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Thursday, March 29, 2012

Tomboy childhood


Once I thought I was going to write a thesis on how their environments differentiated southern writers from northern writers.  Fortunately I never did, and saved myself from being found guilty of terminal pretension.

I grew up easily classified as a tomboy, and I do have some theories on what makes a tomboy.

1.       The neighborhood is populated almost exclusively by boys.  On looking around, the tomboy finds no one to play with but boys, excepting the sissy girl next door who won’t play with you anyway because you play with the boys.

2.      The tomboy realizes early on to be part of the gang you have to play fair, not rat anyone out and take a hit on occasion.

3.      The tomboy is rational about not being a boy.  I almost quit being a tomboy when I got glasses in the fifth grade.  We settled it as follows:  someone held my glasses and I wrassled my challenger to the ground.  Having settled there was no need to do that again and risk breaking my glasses, I remained a tomboy for another few years.

4.      The tomboy’s parents have few expectations past doing well in school, helping around the house and staying out of trouble in the neighborhood.  And coming straight home when you need the emergency room for stitches.  It may have helped my mother was a tomboy with only a brother and boy cousins.

5.      The tomboy knows when to exit the field.  There’s a change in the air.  The side lot fills up for a pick up game, but the only hearts really in the game belong to the little kids who have been coming up.  Their big brothers would rather be under a car hood, and to tell the truth, you are packing your pj’s for a sleep over with the girls you’ve meet in ninth grade.

It’s sad that children don’t know childhood until they look back on it.  Hopefully they can appreciate it.  The concept of childhood didn’t exist until the late 19th century, and even then, as now, not for all the children in the country and the world.  Children have the same amount of time free today as in my childhood, but it seems filled with endless structured activity.  I won’t be around to see how that turns out.    Probably just fine; they’re all in it together.  And there will be a new generation of grandmothers fussing about the past.
Jan and neighborhood buddies enjoying an apple on a fall afternoon.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Just goofy


The whole extended family often visited when the children were young. Several generations of brothers, sisters, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, grandparents, aunts and uncles in the summer, in someone’s back yard, watching all the children at play.  Children were required to get dirty so they could get a bath and go home to bed.  My niece and a nephew:



Sometimes the grown-ups might have made themselves just as dirty.  My dad on a tiny tricycle. Early ‘70’s.



My Uncle Hank back from a spin up the road.  I believe that’s my brother’s motor scooter.



When I got my motorcycle I drove it home from the dealer to my parents’, but needed practice trips through the neighborhood before I rode to Mentor.  I practiced corners, downshifting, stopping and starting.  Feeling pretty confident after a couple of hours, I started back up Gardendale hill and saw my two brothers across a vacant field, on Moraine.  There was a footpath between the streets that went down a hill, across a flat plain of ground that Grandpa Schook gardened, back up a hill and onto Moraine.

The grades down and up were fairly steep, and as I started up the grade to Moraine my bike gave a little choke signaling imminent stall.  Walt and Mel were yards away, above my head on the road.  Mel yelled “Downshift and give it some gas!,” both of which I promptly executed.  The front wheel immediately came up off the ground.  I looked up at two brothers laughing so hard as to be no help as the front wheel rose higher and higher.  No question I would be over backwards in a minute.  What to do?

I stood up on the pegs and leaned over the handle bars to get the front tire back on the ground.  And my brothers kept on laughing.  Leaning on each other, tears rolling down.  I crested the hill on the back tire and got the front tire down only when I reached the level of the road.  My brothers were behind me, shaking with laughter.  I was furious.  I did a one footed U turn and aimed straight for them.  At the last moment they moved aside, revealing the big oak tree they were in front of.  I missed it, too, and turned to face them.

“That,” said Mel, “is called a wheelie.  You’re damn good.”

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Dad’s hats

  

Dad generally wore a hat on leaving the house.  So did my grandfathers and my uncles.  They would no more have gone on a Sunday picnic without the hat than without a suit coat and tie.  The hat was part of the outfit.  Once when I was two or three I was on the corner of Euclid Avenue and 12th Street in Cleveland, waiting for the light to change to cross the street.  Dad had a load of parcels in his left arm, clutched to his chest in order to also keep hold of the brim of his fedora.  My hand was in his right hand.  As the light changed and Dad helped me step down off the curb the wind caught his hat and sailed it down the sidewalk.  Dad considered only briefly; we crossed the street.

There was a green fedora on the hook in our closet, too.  Dad wore it to irritate my mother on occasion, and he always wore it on St. Patrick’s day.  It didn’t scream green; it was a very subdued dusty cedar green.  I remember him going off to work in that hat, once a year, for a long time.  Then one day it no longer hung in the closet.  I doubt it blew away.

After he retired, Dad’s penchant for hats blossomed.  He experimented with caps.  He had a Sherlock Holmes deerstalker for a time, but it really didn’t suit him and it disappeared.  He had a Russian Cossack that he did wear all winter.  It was a beauty, dark, curly lambs’ wool.  I think it was left behind somewhere and lost.

Dads' hands down favorite hat was his French beret.   Unlike other hats that he removed on entering a building, greeting a friend or sitting down to a picnic, the beret never left his head. He found the headwear of his life late in life, but he logged more beret hours than any other, including the red wool French Canadian hat he wore every winter.

One summer, on a joint family vacation, probably rock hunting in North Carolina, we were touring some historic site, looking in old barns and cabins at the displays.  A small knot of tourists always seemed near us, chatting excitedly.  Finally two of them broke away, approached my parents and asked, “Excuse me for interrupting, but may I ask, are you Norman Rockwell.”  My dad was so pleased he led them on for a few seconds past my mother’s tolerance.  She said, “Now, John, tell them I’m not Mrs. Rockwell.”


The only picture I have of my dad with a hat, and it's his beret.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Tasty pesto

Beth used to live upstairs in a two story on Whitcomb.  I love the name of the street.  It was only a little seedy back in the ‘80’s.  Beth’s friend Carol and her son Joseph lived downstairs when Beth moved in.  Their cat, Neighborhood, eventually became Beth’s cat.  When Carol and Joseph moved, Shelly and her husband and Bekka moved in.  Hammy came along shortly thereafter.  That’s enough of the group to be getting on with, although no one figures in this story except Beth and her friend, Christina.  The redhead who grew up next door in Mentor.

Beth always favored ethnic neighborhoods.  Her stock argument for living in the city was “If we don’t live here, Mom, who will?”  This was a fairly old Italian neighborhood of small lots, tidy homes, occasional two family homes, built that way in the ‘20’s and ‘30’s; the upstairs and downstairs identical.  There were sidewalks, flower gardens and adventures.  Like police helicopters overhead, illuminating the bushes looking for a suspect, and all the neighborhood out on their first and second story porches, watching.  Stories any mother likes to hear.

Chrissie must have finished her degree in harpsichord because she was back in Cleveland, taking her law degree at Case.  Beth may have been back at school, too, earning a degree that earned a living.  I think they were between boyfriends and especially partial to cheap entertainment, like the second run movie theater on the corner.  Experimenting with cooking, having parties that involved a little money and a lot of friends.

Beth invited me to come to supper one night for a spaghetti and pesto dish Chrissie was making as a trial run before trying it out live.  I arrived and found the table prettily laid and the two girls working in the kitchen.  Basil leaves, garlic cloves, pine nuts and olive oil was disappearing into the mortar and pestle.  I hung out in the kitchen door, watching the two girls working.  They decided they needed more basil.  One of them went out on the back landing and returned with a flat of tall and leggy basil seedlings.  Past their prime they cost a pittance at the corner nursery.  They made excellent pesto.


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Open winter

The subject of the mild winter came up last weekend.  With family patriarchs around the table I suppose it was inevitable.

My time and event continuum is tenuous; I’ll take most anyone’s assertion of a date and a fact as gospel.  My brother Walt said, apropos summer leapfrogging spring this year, winter was so mild twenty nine years ago he rode his motor cycle to work every day but one, when it snowed.

How did he remember that?  Well, the next year he was transferred to another city for his job. Oh.   Jan backed that up by saying Yes, that was the year mom broke her shoulder. Mom said “Let’s go home, Dutch,” to the Doberman, who immediately took her down Walt’s steps and through Walt’s motorcycle to get home.   And Walt’s motorcycle was on the sidewalk in December because he was still riding it to work.

I wondered if I could find out anything about that winter and asked my friend, Mr. Google.  He immediately sent me to a 1984 Ohio Journal of Science article devoted to the winter of 1982-83 in Ohio.  The winter was among the mildest of the 20th century, warm and rainy, record high temperatures set, due to the jet stream coming from the west and south west for the season, and warmed by El Nino. 

Another proven fact and it happened just twenty nine years ago.  I can remember mom calling some winter we all lived here an “open” winter.  It didn’t mean much to me at the time except to realize she meant it was mild.  I’m sure I won’t be lucky enough to turn up another Ohio Journal of Science citing some winter between 1988 and 1997 as mild, so we’ll take her word for it.

The term open winter may come from sea faring times, when the water was open, or ice free.  On the first day of spring here in Northeastern Ohio, our magnolia is open.  Completely unheard of. 

 I read in the morning paper that the seasonal ice cream stands are opening early.  Now that’s worth a look.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

St. Patrick’s Day green yesterday

Beth took a ravioli class and was so pleased with the result she called and asked Jan two burning questions.  Did we still have the noodle machine and did Jan know how to make noodles.  And, would her Uncle Walt be available to turn apple wood into apple wood planks.  It all came together yesterday; Beth and Caroline came down, Walt and Mark came over, and Bill and Francis went on the other side of Beth and Caroline’s line, where they carry everything on their backs and hike out and back for two days, for the pleasure of eating powdered eggs and oatmeal in the morning.  Although, Caroline informed me, her father also took the last two bagels and the cream cheese.

The ravioli instructor handed out pre-made dough, dismissing that stage saying “Everyone knows how to make basic noodle dough.”  Beth wanted to share her new ravioli skill, but needed to get over the basic noodle dough barrier. She also wanted a noodle machine, but recalled there had been one in use when she was a child.

The noodle machine came to live with us in the ‘70’s.  In fact, it was responsible for the reconciliation between Jan and Grandma Rolf.  Grandma never approved of her, and Jan responded in kind.  Grandma was still an independent woman when she got her last grandchild, but becoming rigid and unforgiving.

Back in the kitchen in Mentor, Jan and I used to throw parties that featured a house full of friends.  Lots of noise and confusion and the sort of food we normally didn’t have.  There were Jan’s famous Thanksgiving in July parties; her Chinese egg roll parties.  And, the beef stroganoff party.  Except ours would feature homemade noodles, just like Grandma Rolf used to make. Recalling all the time Grandma also spent rolling them out, I decided to spring for the noodle rolling machine.  Jan recalls it cost $49.95.  In 1975.  That was a chunk a change.

There we were, a party coming up and the noodle machine on the table.  We didn’t know how to make noodles.  Jan called Grandma Rolf.  Grandma was pleased beyond words to tell her long haired hippy granddaughter how to put flour on the counter, make a well, crack the eggs into the well, how many egg shells of water, start working the flour in with the fork.  All the way up to rolling and drying.  Jan didn’t tell her about the noodle machine, in respect of the new rapport.

Jan  told Beth exactly how to do it, and she did.  Uncle Walt was hanging out in the kitchen, having planked the apple wood.  We reminisced about the drying noodles when we were kids and Grandma Rolf was in our kitchen.  Noodles hung over the backs of every chair, in addition to being on towels on every counter.  Walt also told me about beans on the shelf.  He hated green beans.  He noticed his older sister’s method of disposing of runny scrambled eggs, and immediately added green beans to the ledge.  The cat didn’t eat green beans.  Walt got in trouble.

Because it was St. Patrick’s day, and because her mother and her Uncle Walt are very Irish, Beth made spinach ravioli.  When she and Caroline went home, they took the noodle machine and the apple wood planks.  The machine will live in her kitchen and her restaurant will feature apple wood planked scallops next week.














Big enough for a bed


Jan's first open quilting date is in July, so now the quilt will sit on the shelf for awhile.  Emily and Laura did a fine job arranging the block sequence.  I sewed one sashing strip on the wrong side and briefly considered just flipping the strip.  Briefly.  I took it off and did it right. Caroline walked right by it in the studio yesterday, in three strips and a couple more block piles.  I love how oblivious kids are.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Spinach and scrambled eggs

We’ve all been busy, busy today.  I came home from work at two, read blogs I didn’t have time for this morning (before I went to work), then paid bills, and now it’s now.  Jan just appeared from the studio, took a box of spinach from the fridge and said all she had time for today was spinach and scrambled eggs.

Spinach and scrambled eggs! I haven’t had spinach and eggs for supper since I was a kid, and that would be before Jan came along.  I’ve mentioned our mom was an unimaginative cook.  I liked my mom; we were good friends when we were both adults.  I gratefully ate everything she put on the table, and we laughed that I had to leave home to learn there was more to food than casseroles and pot roast on Sunday.

One step back.  I did not eat the scrambled eggs.  She, too, served them with spinach, fresh or frozen.  This dish showed up often during a period I later realized was Lent.  Accompanied by her standard salad:  one leaf of head lettuce on a small plate.  One ring of pineapple on the lettuce.  One scoop of cottage cheese on the pineapple slice.  One maraschino cherry atop the cottage cheese.

I had to leave home to learn there are several ways to cook scrambled eggs.  Mom whisked them in a bowl, added a good deal of milk and scrambled them down to extremely wet.  Into the Boontonwear serving bowl, call the family for dinner.

Fortunately our table was set every evening with a full complement of silverware.  One fork, one knife, one spoon.  I could not have made it through scrambled eggs and spinach without the spoon, which I used to discreetly deposit my scrambled eggs on a ledge that ran under the table.  I remember discovering to my horror that the ledge was available only on the end of the table, not down the length.  I had to swallow cold, wet and runny eggs that night.  I didn’t make that seating mistake twice.

In my defense, I did not know scrambled eggs could have a consistency other than runny.  I would not have known how to ask or describe anything different.   I doubt it would have changed Mom’s cooking.  Remember, we grew up on margarine, in respect to my parent’s opposition to farm subsidies.  When Mom learned margarine would never pass the door of my adult house she said if she had only known….yea.  It still would have been runny eggs and oleo.

All the eggs on the ledge did disturb me.  I could get caught.  And punished.  But that never happened, and the ledge had no egg evidence the next time the Boontoonwear bowl came to the table full of runny eggs.  I was one lucky little girl.  Musing it over many years later it came to me:  the lucky cat!


This bowl is upside down.  Hmmm.....That is the color, though.


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Vermont weather stick and other signs of spring

You remember the weather stick I gave the road department.  It was just pitiful last December, when the road super reminded me it had rained since spring:


You will notice the weather stick reigned alone last December!

It’s been a perky fellow for a while now; so I took my camera to work today to take some pictures.  Here it is about nine in the morning.  Notice the skepticism of the road crew; they’ve added a beat up old thermometer to the mix, just to be sure of what they’re seeing.  It probably is about sixty degrees.

Noonish.  I’m about to go home.  The stick thinks it’s warm and sunny.  However, it’s not eighty degrees.

I went around the building to get the outdoor view.  I guess Vermont knows the weather.  It’s not a hundred degrees, I assure you.  I need to mention to the road crew that thing is ruining the view!

It’s such a beautiful day, here’s the town hall.  1887.  The remaining example of stick architecture in the Western Reserve.  I think the windows are sublime.



On the way home.  The golfers glared at me.  Lighten up.

I passed a bicycle.  The road will be packed with them later in the afternoon.

Daffodils starting up in the field.

A volunteer crocus.  Some squirrel forgot.

Daffodils in the woods.  Another squirrel forgot.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Timmy

I lived in the Mentor house for twenty years, from February 1969 until June, 1988.  There were many young families, young kids, playing up and down the street.  To round up my own I’d ride my bike toward a thicket of children, looking for familiar bicycles and faces.  My own brothers and sisters-in-law visited on weekends, adding another four children to the mix.  My mom and dad.  And Timmy, about four years younger than Shelly, lived across the street, but generally at Shelly’s side. 

 My brother Walt built a deck on the back of the house, and with a swing and a picnic table, it became the hang out.  One hot summer afternoon mom and dad were on the deck.  So were Walt’s three boys and Beth and Shelly, playing with Rubik cubes grandma and grandpa brought them.  Timmy, probably five or six at the time, came through the house onto the deck and joined the crew.  After some time he volunteered to show how to get all the block faces back to the same color.  Mom watched in horror as Timmy popped out one cube from a grandchild’s Rubik.  She stopped him at once.  Timmy disappeared, reappeared with his own Rubik cube, and demonstrated the disassembly and reassembly of a Rubik cube.  In short order he made the other children expert, too.  Timmy was a geek before there were geeks.

For their birthday I took Beth and Shelly to dinner, with a friend.  By the second or third time around, Shelly just brought Timmy.  Or, he came anyway.  He wasn’t just omnipresent, he was a delight.  He leaned back in his chair after one birthday dinner, rubbed his stuffed belly and announced he had gouged himself.  The description is part of the family lexicon now.

Timmy and Shelly spent long hot summers under the deck awning, playing every board game and card game in our house or his.  In the winter they moved to the kitchen table.  At Christmas he crawled up in the attic and handed out the decorations.  I have another fond memory of him marching up and down the living room, in an Abraham Lincoln stovepipe hat, memorizing the Gettysburg Address. One summer he showed up just as I was about to take the rented roto-tiller back.  I was so tired I was happy to have his help to wrestle the machine back in the car.  At the store he took it out, then asked if we could stop at a store on the way home.  I protested; I was hot, tired, filthy.  He wanted to buy a mother’s day card.  We stopped.  The next week I got a mother’s day card, too.

When Beth went off to school in 1982 the house seemed a little less empty because Timmy came in every afternoon, just like another kid.  But when Shelly went off in 1985, Timmy and I both were at a loss.  It wasn’t the same.  He looked around right after that first Thanksgiving, went upstairs and came back from the attic with boxes.  “We’re putting up the Christmas decorations right now.”  And he did. 

Timmy was still in high school when I sold the house and left.  Shelly kept in touch with him for some time and gave me news.  He became a computer geek, of course.  Never learned to drive.  Lived and worked in Pittsburgh as a graphic designer.

Not too long ago I asked Shelly for news of Timmy, and she admitted she’d lost touch.  “You can’t even find him on the internet?”  Well, she had no idea how to do that.  Timmy would be proud of me; I Googled him up for Shelly in five minutes or less.  He’s still in Pittsburgh.  He still doesn’t drive.  He’s still a geek.  They’re back in touch.

Monday, March 12, 2012

He does this because…


He needs the exercise

Water tastes better from the floor

He needs a bath

A dog may trip over it, ha ha ha

He can.





Toby is consumed with moving the water bowl away from the wall.  It is a heavy earthenware bowl just to keep rambunctious animals from tipping it.  We didn’t consider the drag factor of a cat leg.  We don't recall other cats getting over themselves until several years older, and this one,

Ryon, frequently wakes me at night trying to open the basement door.  But cathandling the water bowl?  Maybe they need a new kitten for distraction.  Or not!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

I started this eight years ago


A long time ago, probably eight years ago, Ann and I were poking around shops in Wisconsin and I came upon a sale of a bag of batik fat quarters.  A vinyl bag, with the hues arranged in descending rows of shininess.   I don’t know a fat quarter from a thin dime, but bought the whole four or five pounds of shades of the rainbow.  They sat on a shelf for quite some time.

When I started the scrap clearance project a while back I did progress from sewing fabric to phone book pages, to making an actual paper pieced block called snowflake.  I made so many of those blocks I put together a quilt for Carol.  I thought about using the batik to make a New York Beauty, but found I can no longer get that degree of precision cutting from my hands.  The shiny bag went back on the shelf.

I bought a remnant bolt of muslin a couple of years ago and set about making more snowflake blocks from the batik.  I could make five five inch blocks from each fat quarter.  I made blocks until I ran out of muslin.  The charity quilt project happened about then, and the snowflake blocks went into a basket.  Last summer I had Laura and Emily lay out the blocks.  Those little girls are great with color; they spent an afternoon moving blocks from one position to another.  They stacked them up in order, numbered each row, and put the blocks back in the basket.

When I thought I ran out of charity quilt blocks a couple of weeks ago I decided I’d start back on putting together the snowflake quilt, which will be very nice for Caroline’s new bedroom.  Jan cut the setting strips for me during the week, and I thought what a great weekend project.  I’ll put that quilt together this weekend.

Now we’re down to the funny part.  There are one hundred eighty blocks.  Each with a frame and a corner stone.  I’ve been eight years making this quilt and just because all the blocks are done and all the setting strips cut, I’m going to finish in one more weekend.  When quilts fly.  But, I am half done.  The drawer and a half of charity quilt blocks that just keep coming in won’t spill over before I finish the quilt for Caroline’s new room, next weekend.


Half the quilt

Saturday, March 10, 2012

A difference in the life of a bird

All the houses in our subdivision in Mentor were variations of the split level theme.  They were also alike in having no trees; we all started with naked clay soil to subdue.  I realized later there was/could have been topsoil left on the big old farm that became hundreds of houses, but topsoil is just another commodity, and sold before the first basement is dug.

Over the next little while I dug up and brought home a dogwood and an elm sapling.  I rooted and planted pussy willows and weeping willows, and all the trees thrived in my very wet backyard, half a mile from Lake Erie.  We planted trees in the front yard, too, when my girls came home with Arbor Day saplings.  I’ve driven down the old street, forty years later, and all those trees surround the houses like a forest.  Who would have believed it.

The back yard trees grew up and up.  With judicious pruning I turned the pussy willow from a bush into a tree.  We planted some roses, started a garden, grew elderberry bushes along the back fence line.  It became quite the proper back yard.  My trees grew taller and taller, and became so official they housed bird nests.

Beth and Shelly grew up there, too; the Mentor house was their childhood home.  We lived there twenty years.  Beth moved out to go to college, Shelly and I were on our own.  Out in the back yard one day, Shelly found a baby bird, fallen from the nest and helpless on the ground. We located his nest, tucked him back in with his siblings.  Several hours later he was back on the ground.  We made him a shoe box nest and brought him inside.

I, of course, anticipated his overnight demise and burial under “the headstone rock” the next morning.  My tender hearted daughter, however, began studying on his survival.  I have no idea what she concocted to feed him; I know it was not blenderized worms.  She took him away to her room, with an eye dropper and her container of baby bird food.  She fed him all weekend, and come Monday still had a small bird in the shoe box, but, knowing food was forthcoming on demand, a very vocal bird.  She took the baby to her summer factory job, where she was given permission to harbor and feed a bird on demand. 

In short order the bird was rowdy enough we had to rustle up an old bird cage to keep him.  Shelly had not had a night’s full sleep in two weeks.  Even through two closed bedroom doors, neither had I.  I wondered if Shelly’s factory job/bird fostering could have endured had her mother not been an executive up front.  Shelly was determined to grow her little guy up and set him free.  Although he displayed every evidence of flight ability, the little guy had a suspicion he would be out of a meal on demand every half hour if he actually flapped his wings.  I knew he had to go.

I called the animal sanctuary at Penitentiary Glen in Kirtland and asked if they had room for a fat and noisy little sparrow.  I told Shelly there was a home for her bird, and instead of bursting into tears she asked “How soon can we go?”   The nice ranger assured Shelly he’d have the fat little guy out and flying in no time.  I have a feeling they really did rehab him.  Probably set him loose in a fast food parking lot.

Phoebe Snow in the pussy willow tree

Friday, March 9, 2012

They can only talk to each other


Today I have to mention my job, which I thought I’d never do. I hold an elected position with no authority.  I work for the people, but report to the Auditor of State.  In order to keep us clerks on the right side of Ohio Revised Code, the Auditor of State (AOS) supplies an accounting program that only runs on Ohio Revised Code.  If you know even simple bookkeeping, like balancing a checkbook, you recognize the oxymoron.  But, this is government.  In addition, AOS sells us the computer and printer.  By us I don’t mean myself; it is the taxpayers of my township whose money buys all this.   Every three years.  Stop.  Don’t even go there.  This story is about two technicians.

The last AOS, a woman, wisely decided every three years is too soon, so now printers are replaced every four years and CPU’s every five.  Still a waste, in my opinion, but I have no authority…

After several fanfare emails, a new printer arrived Monday.  The two boxes sat on my office floor for several days, until a road department guy came by and lifted the halves out of the boxes and onto my desk.  Bless his young heart and knees, he crawled under the desk, found all the old printer’s points of connection and unplugged them, then carried the old printer to the storeroom.  I won’t mention waste of money again.

Following the new AOS specific list of instructions, I put the disc of new printer drivers in the tray, shut the drawer and waited for the hum to stop.  At the instruction I plugged it in, turned it on.  Error message.  I called the help line.  Oh, yes.  Some entities do not have a certain update.  They would email me the link.  It would take some time to download.  I don’t know how long it took; I went to lunch with friends.

After lunch the computer recognized my new printer, so I printed a test document.  It printed on the wrong size paper, and jammed.  Cleared the jam, tried again, same result.  Called the help line.   This time I’m told their system is down and they can’t help me.  I told the young man we were going to talk about my printer and described the state of jamming it was in.  “Didn’t you get our email?” the young thing inquired.

With clenched teeth I scrolled to the email he referenced and said the paragraph concerned the arrival of my new computer in two boxes.  “No, at the very end!”  At the very end of the very long email, are the rest of the instructions they forgot to put on the instruction sheet they mailed:

The printer itself must be programmed.  In order to work for the people of my tiny township, this printer has to know it will be using the English language.  “Set ‘English’ and advance,” says the young man.  “Set the date and advance,” the young man tells me.  Now I am looking at a screen that says GMT.  I lost it.  Greenwich Mean Time!!?? I yelled.  “Keep using the up arrow key and advance to Eastern Standard Time.”  Let me tell you how many standard time zones are between GMT and EST (U.S.A. and Canada).  This printer knows the zones of Bosnia, Bangladesh, Croatia.  I’d  pressed my way through China, around to Australia when I asked if it wouldn’t have been smarter to use the down arrow back to the United States.  He admitted he didn’t think of that. 

I may be at the end of my sixth decade, but I know my sheet of instructions would have included checking for a certain update and telling the printer to speak English.  Or, does all the stupidity make complete sense when you’re a young technician on the AOS payroll.  And that includes a perfectly good printer sitting in a storage room.  Can’t even speak English, but able to do the people’s business for four years.  But, no longer supported after the end of the month.


This is the new printer, except the second box contained the optional fourteen inch paper drawer  See that thing sticking up at the top right front.  That's the screen that needs to know to use English in U.S.A. and Canada EST.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

J (Joanne) PS

I live in the catbird seat.  In eight hours or less, driving, I could be in Chicago, New York City, Louisville; Washington DC, Virginia, at a show.  I started before there were cell phones.  Although we did have a friend with an early monster that filled up her purse.  And I did own a cell phone the instant they were practical.  Concerning the amount of cash I might wind up carrying, our accountant asked me if I carried a gun.  “No, Bob, I carry a cell phone.”

My directional dysfunction does not even rise to joke worthy.  I’m pathetic.  “She means the other right,” is heard standardly in my car.  I have a compass, and can tell what direction I’m going, but need to squeeze my eyes shut and mentally orient the compass in order to turn and go a different direction.  Not good at stop lights.  In order to drive four or five hundred miles and arrive at a specific location in order to set up a show, I needed a system.  Mine was an envelope.  Business size.  To get to New Paltz, for example, the first line on my envelope said I80E to exit XX, I84N.  Second line said I84N to exit XX, route 208 north to New Paltz.  Third line told me to turn left at the light in New Paltz.  Fourth line to turn left on the fairground road.  Then I had several lines to get me to the motel.  I did not deviate, even if other people said “We could probably get there if we took that road.”  I could tuck my envelope in my steering wheel cover and follow my instructions line by line and get there.  I took good care of my envelopes, added notations, noted when exits changed, occasionally found a better way around towns.  I was my own GPS.

When real GPS systems came along, I didn’t fall for it.  I road with friends who were always fiddling with theirs, then trying some road or another, saying their TomTom needed recalibrated because the route number had changed, things like that.  When Carol and I went to Pittsburgh last summer, fortunately she knew where we were because her GPS didn’t have a clue, going or coming. 

GPS just frustrate me; they don't even sound like someone riding shotgun and saying turn right up there where the red car just turned.  The last time TomTom rode in the car with me we circled a new doctor's office for half an hour.  I finally pulled into some parking lot and called.  "Oh, yes" said the nice receptionist.  "GPS puts you on the wrong side of the over pass.  You can see us from where you are.  Come on over."

MapQuest and I get along famously.  They even write out the instructions just like I used to put them on the envelope.  I should be collecting a royalty.


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

When did they quit making Toni home perms?

My mom marked life events with a Toni home permanent.  Or, she might just catch me unaware. 

“Come out in the kitchen, I’m going to give you a Toni.” 

But usually she had a motive.

“School starts next week, you need a Toni.”

“You need a Toni before the dance.”

I just went round the corner and asked Jan how many perms Mom gave her.  None.  Not one.  The subject never came up.  In fact, once she ran out of her girlfriend’s home, the mother wanting to put her in the daughter assembly line and administer a haircut and a perm.  Jan was afraid of what mom might say when she got home.

I can’t imagine how mom lost her zeal.  She was still calling me into the kitchen when Jan was little.  She even sent me off to college with a Toni.  Or, as one friend said to me, when I had achieved sixties perfection of straight hair halfway down my back, “When I met you in freshman English, I thought you had naturally curly hair!”


Joanne and Walt.  I'm the one with the Toni.  Probably my kindergarden perm, say 1948.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

He may be entirely innocent

I came home from work, and Jan said I might be interested in pictures on my camera.


Half a sock and four needles, but no ball....


Through the kitchen (and back, but that's the end of the story)


Out the other end of the kitchen


Across the hall into the cat room


Around the leg of their chair in front of the register,


Across the hall into my room,



Around the dresser leg,



Back through the kitchen.



Jan gathered it all up, and suggested to me



He may have saved the sock from a wild attack of Mexican jumping beans,


Or not.