Monday, February 27, 2017

It can’t be fixed

My township moved its meager funds from the Bank of Peninsula to the Bank of Hudson, eight miles down the road. That was in the late twenties, just before the Bank of Peninsula closed its doors.  Bank of Hudson has survived for close to a hundred years, under one name or another. Its iteration when I became my township’s clerk was First Merit Bank.

The second thing I did as clerk was go into First Merit and tell them I wanted to look at the township account on line and, gasp, glup, get monthly statements there. In 2004 this was a new concept to this bank, but the threat of moving our substantial cash flow to another bank got their attention, and they enrolled us.

Fast forward to last year, when First Merit had become a relatively weak bank. They faced down several takeover attempts during my terms of office, but last year Huntington Bank closed the deal. We received multiple warnings and instructions by mail; this transition would happen over President’s Day Weekend. Beginning last Tuesday, I could enroll our account again.

I made no enrollment progress by Wednesday evening, when I did report to the trustees that Huntington has achieved a new low in juvenile intelligence; the recorded voice on hold sooths me: “Thank you for your patience. The next available Customer Care Callee will be with you momentarily.”

I listened, mesmerized, trying to decipher and understand “callee.” It finally came to me. I was the caller, and the poor call center person is the callee.

When I finally got through, one time, that person could not help me because Huntington had directed me to the wrong department. I went back into the endless caller loop until I hung up and went home.

Thursday, I called the help line, put the phone on speaker and laid the receiver on my desk while I worked for the next three hours waiting for the next available Customer Care Callee.  Friday, ditto.

Today I went to Huntington in Hudson. It is grass green, and every wall screams WELCOME. There is a white board that says, “Yep, you have come to the right bank.” I joined the end of the line of disgrunt-er’s waiting for a banker.

When my turn came, I told my disgruntee it was Huntington’s last opportunity to retain a hundred year old account that currently has a lot of money in it (real estate tax settlement I cannot access and move to investment!). When I left, I would have access to the account or it was adios to a lot of cash flow.

I stared over the desk for one hour as my disgruntee made phone call after phone call. She even put her phone on speaker and left the office to consult with another disgruntee.  In the end, success.

I missed cards with the Methodists. I am not happy.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

It’s just as well I dismissed the trip planner

Back when I planned my own routes and made reservations, I used a big Rand McNally, and a stack of notes about motels and phone numbers. Then we had the internet, and search engines. Do you remember WebCrawler? Ask Jeeves? Dogpile? I could ask for a list of motels and start calling for price. Expedia, Priceline, Trivago are the Taj Mahal of WebCrawler.

When I began planning a trip to DC for Caroline and Laura over spring break, I thought the train would be wonderful. I priced Amtrack online, and it was $199 for the three of us. I wanted to take them to the National Mall, to Monticello, Mt. Vernon and Montpelier over the course of a week. It boggled my mind, so I asked a trip planner for help.

The planner immediately quoted me over $500 for the train, round trip. I knew better than that. I let her go, and started in myself. Booking the train was job one. I’d waited a few days too long; the trip was now $250 for the available seats. I booked and clicked next. Next was the return trip, for another $250. With mental apologies to the trip planner, I scrapped the train, and looked for a hotel I could afford for five days.

I used to drive to DC for shows several times a year. Why did I think I’d lost my edge? The Best Western has a shuttle for the half mile walk to the subway. The blue and yellow lines go to the mall. I had the girls look over all the attractions and “plan” what we should do.

Separately, I asked a friend who visited with her father recently. It took them two days to walk the mall. So, I plan on two days and the mall will be “by ear”, or whatever my planners decide. I think between the subway, the on and off buses and trolleys, we’ll be fine. I do have my personal must see’s, including cherry blossoms.

Today I set out to buy tickets to see the presidents’ homes. Mt. Vernon and Montpelier one day, Monticello another. I visited Monticello years ago, when my daughters were young. Back then we bought tickets at the gate. Think again.

My order of travel from our Arlington, VA motel was Mt. Vernon, just a stone throw, and Montpelier in the afternoon. Every morning time I selected for Mt. Vernon returned an error, not available. As times are offered in fifteen minute intervals, and my internet is not that high speed, I called Mt. Vernon. I was in the queue about two minutes before a very pleasant woman helped me book an afternoon tour.

Hoping Montpelier had not sold out the morning, I clicked on over and began the ticket process. I opened the March calendar, and found the last half blanked out, with the note, tickets for those days are available beginning two weeks in advance. I have a big note on my calendar.

I still need to buy the push chair and look into 11x15x6 bags, the largest allowed in. Even though those girls will just check the map on their phones, I’ll be using my trusty old Rand McNally. I doubt I’ll update from the 2000 edition, residing in the back of my car.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The big enchilada

I had lunch with my grandson today. The one who is two weeks younger than Laura and has bicycled halfway across the country. According to my texts, he invited me to lunch “sometime”, at least a month ago.  He had the day off school today, so it was a date.

France wanted to plug his blog, Summit Venture, which has a couple new posts on his summer plans. He biked a hundred miles around Cleveland yesterday. He used the MetroParks and the Towpath Trail for much of the ride, but his route definitely took him through downtown Cleveland. “I guess your mom lets you ride on the roads now,” I said. He deigned no reply.

A few mouthfuls into his burger, he did get down to business. How are the DC plans coming? Over his spring break he plans on riding a 350 mile towpath trail from Pittsburgh to DC—solo. Perhaps he might cross paths with his sister, his cousin and me. And, do those girls even have a plan yet for what they want to visit? I see there was some sibling sparring at his house. “Well, I don’t care what you do. Grandma Joanne is taking Laura and me to Washington DC for spring break!”

The big brother superiority crown slipped a little when I turned to the part of the trip to Monticello, Montpelier and Mt. Vernon, none of which he has visited. France has apparently quizzed Caroline enough to know I intend to take a walker with a seat and fold down foot rest. I will spend much of the trip being pushed down the National Mall. He smirked more than a little at the thought of a porter on each side, propelling Grandma to the Lincoln Memorial.

Halfway through the second bottle of ketchup and the order of fries he wound up taking home, France did pull out his phone and quiz me closely on dates and the name and location of our motel.  I do cotton on, sometimes sooner than later. As I paid the bill I said, “Francis, it would be lovely to see you in DC. You can even push the chair.”

He didn’t think so.

We stopped at a coffee shop on the way to the train stop. He paid for his with his phone. I used my card. I don’t portray grandsons so well as granddaughters, but I’m sure you’re following my amusement here. I pulled to the curb to drop him at the University Circle RTA, to take him over to Ohio City and his part time job, which is being banked toward a Jaguar. Excepting his coffee budget.

Before he left the car, he did thank me for lunch, and then added, “Hope to see you in DC. I’ll even push the chair.”

I picked up Laura after school, and there was an envelope for her in the mail. ‘Nuff said.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Out of left overs

I am not the cookerer in this house, and that is a happy circumstance. I don’t care for cooking, and people don’t care for my cooking, so it works out all around.

The cook of record likes to eat, as does her grandmother, but the cook has discovered one does not become a chef overnight and learning to cook is the same process as any sort of education, not always interesting to achieve.

We would eat pasta in cheese sauce every night, if the grocery procurer would allow. Her second go to is soup, and we do have a lot of that. Soups are adequate; a box of broth, some diced meat, some ready at hand vegetables like spinach or broccoli, onions, carrots.

The opportunity for disaster occurs in the spice cupboard. The cookerer has most every spice known to men. She fancied herself the master of their use, but we ate so many spice disasters, she’s retreated to minimal seasoning.

I hoped to find her some cooking classes this summer. But, the national park is not offering cooking camp again. There are two cooking schools in the area, but the summer camps are geared to a much younger age, and guarantee perfect hot dogs or mac and cheese. Beth probably can rustle up some classes for the summer, and it’s only February, so I can let this one go for a bit.

There is a considerable absence of dishes I like. If the cookerer doesn’t like it, it doesn’t happen. But I can be persistent, and then amused when, months later, I find mushrooms, for instance, appearing regularly.  

We’re  open to anything that features bacon. I found a recipe for pasta with bacon and peas. Because I would not put bacon in the cart unless the peas came too, I am pleased to say not only did peas cross the threshold, they probably will continue to do so.

My sister made a little casserole I loved; cottage cheese and noodles. I’ve been promoting it for several weeks, but it hasn’t materialized, though the recipe languishes on the kitchen table. Today the cookerer is off with her mother, and I announced I would make cottage cheese and noodles for myself.  I asked if we had everything. “Probably,” on her way out the door.

Only noodles were in house. I went out for cottage cheese, sour cream, Worcestershire sauce and tarragon in order to proceed. It’s in the oven now, and smells wonderful.

I have to admit, if I were the cook, it wouldn’t happen. My fingers fumble to open anything, spoons fly from my hands, and by the time I was through standing for twenty minutes, my back was screaming. Time to knit and watch TV.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Such a Charles

In another lifetime, when I exhibited at art shows, there was a show at Lincoln Center. I applied for it on the proviso that Ann would accompany me, and Beth, if she could. I navigated some big cities in my time, and I mastered Long Island, but NYC was out of my league, alone. Without them, and Charles, I would know nothing about NYC except the GW and Throg’s Neck.

Booths ringed the perimeter of Lincoln Center, and were on the mall. These had to tear down every night, to accommodate patrons, so I chose a booth on the east side. To load in and out, I had to park the van on a road I think was called just Lincoln Center. We had a window of time to unload, then the van had to be moved. At that time I carried all the garments on wheeled garment racks, reducing the dolly loads to two or three.

But, at Lincoln Center, everything went down a long sidewalk, up several sets of shallow steps, and more long sidewalks to the booth. We took the booth structure first, and as I set it up, Ann and Beth began transporting the balance. I saw both garment racks coming down the walk, one propelled by Ann and Beth, and one by a tall man, expertly guiding his from the middle. It was Charles. He helped us load out, too. He would take no money for his work. He told us the best route back to the Hudson River parking lot, and to give panhandlers cigarettes, but no money.

Charles appeared at the show, with customers in tow. They shopped, but Charles was disappointed none of my shirts fit him. He was at least 6’6”, and his shoulders approached fifty inches. I knew I could custom make a shirt, with a flat fell seam up the back, using two lengths my forty inch wide fabric for the front and for the back, instead of two widths. It should have cost twice as much, but instead I gave him my “good friend” discount from the regular price.

At Lincoln Center

Thus repeated my time at the Lincoln Center show. I realized Charles was attracted to weavers as if weaving had been a profession in a previous life. He couldn’t collect enough of it, and that on a living as a bookseller, abiding in a NYC apartment. Between the shows, I often received little parcels from him. There were books, bits of fiber art, all sorts of weaving. Once a beautiful pine needle basket, from an indigenous weaver in Georgia came out of the box, and I had to chide Charles on his extravagance. How valuable did he consider a “good friend” shirt every year, with some towels for ballast.

When I retired the Lincoln show, Charles ordered fifteen towels, which he divvied out to friends, according to his erratic letters. Then came 9/11, and I lost track of him for a bit. Finally, my “don’t make me come find you” letter had a response, and in his very Charles way, he was completely consumed with volunteerism.

As happens, we did lose track over the next ten or so years. Last fall, though, Charles was out of towels. He sent a chatty letter to me, at the old house. It languished on the Hoosier; K forgot to give me the accumulating mail. When she did, I read six pages of Charles’ interesting handwriting, on sheets of handmade paper. I wonder what he doesn’t collect.

I answered him in January, with the crushing news. My towels are over, gone. If he had saved any for himself, he’d still be using them. (I might send him a twenty year old specimen from the towel drawer!) I recommended a good weaver to him, who makes towels for sale, using my favorite ring spun 8/2 cottons. I wonder where that weaver buys it. Stop it, Joanne. Too late now.

Yesterday, a package came from Charles. He is “downsizing.” Yea, and I have a bridge in Brooklyn. He has retired the bookstore, is writing his books and plays, and travelling all over the world. The same eclectic collection, tied up by two bits of ribbon, also saved from years ago, I’m sure, packed in the box. Such a Charles.

Charles does not want the other weaver’s towels, he says. So, I contacted the other weaver, and selected six towels to go to Charles, NYC via Peninsula. I do want to see them first, to be sure they are what I think they are.  I think I need to get the Shaker Towel pattern back from Praxis, and commission a few. Think of it! Paying for towels.

A book, Wisdom Weaver. Postcards from his Russo/Asian travels. A continuous strap, from an indigenous weaver in Brazil. Probably to hold a baby or a jug. Some blue scraps pieced neatly to a damask napkin. I recognize the initials as an old friend of his. She died one of the last times we corresponded. Charles was very distraught.

The big towel fish that got away! Love it.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Third Estate and Forth Estate make progress; siege advancing, rogue potus staff aids

One undisclosed fact at a time, it’s “Goodbye, Mr. Flynn,” and on to what did potus know and when did potus know it. I must look for some polls to take, to add to today’s postcards.

Meanwhile, back in Ohio, I decided it would be thoughtful of me to write my state legislators. My state’s reputation for police violence is deserved, and right up with the worst of them. Our accountability has been driven more by the federal attorney general than any state legislation. I thought a postcard to my senator and general assembly person supporting accountability legislation would be good.

I know I am district 38 for the general assembly, and quickly found Marilyn Slaby (R). Flipping to the senate side, I found there is no district 38 for the senate; it ends in the mid twenties. Fortunately for him, I knew I must find Frank LaRose (R)(I went to school with his cousin). It’s flipping stupid to have this amount of gerrymandering. But, gerrymandering didn’t kill Tamir Rice for having a squirt gun.

Yes, except for my little blue corner, Ohio is R. Remember “Bush by a Buckeye.”

And back at home, we’ve had serious snow followed by serious rain. Of the latter, it could have been snow, but we were lucky-ish. County crews are still trenching Truxell Road, to forestall it being washed out in the next once in a century storm, and State crews are perched precariously above a raging Cuyahoga River, attempting to repair a collapsed ten inch pipe draining into the river. It collapsed in last week’s storm. That breach flooded the lower half of Peninsula up to the door steps.

In micro observations, the colchicum continue to brave the snow falls, and of the hundred fifty or more bulbs the royal we planted last fall, the anemones are up!

Saturday, February 11, 2017

The certified, bona fide, guaranteed, genuine lock it down and send the key on a trip to space end to 2016

Laura and I had haircuts today. There was a happy dance.

Forty two days into the new year, the ghost of last year left.

We went to Ann’s for Christmas last year, and I came back to a busy, busy week closing the township books. But, I did slip in a haircut appointment for the two of us. Laura was barely in the chair when Mel called me over, and showed me a tango line of little white bumps along every part she’d made in Laura’s hair.

Mel is so young and so nice, and wasn’t sure this grandma knew the score, so she started out, “Don’t be ashamed. I’m a mother of a little girl, too. This happens all the time.” She wrote a brand name of a treatment on her card, told me to call her if I had any questions. As the door closed behind us, they were hurriedly wiping down all the places Laura had been.

We took the treatment at once. We combed and combed and combed. “Yetch,” Laura said. This is gross. We combed some more.

I sent Ann a text: “”Laura has head lice. Check Pat. They shared that hat. L

Ann called me. “I checked that text twice to be sure it was dated December 31st. It is. I pronounce it the end to The Year From Hell. Don’t worry about Pat. He’ll take the cure with flea shampoo.”

Back home, we’d made some headway. But the school nurse said the little buggers had just retreated to the back of Laura’s head. We took the cure again. We washed bedding daily. No pass from the nurse. We combed some more. No pass from the nurse.

Laura texted me a business card from one of the nurse checks. Happy Heads 4 U. Guaranteed. Three trips to Happy Heads later, the nurse was happy. Laura was happy. Grandma was happy.

Mel put four inches of Laura’s split ends on the floor this afternoon.

Friday, February 10, 2017

A cleaning disaster

I like tidy. Swept floors, furniture dusted. Ditto lamp shades and lamp bulbs. Clean counters, clean stove, clean bathroom. I’ve never held any grandchild’s room or bathroom to this standard, so Laura and I get through the common areas in half an hour a week.

I like convenience. I dust with a Swiffer duster. I use Windex on the stove and the microwave. I put a rust remover in my toilet tank, because our well water is rusty, and I like a white toilet.

Before the bathroom remodel in the old house, I still had a walk in shower, and water hard enough to leave soap scum. I kept the walls clean, but the glass door was another matter. About the most it got was a semi-annual date with heavy duty cleaner.

Then I discovered Scrubbing Bubbles automatic shower cleaner. The unit hung over the shower head. After a shower, push the button, exit, and eight or ten seconds later the unit sprayed magic stuff on the walls. It trickled down the water left from a shower, and cleaned. Visibly cleaned! Over time I watched the scaly mess on the shower door descend, descend, leave. My kinda stuff. 

It took four batteries. I didn’t care. I could get them to the recycle center. Every two or three years the unit’s little motor gave out. I felt a twinge tossing it to the landfill, but that didn’t outweigh my clean shower.

Since I discovered this little darling, about ten years ago, I’ve had to purchase three. Two for the old house, one of which came with me, and one new one for Laura’s bathroom.

My Scrubbing Bubbles died this week. I went on Amazon to buy a new one. They cost over two hundred dollars. I paid twenty for the last one. I opened a new tab and asked Google for a Scrubbing Bubbles cleaner. They are no longer manufactured.

I asked Google how I now can automatically clean my shower, and it returned a list of the top ten ways to automatically clean the shower. Everyone involved spraying the wet walls down before exiting. That’s right. Stand naked in the shower and spray Scrubbing Bubbles or its equivalent by hand.

Life as I know has not ended, but it certainly took a sharp turn. More post cards may be required.

Rest in Peace

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Why am I so sad today

The sun is almost shining on inches of new snow, which is blowing and drifting as quickly as the roads are cleared. I came home at lunch time to find bird prints in the snow on the drive, on the steps, on the rail. Birds aren’t sad; they just look for food. Places to nest. Scraps to build the nest.

For some reason the weight of hate struck me full force today. We throw that word about too easily. We hate things too easily. The word has become cheap. Life in the world has become too cheap. Why hate people of color? Why hate people who have a different god? Such a waste. And why was it the first thing on my mind today? Perhaps because last thing before bed I scribbled a post card to Elizabeth Warren. Thanks for doing your job so well.

For the first time in years, I’m knitting a sweater. I abandoned sweater knitting for sock knitting at least fifteen years ago.  Wool socks, to keep my feet warm. Other people have cold feet, so I knit socks for them, too.  Unlike my mother, who divided every last bit of yarn into two balls in order to knit matching striped mittens, I put my ends into a bag, to be decided later.

I joined a knitting group last year. I am amazed at all the things to be knit and worn, with aplomb. I am so pedestrian; I could never swag a scarf around my neck like so many women do. But I did learn of a new, local yarn shop from these women, and went to see what I could see.  My goal was to dispose of a pound of left over sock yarn, and to that end I came home with four more skeins of sock yarn, this time in a beautiful moss green wool, to be the base color.

The young artist in residence graded the colors for me and put them little bags numbered one through twenty something. I was sorting through the bag of numbers the other day, looking for thirteen or fourteen or some such. I looked at one bag, and said “Oh no, Laura. This one says 00." I handed her a bag of purple that had 00, underlined.

“Gramma, it’s an 18!”

The wishful thinker.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Goodnight, good soul

A dear blogger is gone. Goodnight and goodbye, Jacqueline Mitchell. I met her first on Randomosity, a blog she wrote about her beloved Indiana, her family (the ‘kidling’!), her dogs, her garden, her kitchen. In spite of a debilitating nerve disease, she kept us going with pictures, recipes, stories. She encouraged new bloggers like me, and I am so grateful.

A year ago she moved to Florida, with her mother. A new beginning, a new blog,  Cranky Bar. Jacqueline surprised herself turning her hand to full time work, started a little garden, worried her brother through a successful surgery. The old blog is gone, but you can still find The Cranky, and have a sense of the kind and brave soul we knew.

Four months ago, Cranky Bar went missing. Friends of Jacqueline let us know she suffered a serious stroke. Ever the fighter, Jacqueline rallied, made unbelievable progress and just as suddenly, went into a serious decline. Jacqueline passed away this afternoon.

Send thoughts of peace to her family, and especially to the kidling we came to know and love. If you leave you memories of Jacqueline in the comments, I will get them on to the kidling. Thank you.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

A terrible analogy

Stronger folk than I demonstrate around the world, while my little stream of postcards flows to Washington, and potus throws out executive orders with sound and fury which, unfortunately, signify something. His is an ill-considered power move, an effort to be seen as powerful and effective out of the gate. 

Social media around the world, anyway that which I read, shows resistance large and small. How about America First, Netherlands Second. That’s a great set of buttons from a lot of countries. He does read polls, I hear, so every poll we answer may help. In small ways and big, just resist.

Back in the real world, Laura and I went shopping for a dress recently. For the next dance, of course. Miss leggings and flannel shirt seven days a week sure likes to dress up for a dance. Grandma fashion adviser thinks her build is more suited to straight lines than to layers of net and chiffon. No more pouf.

We sorted though half a dozen tall racks of dressy dresses. Most were floor length, so the hangers were over both our heads. Several trips to the dressing room later, I had two prime candidates over my arm, when we broke right out of the racks and straight into The Dress.

Like two kids. “I like that,” said Grandma. “I love that,” said Laura. “It needs a leather jacket,” said Grandma. This child has had a leather jacket on her wish list since forever. We added it to the purchase and headed to checkout. Her Christmas money was wiped out.

The dance was last night. We done good. Makes me almost remember being fifteen.