the opinion that all of the youngsters who work at supermarkets are taught to attempt to stuff as many things as possible into the same bag. Yes, these stores are trying as all of us to save money but...
The problem is these kids end up piling all the heavy bottles into the same receptacle -- and daintily place the featherweight things into the second one.
This scenario happens even if you, as I do, bring your own re-usable bags with you -- you watch them as somehow they put a half dozen glass bottles and umpteen jars and who knows what else into the same bag.
That the bag is strained to the max with the weight of these things doesn't hit their addled pates.
Okay, so they still live with their parents and have no conception of the consequence of such an endeavor, never mind the cost of groceries.
And clearly, they have not run after a cantaloupe melon making its escape down a flight of stairs, or cleaned up tomato sauce after the jar burst on the sidewalk.
But it does give me pause -- this generation is going to take over the world as I fade into oblivion. Clearly, a generation that has no idea of how much -- is too much.
Even into a simple grocery bag.
Makes me glad I'm not one of them.
Amen, and pass the mustard, which undoubtedly will be packed with a couple of tomato paste jars and a brick, maybe two.