Thursday, January 31, 2013

Show story

I wish I could recall more of the stories I brought back from road trips years ago.  Recently someone did remind me of this story.

The last several years of my career I was at a show in Bay Harbor, Michigan, near Charlevoix and Petoskey, on Lake Michigan.  Summer homes, summer play land.  Old cottages, restored Victorians, new mansions.  So many walls to decorate. 

Ann came to this show with me a couple of years.  She always wanted to take the ferry across from Wisconsin, but practicality won out and she flew into Cleveland.  I recall I did drop her at the Gerald Ford International airport in Grand Rapids to send her home. 

The exhibitors were set up back to back down the main street of the town, from the beginning of town to the docks on the bay.  A long, long show.  I was the first booth at the beginning of town, right in front of a restaurant with beautiful breakfasts!

I never arrived to set up this show before seven of a beautiful June Friday evening; it was one of my longer drives.  Every year I was there the same artist was in booth number two.  She was an artist.  Her watercolors were large, translucent, flowers, reminiscent of Georgia O’Keefe.  She was a tiny slip of an oriental girl, accompanied by a handsome young American. He dressed in crisp khaki and open throated Brooks Brothers. She dressed like an artist.

Their relationship was unknown.  Ann and I called him The Agent. He set up the booth, hung the work.  The artist sat all day in her director’s chair, in front of the restaurant.  Wealthy summer residents who looked at her work were escorted from picture to picture by The Agent, and eventually would be escorted to the artist for an introduction.  It was too pretentious for a summer outdoor art show where all the artists knew each other.  These two made no effort.  The artist would return pleasantries with anyone who stopped by her chair—until The Agent cut between.

The last year Ann and I were there, the artist and The Agent had not set up when we arrived or by the time we left in the evening.  Early Saturday morning their canopy and display were up when we arrived, the art hung.  There was an attempt to hang art outside, in the space between our booths, but there was very little room.  The Agent accosted me as soon as Ann and I appeared.  “I wanted you to set up your booth closer to the other line!” he said at once.  “I want you to move it.”

No professional booth can be moved on demand.  The display is integral to the canopy; the weight is enormous, it takes several hours to set up.  It ain’t going to happen.  And, I was set up perfectly within my marks.  And, I do not read minds, or I might have accommodated him the previous evening.  “Oh, Ann, I believe The Agent might want to use part of my booth space for his display; let’s set up farther into the intersection.”  Right.

The Agent was surly and rude toward us for the entire day Saturday.  He even kicked my tool box and broke the latch.  The artist just sat in her director’s chair and was the artist.

The next morning, at breakfast with a bunch of us, the artist’s work came up.  A lot of art was represented at this show and other artists agreed her work was exceptional, she would be important some day.  Of course The Agent came under discussion, too, and his place in the artist’s life was speculated.  “What’s his name?” someone said to me. “Dick,” I responded at once.  Ann is so polite she spit none of her food on her plate.

The show was very busy on Sunday, too.  Neither Ann nor I left the booth except for a restroom, and then it was four o’clock, we packed up and left.  I saw artists from that show at other shows, and the experience with the artist and The Agent was strange enough to be discussed.  The consensus was she needed to be rid of him, Dick held her back.  I agreed with that.  I never said I didn’t know his name.

Mt. Gretna Outdoor Art Show

Monday, January 28, 2013

Toby chex

OK, Laura's eating her breakfast

More chex to make.  He's off.

Thanks to Jan.  I do not get up this early!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Red berry trees on a cold and dreary day

Emily’s high school band, and many, many others, are playing at Severance Hall in Cleveland, today.  A beautiful concert hall.  I bought tickets around for family members who don’t share my tin ear.  Tom and Hamilton dropped Emily at her school bus and went on up to Cleveland.  Tom wouldn’t miss this for anything and Hamilton is interested in hearing how his new band performs.

That boy will be just fine.  He sat in on their swing band practice the other night and a regular band class during the week.  His trombone is in the shop, but we hope to have it back in his hands tonight.   At supper Emily teased him about being at the back of the pack of trombones in the band.  He snorted.  “I’m better than the best of them!”  Now, I’ve never raised boys, and I had to grin.  “You still need to try out, Mister,” she reminded him.  Good to have him here.

Coming back from an errand we pulled into a drive to take a picture of a red berry tree, half stripped of berries, but plenty left for the birds. I have no idea what tree this is, many have red berries in winter.  They are cheerful to see on such a dreary day. 

Saturday, January 26, 2013


This is an old cat story.  I grew up in the forties and the fifties, when practicality trumped everything.  Some of the dogs and most of the cats in our little world were neighborhood pets.  They belonged to everyone.  One child would be “followed” home by an animal (“Can we keep it, pullize”!); weeks or months later the animal followed someone else home. If we harbored cats when it was time to leave for vacation, Mom simply took them to the pound.  Dad ignored any cat in the house, although he did tell us to listen to the cat.  It’s saying “Mee-out.”

After all the children dispersed, Mom and Dad still hitched up the camper and went exploring.  Uncle Bill went along those years, and provided the additional brawn mom needed to get a camp set up.  She did much of the vacation driving in the early seventies, too; Dad’s strength was failing, but not his interest in new rocks.

A cat adopted dad at a campground in Arkansas.  She came out of nowhere and spent several evenings in his lap, after, presumably, waiting patiently for the little band of campers to return from their day’s outing.  When it was time to leave she jumped into the car and settled on dad’s lap.  He closed the car door and the vacation trip proceeded, as planned.

Dad named the little orange and white tabby Katherine (long for Kitty).  Katherine went to the vet for neutering, and settled into her life at 729 Moraine, taking care of our dad.  Katherine checked dad’s whereabouts first on coming in, walked with him on his short jaunts from back door to patio, spent evenings in his lap. 

The last couple of years of his life dad was “chair-ridden,” spending his days in his red Barca-lounger, not getting up for much more than to eat lunch.  Mom would come in from work and help dad unload his vest pockets of mice Katherine brought him for sustenance over the day. Katherine kept her sharp eye on him, even raking my arm from top to bottom when I lifted the scissors to trim his hair.

The great Midwest blizzard of January, 1978 found dad completely bedridden, with round the clock nursing care provided by Mom, Walt, Jan and Katherine.  Dad remarked to me one weekend I was there visiting, “This dying business is like a train ride through Siberia.” He passed away on a cold, cold day, February 20, 1978.

The next day Katherine came through the living room, head high, Dad’s red ski cap in her mouth.  Jan snatched it away from her as Katherine passed.  We heard Katherine leave through her little kitchen door. She never came back.

I learned later that when mom first met dad she didn’t even meet him, barely saw him.  He blew through the home of a mutual friend for a quick introduction of his fiancée, Kitty.

Dad, panning for garnets

Friday, January 25, 2013

Holy whiteout, Batman

My ends are pretty loose in this run up to the next hearing.  Flipping my calendar pages to find something else I realized the magistrate also set a trial date, if needed, for March 21st.    I’m visualizing not needing that one!

Ann emailed yesterday to let me know they lost Bandit.  He flashed across my mind this morning, thumping along on three legs, shoulder to shoulder with Herman.  Well, shoulder to kneecap, Herman hopping up and down to shout in Bandit’s ear. They knew each other only briefly at Ann’s, but they were vivid in my mind’s eye this morning.

January has been tough on pets.  We lost Jan’s buddy Ryon on the Sunday of Epiphany.  I wonder about him, too.  He did not leave the basket on my dresser if there were strangers in the house or too many feet on the floor.  The grandkids would crowd into my closet to entice him out of the basket.  That Sunday he was napping on the sofa.  Jan looked up when she heard his claws unhook from the fabric.  Ryon rolled over and was dead.  Heart attack?  Stroke?  Aneurism?  He got a brand new pillowcase and is buried in the cat graveyard.

Toby kitty took a few days, but has settled into being the number one indoor cat.  Purrl only knows there is one less cat accosting him at the door.

I just hate snow!

On the other hand, I don’t go out in it, and it is lovely falling down so.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Big job, big chain saw

All that wind mentioned on blogs from the mid west to the north east came through my little township too, Friday night.  We lost the upper half of a dead tree, trunk and branches all over the driveway.  Tom was clearing it away when our neighbor at the end of the road and way up a lane called. She lost an entire tree she’s been worried about for some time.  Was Tom interested?

Tom and Ham came back from assaying, Tom grinning, Ham bemused.  Tom needed a bigger chain saw and coveralls and steel toed boots for the boy. There was wood for two years.  Only a wood stove heats the entire studio, and that can be a challenge in a brutal winter. 

The good old boy network kept Tom apprised of trees for years; his buddies even drove overloaded pick up’s of trunk chunks from all over the state for drop off in the side yard.  The emerald ash borer brought that to a halt and the wood pile was down to this winter and part of next.

So, yesterday Tom upgraded from his little branch lopping chain saw to one that really makes him smile.  He put coveralls and steel toed boots on the boy, too.

Yesterday was beautiful.  I went down the road and looked at the tree.  It’s a big ‘un, and way up the hill.  There will be some serious toting to bring it home.  Then I drove over to Hammy’s potential new church.  He was quite disappointed I didn’t just take him yesterday; services began at 9 am.  I put my hand on his shoulder and said I was responsible for him and would not send him into the midst of strangers until I talked to the minister.  He settled down, and came home smiling from being outfitted for tree removal.

I planned my arrival at church to go in as members drove out.  I timed it perfectly.  When three cars remained in the lot I walked up to the door.  Locked!  Drove around, tried the other door.  Locked.  Well, these are strange times.  I called the number from the phone book and told the man who answered who I was.  I wanted the minister.  He offered me others, but I wanted the minister.  I was given the phone number of someone who could make an appointment to see him.

I drove through the blue heron rookery on the way home.  The herons haven’t come back yet.  At home I made the appointment.  The minister can’t be seen for another two weeks.  Oh, well.  I told Hammy he can substitute good deeds and getting started in school for church the next two weeks.

Today it’s snowing and the tree trunk chunks are moving up the hill.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Musical interlude presented by The Old Grey Goose

Laura’s fifth grade band presented their first concert at lunch time.  Uncle Tom and I went, and had great third bleacher row seats.  Oh, those young mothers and fathers, going up and up.  We sat at grandparent level.

These little folks can take “extracurricular” activities in place of recess. We were at the Wednesday Friday Band performance; there is a Tuesday Thursday Band, too.  About sixty five members each.  Flute, clarinet, alto sax, tenor sax, bassoon, trumpet, French horn, trombone, baritone, tuba and percussion, and from the sound of them, all well past the painful stage.

The band filed in, took their chairs.  The director explained this little band has worked diligently for four months, and had another four months hard work ahead.  They have just completed the same note phase and next term begin harmony.  They played London Bridge.

The conductor turned back to us to introduce Aunt Rhodie.  It really needs no introduction; we have been intimate with Aunt Rhodie for several months.  But first he needed a volunteer from the audience to help the story teller.  Laura, almost too far away for me to see, had Uncle Tom in her sights and her little finger jabbed over the shoulders of the flute section.  Tom shifted uncomfortably.  I poked him.  He volunteered.

Aunt Rhodie did have an old grey goose and thought she would cook him up for Sunday dinner.  She went down the lane to consult the French chef, who tried to save the old grey goose’s life by suggesting Aunt Rhodie try hot cross buns, instead.  When that wouldn’t do the French chef tried sending Aunt Rhodie to Mary, who had lamb.  No, Aunt Rhodie would have none of that.  The French chef intercepted the old grey goose in his barnyard strutting, told him to quick, get in the boat and row away.  He did.  Aunt Rhodie was very sad, but suddenly the old grey goose came back up the hill.  They all joined hands and celebrated with a little polka.

This little musician can handle her own weight in tubas!

Give them a hand.

Our little trumpeter files out, and we all go home.  Or back to work.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Help lines

I’ve been forced to the help line on a daily basis recently.  Week days, that is.  I don’t often go to work on weekends. 

My little township, population 698, many of them children who don’t vote, is alligator deep in the federal government.  It was that way when I became clerk nine years ago.    I’ve told the trustees I believe the nice old clerk before me did not run for re-election because he had to register with CCR.  It was the first thing I did, in order to get grants we applied for.

CCR.  Creedence Clearwater Revival, no?  Actually, Central Contractor Registration.  It was a formidable data base if I noodled around it, but the township simply needed their name and address out there to be matched up with all the paperwork I submitted and the nice federal grant check to arrive in the mail.  Later on the nice federal grant arrived straight into the checking account.  Those were the days!

This past fall the feds decided to streamline.  It’s probably been in the works for years; I can almost see Al Gore’s internet finger in this, but that’s only speculation.  My friendly little CCR and all my paper vanished, rolled into SAM. System for Award Management. My technically illiterate self had to belly up and fill in the formidable data all the big central contractors had supplied for years.  I called the help line and went through the process stroke by stroke. 

Drained and stupefied at the end, I told the wonderful help line woman I didn’t have strength to remain on the line to take the satisfaction survey. But, there it was in my email.  I gave her ten of ten for everything and considered my problems ended.

Did you notice, SAM passes out “awards.” No money.  That is a platform called ASAP.  Of course it is incomprehensible, so I called help.  This help came straight from the federal reserve help desk.  The money comes from the federal reserve banks of the US Treasury, of course, and the tic boxes about messing with them can put you under the desk if a calm help person isn’t guiding your finger on the mouse.

I follow instruction well and now my township is set up to receive grant payments.  I stayed on the line and passed out ten of ten attaboys for the wonderful help.  Then the road super, who actually submits our grant requests for road assistance couldn’t access the account I bravely set up for him, on my own, on SAM.  Like two little kids we sat in front of my computer, called help and ticked the box I’d missed.  He made the December application deadline.

Don’t be thinking it’s over.  No.  The trustees made a contract with DOI (Department of Interior), which runs the federal parks, to do a teeny little job for the park.  Apparently contracts are not awarded.  I don’t care; I only want the township paid.  The contract platform is called IPP.  It’s not up and running yet.  “So sorry, this is not business as usual, please bear with us, bla, bla bla”. I have a Rolodex card for them, but there is no help line or password written down.  For the record, the township has fulfilled its obligation for the last three months of the seven month contract that ends in May.

But wait. There’s more.  The township is an entity of the state of Ohio.  We report to the Auditor of State (AOS).  We use government accounting software, which has remained unchanged since implemented almost twenty years ago.  Upgrades turned it into DOS with lipstick, but still DOS.  AOS intended to roll out a shiny Windows version effective January 1, 2012.  Every fiscal officer (that’s what we’re called now) in the state must have emailed:  this is ludicrous.  Every fiscal officer in the state stands for re-election for 2012 and takes office on April 1st.  Training new electees  in a fairly new program, as well as the job and the law that governs it, is stupid. AOS held off for a year.

You know what I was doing on January 2, 3, and 4, 2013.  Rolling up a new accounting program, after closing the old program with all the reports required by Ohio Revised Code.  ORC, to those of us who live by it. When we call the United Accounting Network (UAN) help line we give our entity number to be logged in.  I’ll bet UAN’s reports at the end of the week had a page or more of my township’s number.  I gave all the helpers ten of ten.  I’ll be calling them again on Monday.

Boston Township Hall


Thursday, January 3, 2013

Mom in Las Vegas

Mom came by her wandering foot genetically.  She was born in 1918 and on her father’s vacation excursions.  Niagara Falls or the Pacific Ocean, all the same to him, from Cleveland, Ohio.  I wonder what my grandmother thought of lugging bedding for a family, and probably guests, from one set of tourist cabins to another.  I do recall Mom telling of one vacation in which she had cherry pie for breakfast every morning.

Travel and vacations were important when I was a child.  A trip of several days to St. Louis when I was about six or seven involved motels and hotels, and probably tipped my frugal mother (and father) into the camping mode, the accommodation I recall from my childhood.  Some of my first blogs recounted family camping, and especially a tent my dad fashioned of a parachute, marbles, and a tent pole.

Mom budgeted for the annual family vacation.  She had a shoe box with envelopes, each labeled with something she was saving for.  One envelope was the vacation fund and the figures would accumulate down the outside of the envelope.  On one very cold winter morning the engine block of the family car cracked.  But by cashing some bonds and using the vacation fund our family left behind the 1935 Dodge.  My brother Walt and I were not sorry to be sitting in the back seat of a 1948 Dodge.  No more sheet metal slicing the backs of our legs.

When we moved to this house Mom was seventy, and still travelling.  In the preceding decade she had visited friends and relatives in Missouri, Texas, Florida and points between, accompanied by friends or her sisters-in-law.  Camping days were over, but I know Mom looked for the best motel deal available.  I have mental images of her at a motel counter, with tiny, white haired Aunt Helen Rita, negotiating a better rate.

Our Uncle Hank retired after we moved here, and mom noticed him and Aunt Flo taking a lot of little weekend trips—by bus.  Their church senior group organized the jaunts and mom was welcome to join them, if there was an unsold seat left.    After missing a few trips she would have enjoyed mom took matters into her own hands and joined Uncle Hank’s church.

The senior group of the church organized tours that required air travel and although Aunt Flo and Uncle Hank could be off to Disneyland or Broadway, mom was not interested in those tours.  Until the trip to Las Vegas came up.  Her cousin Tommy and his wife Mary would be coming from Texas to join them for several days in Las Vegas.  Mom was so excited she bought a new suit case. 

It would be my mother’s first ever airplane trip and I said I would see her to her gate and wait until she boarded (1995). Well, she could figure that out by herself!  It’s a long trudge to the gates at Cleveland Hopkins, but she only allowed me drop her.  As I slowed down, knowing my mom, I handed her two dollar bills and said that the approaching man, the Sky Cap, would be carrying her bag, and please tip him, and everyone else who helped her.  That’s how they earned a living.  I could not get out of the car in time; she got her suit case and marched right past the outstretched hand of the Sky Cap.

When I picked her up a week later she handed me two dollars, announcing she had carried her bag herself.  Everywhere. She and Tommy had a wonderful time.  In my files I have a picture of others in the party facing their machines, pulling handles, but Mom and Tommy sitting shoulder to shoulder, backs to a machine, chatting like long lost cousins.  I may never find the picture to illustrate the story, but you can see it in your mind’s eye, I know.  Oh, yes, she didn’t waste any money on those casinos, either.

Mom and Uncle Hank on vacation, about 1931