Saturday, August 19, 2006

Snow globes without the snow

It's one of those snow globe days when the sky is a grayish white and seems liked a wall surrounding everything. The slow slip and patter of rain on the leaves and the cars have that slick, shiny look as though encased in new plastic. The air is chill even with the ceiling fan off and damp. Through the wet gloss of the leaves the alligator skin of the tree trunks darkens with rain sucked down through channels like fine capillaries, changing the way the trees look. One minute they look like headless women stretching their arms to the sky, then serpents slithering down the trunk, and the next someone standing on his head with his legs touching the lowering sky.

The street is awake. Cars start and drive away, park and the doors open and close. The farmer's market is open for business rain or shine and the people find their way here to touch the colors, vibrant even in this white globed world, and breathe the lingering scents of sunshine and earth. They take their purchases home, taking summer with them.

It is on a day like today fall seems so close and winter not far behind. The blazing, breathless dog days are sweet memories of warmth and golden light in the face of impending cold and quiet. Soon I will be able to see the whole face of my mountains when the trees lose their lush green canopies and only the bare branches remain. The days will be less golden and the Colorado blue will be cooler and farther away, stepping back from the slumbering earth. Dawn will break later with a fiery display of reds above the shivering coins of golden aspens before they drift to the ground and carpet the earth. The air will be redolent with the scent of spicy smoke, the breezes tinged with ice and snow. Soon day and night will stand in equal partnership before day gives way so night may rule in its stead. Sun, the color of lemonade, will beam like a benevolent and indulgent grampus ready for quiet after vibrant and boisterous grandchildren have gone home. As the sun winds down, so does the year as the pendulum swings slower and slower, never stopping, but waiting patiently for the sun to come close enough to warm the earth and set it swinging strongly once again, cold, white winter days giving way to the warm scented breezes of spring and, inevitably, the brazen heat and breathlessness of summer once again.

I long for fall colors and winter cold as I longed for the fresh growing scent of spring and the warmth of summer, as predictable in my desires as the seasons in their turn, savoring the scent, sight and sound of each season, preserving the harvest of memories here in pictures and in words.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Them's workin' words

Pastor, my landlady's dog, has been restless this morning. He won't eat his breakfast but that's probably because he's sulking. I made him take his meds this morning. I opened the capsules and put the powder in his food, but I have to give him his pills, which requires opening his mouth and holding it closed once I have the pills on the back of his tongue. It's like force feeding geese to make their livers fat and succulent, except that I don't don't do it for longer than it takes for him to swallow his pills.

When I was a kid and Dad was stationed at Fort Monroe in Virginia, we lived in Hampton Roads, a small town off Chesapeake Bay. Dad kept pigeons and when he had babies he would hand feed them dried corn. That meant prying open their little beaks with a fingernail and and putting the corn down their throats -- force feeding. They were too young, so Dad said, to be able to eat the food by themselves and were used to having their mothers regurgitate food from their crops into the babies mouths. Of course the babies expected mama to feed them so they squeaked and cheeped with their beaks wide open, jostling their siblings to get first in line, or at least first beak up since they were packed so tightly in the nest. I don't think the baby pigeons saw Dad as mama. They didn't fight him or wriggle to get away; they sat patiently on his lap while he hand fed them. I don't think it's a good idea for me to hand feed Pastor; he's spoiled enough as it is.

I'm getting spoiled, too. For the first time since I was a kid, and I mean a very young child who didn't pay attention to these things, I am looking at a weekend where I don't have to clean the apartment, which is a good thing since I ache all over, but especially at my knees and hips. Could be the fall I took last night on the landlady's hardwood floors. The landlady has rugs scattered artfully over the floors with some of Pastor's folded blankets on top of the big rug in the dining room. The blankets are his outside bed when he's lounging on the deck. Anyway, I was walking through the dining room in the dark on my way to the laundry room to check on the dryer when my big bare toe caught a fold or hole or something, nearly jerked my toe out of the socket, throwing me to the floor. I hit hard, flustering Pastor not the least bit. As I sat on the floor, knees hurting so badly my eyes watered, I bit back the last few curses on my lips and sat there deciding whether or not I should stay there and avoid tripping and falling again or get back up and try to walk again. I got up.

Needless to say, my knees and hips feel out of place and ache like a mouth full of bad teeth right now. Even sitting here on the sofa with one bare foot on the floor and the other leg stretched out on the couch is uncomfortable. All I can think is that I'm glad I don't have to clean this weekend even though I'm dreading doing the rest of the laundry tomorrow morning. I think I'll avoid going to the Farmer's Market, too, since walking hurts. I probably should be stoic and bite down on a piece of leather or a silver bullet, and walk over there and wander through the stalls, but I'm just not feeling it. I don't think I'll feel it tomorrow either. Walking is an exercise in agony and anything but being curled up in a fetal ball hurts like the dickens. Time for a side trip.

According to The Answer Bank the phrase, "hurts like the dickens" has an interesting history. Dickens is another word for devil, and came to be used as an oath in the same way as God, Hell, Holy Mary, etc. Brewer (dictionary of phrase and fable 1870) explains that the 'dickens' oath, is a perversion of, and derived from 'Nick' and 'Old Nick'. The dickens expression appeared first probably during the 1600's. The etymology of 'nick' can be traced back a lot further - 'nicor' was Anglo-Saxon for monster. The devil-association is derived from ancient Scandinavian folklore: a Nick was mythological water-wraith or kelpie, found in the sea, rivers, lakes, even waterfalls - half-child or man, half-horse - that took delight when travellers drowned. Beginning several hundred years ago both protestant and catholic clergy commonly referred to these creatures, presumably because the image offered another scary device to persuade simple people to be ever god-fearing (".....or Old Nick will surely get you when you next go to the river...") which no doubt reinforced the Nick imagery and its devil association. So too did the notoriety of Italian statesman and theorist, Niccolo Machiavelli (1469-1527) - (who also gave rise to the expression 'machiavellian', meaning deviously wicked). 'Nick' Machiavelli became an image of devilment in the Elizabethan theatre because his ideas were thought to be so heinous. Shakespeare has Mistress Page using the 'what the dickens' expression in the Merry Wives of Windsor, c.1600, so the expression certainly didn't originate as a reference to Charles Dickens as many believe, who wasn't born until 1812. Charles Dickens' fame however would certainly have further reinforced the popularity of the 'dickens' expression.

I have to go think up good reasons why I shouldn't just crawl back into bed instead of showering, putting on clothes and working this morning.

Oh, yes, I have it. Poverty. Can't afford maid. No maid means I have to clean the apartment. Right. All good reasons why I should get up and get moving even though I'm just not feeling it today. Today I feel like bed and lots of books. Too bad I had to stop and think about it.

That is all. Disperse.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Crime, technology and stuff

Another beautiful Colorado morning. The birds are singing, the air is cool and fresh and I am still half asleep. That is, I was still half asleep until I read this morning's news.

Ten years of suspicion and doubt and finally a killer is on his way to justice, if he can get through airport security.

The Ramseys told the truth. They did not have a hand in killing JonBenet. I cannot imagine how difficult it was for the Ramseys being suspected of murdering their daughter and being hounded constantly in the tabloids and because of people's evil minds. Finally, after Patsy's death from ovarian cancer, the truth is coming out but who will compensate the Ramsay family for everything they have lost?

It seems what's inside of us, no matter how it shows on the outside, can be taken against us. those moments of doubt, a little fear of flying, angry at a spouse or loved one or just the government requiring invasive and extensive physical checks before flying can be taken against us with the new technology. The system, measuring pulse, blood pressure, and sweat levels, can detect potential terrorists -- or just people fed up with security that curtails their freedoms and private thoughts even further. Big Brother is here and he's smiling because we didn't see him coming.

But it's not just our freedom to fly that is being curtailed but the freedom to have children and buy groceries. The country may need to go back to the horse and buggy (I'm sure the Amish will teach us how it works), the even older mode of walking or the high tech method of riding a bicycle that doesn't use gasoline when planning to go to the store because all that fits in this car are two people. On the up side, the egg-shaped car does get 330 miles to the gallon so $3 will go back and forth to work for a month or on a long weekend as long as you don't plan to bring luggage or your briefcase and laptop. With all the money you save on gas you can guy clothes when you get there and dispose of them when you leave. They won't fit in the car. As for the data you need, you can always back it up on the Time Machine, Apple's new MAC technology and carry it with you on a removable external hard drive. I'm sure the Aptera can handle at least that much, especially when driving solo.

At least the Aptera would take up less space at the long term parking lot at the airport and wouldn't be a target for carjackers since it's not a luxury car or even sporty, but it will be a plus when arriving at the airport terminal 18 hours ahead of time to go through security before boarding the plane. It takes time to go through strip and body cavity searches to make sure you're not carrying a bomb. However, if there is a bomb nearby you might trigger it with your new ePassport with the RFID chip. Of course that doesn't matter to Big Brother who will be watching you even in the restroom or wherever you sneak off to enjoy a quiet smoke or in the air when you join the Mile High Club. Nothing is secret and nothing is sacred any more. Freedom is a fluid concept right now and travel is a fast fading dream -- unless you want to stay on the ground.

I think I'll take my old fashioned passport with me when I go to Alaska next year. I know Alaska is part of the U.S., but I've almost decided to take the train and do a little Canadian rail sight seeing along the way. I'll see a lot more that way and I won't have to worry about innovative terrorists with liqui-gel bombs masquerading as cold and sinus relief. I still might take a cruise to Alaska, but either way I've decided to take the train to the debarkation point if I don't do the Al-Can train trip.

I got the idea from reading about 's numerous trips and because I found out last night that my mother, Beanie and Carol are coming to visit for a week by train. Other than a short train ride in Panama as a child that put me off water for a month, I have not been on a train. After checking Amtrak's web site and looking at the accommodations, I decided it would be fun to sit in a room and have my meals while I watch the world rush by the window as I sketch, read or tap away on my laptop. That's not possible on a plane and certainly not on a bus with my limited life laptop battery. There are outlets and electricity on a train and even though it will be somewhat cramped and the facilities compact, I won't be sharing it with anyone so I can stretch out and enjoy the view.

I still have to get through the visit in October. Carol is complaining about the cost of staying in a hotel for a week (the time Beanie and I had planned for her to visit) and Mom told me last night they plan to camp out on my floor for the entire week. I mentioned the hotels and motels within a six blocks of here, but Mom countered with, "So you don't want us to stay with you?" The guilt bomb ticked loudly.

Okay, I have a sofa and chaise and a love seat in the bedroom. I also have a queen sized bed, but there is not room enough for all of us here, especially not on the floor. I'm not stepping over sleepy snoring bodies when I trek to the bathroom in the middle of the night and I'm not going to worry about waking someone up when I decide to get up and watch a movie or write on my laptop. Then there's the question of window treatments. There are none and this isn't the cabin where there's no one around for miles and only the pine martins, birds and elk to see whether or not you're naked when you walk past the window, and I don't have a huge painting to put in the window to keep prying animal eyes from seeing in. I'm also not planning to put up window treatments between now and October because I like the open minimalist look and plan to keep it that way for the foreseeable future.

The guilt bomb keeps ticking.

It isn't that I don't want to see my family. Beanie and I have been planning her visit for a year. I do want to see them, but sleeping on my floor is not an option. Mom assured me they would buy food while they're here so I don't have to feed them all from my meager budget, which is a good thing, and they will rent a car so Mom and Carol can go shopping while Beanie and I go wherever we want. Suddenly this is beginning to sound more like the real reason Mom and Carol are coming is to have an inexpensive vacation to Colorado and not to see me. I wonder if I should be hurt. Hmmm.

Well, I'm sure Mom is putting me on and she and Carol will get a motel room (I'm sure can suggest a place that would put them amidst one-stop necessities) close to the antique malls in Old Colorado City, rent their car and shop to their hearts' content, but that guilt bomb is still ticking.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

No sale

The sun is shining and my front door isn't sticking so much. The door has a tendency to stick when it's wet and rainy. Makes burglars -- and friends -- think the door is bolted and locked. A little push, or pull, and it opens fine, but they don't know that.

I was busy last night posting markets and contests, answering emails and keeping up to date on my friends before I climbed into bed with a thriller and promptly fell asleep. I blame it on too much excitement since B&B were over yesterday and last night watching movies and talking until nine or so. The good thing is that I didn't wake up until seven this morning instead of getting up and going to the bathroom every hour or two. That's two nights in a row I have had more than two hours of sleep at any one time. My body has decided to take control and keep me under wraps for seven hours straight. I like when it takes control. Means I don't have to get up in the middle of the night and stumble to the bathroom or suffer through reruns of running to the bathroom in my dreams to wake me up so I can run to the bathroom in the dark. Not so this morning with the sun shining and the birds chirping and calling while the ravens and crows soar and dip in the sky cawing raucously. I can hear everything since the fans are off; it's still cool outside and inside.

I'm finishing up the rest of my email and I received a notice from Bed, Bath & Beyond that if I purchase something from Lenox I will get a $50 gift certificate. I looked through the Lenox offerings thinking I could get away with something inexpensive like a porcelain colander decorated with little butterflies (I need a colander) that costs a mere $29.99, which would still leave me with $20 in my pocket and a free colander. I decided to check the small print to be sure. I'm glad I did. I have to spend $200 in order to get $50 back. I don't like Lenox that much. I don't need a silver pizza tray for $99.99 or a silver cheese grater and tray for $99.99, still leaving me with at least another dollar to spend to get the gift certificate that I can use to spend at BB&B. Lenox doesn't make anything for a dollar. Even picture frames, silver of course, cost nearly $50. I could get one 5-piece place setting of fine china for $159 and buy enough to make up four or six or eight place settings and then the gift certificate would be a welcome bit of mad money, but I'd have to be mad to do that.

I have never been able to figure out how buying a lot of things you didn't want before the gift certificate or gift offer came your way saves any money. You still have to buy things you weren't planning to get to get the gift certificate that will not begin to defray the cost of what you have to spend to get it. I can hear the discussions between husbands and wives now.

"Honey, I just saved you $50," wifey says as he unloads the boxes and bags from the trunk of wifey's car.

"Then what's all this?" husband asks. "You were going to buy a new strainer for the kitchen sink."

"Oh, but, honey, the store had a sale and they gave me a gift certificate for $50." Wifey beams waiting for husband to understand as she unpacks the boxes and bags, covering the table and kitchen counters and finally the floor.

Husband, stunned as he bangs his head on the corner of the kitchen counter when he trips over a brand new cheese fryer, picks up the brand new cheese fryer and holds it in a white knuckled grip. "Dearest, we already have a cheese fryer."

Wifey takes the cheese fryer and places it next to the three-month-old cheese fryer next to the stove. "It was 50% off."

It's no wonder there is so much domestic violence. And it's no different with men than it is with women. Send hubby to the store for cat food and he will inevitably come back from Sam's club with a car load of restaurant sized containers of mayo, mustard and ketchup, bulk corn fritters, which neither of them eat, and bulk containers, boxes and bags of frozen okra and T-bone tails to save money. If it's the home improvement store, he will come back with tools and projects that will soon reside next to the tools and projects gathering dust and cobwebs and provide homes for mice and other neighborhood vermin and strays.

Given the right products and flashing signs guaranteeing savings and the rush is on. It seems no one realizes that if you don't need something and wouldn't have bought it otherwise, getting 50%, or even 10%, off or getting a gift certificate for purchasing at least $200, you haven't saved a dime. In gambling it's called losing money. It's like sitting down at the poker table with $500 and getting up owing the house another $1200, but you leave with a plastic chip you can cash in for $25. Somewhere along the way people either flunked math or forgot how to use it.

I have watched friends' and family's faces when they get the credit card bill at the end of the month and pick up the Sunday or Wednesday paper and turn to the part time help wanted ads. The warm glow of having saved money just hit them with John Brown's sledgehammer. You'd think they would learn, but they don't. Let them see a sale ad or run across the blue light special in K-Mart and the look of impending savings glazes their eyes and paints a zealot's smile on their faces. They're gone. Nobody's home. The sale fever has caught them as surely as the fever mobilized a scattered nation when the cry of "Gold!" went up at Sutter's Mill in California in 1848. It was the cry heard around the world and people from around the world responded in ravening hordes.

It's a good thing common sense keeps me from falling too far from grace when the sale or gift certificate offer comes my way. Common sense and poverty, that is. Poverty keeps what little money I have in my pocket since it wouldn't stretch to $200 worth of Lenox. Now that's saving money.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Winter's coming early

It's a cold gray morning and the rain washed air feels like an introduction to winter at the ragged end of autumn. It is supposed to be warmer later this week and some part of me wishes it were warmer now, not Sahara hot, just late spring hot. I'm a little wistful that summer is nearly at an end and fall is closing in fast. I'm always a little wistful as the season turn and the year moves toward its end. Time moves so quickly, much quicker than when I was a child when summers seemed endless and the school year plodded forever from the day after Labor Day to June. It's no wonder most of the holidays are in the bottom of the year and not at the top. After all, what do we need with holidays in the summer when we're already on holiday? Adults can make their own holidays and children need help.

Children are without jobs and money and vacation time, except for what the government allows, and cannot take off on a long weekend or one- or two-week hiatuses anywhere in the world. Children look forward to Columbus Day for their first glimpse of parole from their studies, followed by Thanksgiving's four-day weekend, the week long excitement of Christmas, followed closely by New Year's, Martin Luther King day, Presidents' day, and Good Friday before Easter. Memorial Day is the crowning glory because it means summer is nearly here with the intoxicating extravagance of three months of freedom and sunshine. Children live for the holidays, the days when they don't have to rise with the sun and stumble sleepily through breakfast and dressing and are thrust into the rushing swirls and eddies of school days. School has compensations, like going to the library, recess and lunch, and let's not forget field trips, but it is work and no doubt about that. Even those who shirk the work don't get off so easily as they are more than likely going to spend time after school cooling their heels in detention, their parole delayed.

I am looking forward to the week between Christmas and New Year's when I will take another week's vacation, this time actually being paid for the time. But before that I will see Beanie and spend some time with her. It has been a long time since we could sit and talk or go somewhere together and I am looking forward to it. I'm sure we can find something to do and see. I will definitely have to take her up to Winslow Pass to see the panoramic views and to the blackened matchstick trees of the Hayman fire. Maybe we'll even go to see the cabin where I spent idyllic days close to nature in my secluded hideaway. I don't know.

After Beanie's visit I'm planning to go to Missouri for Thanksgiving and I have four whole days of vacation for that, two vacation days and two weekend days. Then after my Christmas/Yule break I have another week, and maybe two, of summer vacation. I've decided to go to Alaska next year on parole from my work. I also plan to take the certification exams so that I will have a third week of vacation to plan and take next year.

I no longer have that three-month stretch of summer sun and freedom to look forward to, but in addition to the government planned holidays I get to take, I have my own little holidays. I do miss school days and having nothing to do but learn and look at boys. Still, I have a much better reason for taking a vacation -- work. It's all relative. Neither children nor adults get off Scot free. We all have to earn our freedom and holidays however we can. Adults earn holidays with work and children with learning, which they consider work. Each envies the other's freedom and easy life never realizing what they have in their grasp.

Promotion time again

Since Bruce mentioned he wanted to read some of my writing and because these reviews are hot off the keyboard and new with The Celebrity Cafe I thought you might like my take on two new and very different thrillers.

The first one is Red Flash by Kiva Wolfe who places her mystery in the dark heart of the mile high city of Denver, Colorado. The second book is about sex and the Internet, one of M. J. Rose's favorite topics when she writes about the Butterfield Institute in New York City, The Venus Fix.

With each book and each review I learn more about writing and about myself. One thing I've learned is that just because I don't like a book does not mean someone else might like it. I am very picky about things like grammar, characterization and dialogue, the latter because I have had my struggles with it over the years. Whenever you read a review on anything, except for safety reviews in Consumer Reports, take it with a grain of salt. Check out the book, movie, CD or whatever for yourself. I always do.

That is all. Disperse.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Books, books, books, food

One of these days I will have floor to ceiling book cases in a room with a comfy overstuffed chair and lots of light. In the meantime, there are books everywhere: under the coffee table, on the coffee table, on the shelves in the bedroom, on the floor in the bedroom, on the bed, probably under the bed, in the bathroom, and even in my office. The difference of opinion I had with the postman was over books, and one movie, but mostly over delivering books. We have that sorted out -- sort of. He now leaves my packages on the bench on the front porch but he writes out a delivery slip and puts it in my mailbox, obviously unable to see that I will see the packages before I even open my mailbox to retrieve his delivery slip.

Okay, back to the books.

After much procrastination and idling of time playing Spider Solitaire and searching markets on Writer's Market, I finally got down to business, skimmed through two books I read several weeks ago and wrote my reviews. I just sent them off to Dominick and will get back to work reading more books. I also have one from Author Link that I started and need to finish in the next two days before I finish the other five books I've promised to read and review. I have a feeling that the number of authors contacting me to review their books is about to go up considerably. I hope the postman owns a truss and has lots of those little delivery slips, since he writes one delivery slip telling me my package is on the bench for every package he leaves on the bench. I no longer believe that he is meticulous, just anal and difficult. I don't think he realizes you only have to dot the "i" and cross the "T" once.

It has been a cool and calm day with rain off and on and a lovely breeze coming through the window that made me so cold I had to put on clothes and turn off the ceiling fan. Maybe fall will come early this year with its scent of smoke and impending rain and snow, or maybe not. The leaves on the trees are still a brilliant green so unlike the limp sun-bleached green of last year.

BBQ chicken is bubbling in the oven scenting the air with caramelized sugar and warm spices, one more reason for me to take a break and enjoy myself before I plunge headlong back into work. I want a few more dictations on my tally sheet before I begin organizing the books and transferring them from the living room to the bedroom floor until I can clear the shelves, reset them and stack the books according to subject and place in line for reviewing. I didn't get any painting done, but I did win quite a few games of Spider Solitaire, a nasty habit I must give up -- soon -- but not too soon.