Molly Dugger Brennan
Girl Scouts rock! I was a Girl Scout. I was a member of a tiny troop, led by a lovely British woman, Mrs. Eleanora Wembley. Our troop met in a Presbyterian church basement every Tuesday after school. It was completely wonderful. I enjoyed my time in the Scouts listening to Mrs. Wembley so much that still today, I am a sucker for both a melodic British accent and boxes of Thin Mints.
Even though we were few in number, we planned a good, old-fashioned Girl Scout camping trip. I plotted like it was the Normandy Invasion. I used all my piggy bank money to buy essential camping gear. I got a pup tent. Accurate description, pup tent, since it was only big enough to hold two puppies. I practiced setting up and breaking down my itty-bitty green tent until I could knock it out in ten minutes or less. I was a pup-tenting fool.
I got a cleverly designed cooking kit, which disassembled to reveal a small mug, plate, sauce pan, and frying pan. I got a collapsible shovel and a small hatchet. I was primed and prepared. I was Survival Sally.
I was so excited. I was going to face down the unknown and emerge victorious. I saw myself proving my merit, forging my independence, surviving the harshest elements and wildest beasts. I was the poster child for courage in the dangerous wilderness. I was eleven.
In reality, our troop of twelve girls scouts and six mothers went to Olansky's Pond, the same place we all took swimming lessons every summer. We knew this pond and the surrounding area well. It was in the middle of nowhere, on the way to nothing, a largish pond or a smallish lake depending on recent rainfall and your point of view.
I was crushed. This was like camping in your own backyard. This was no life-changing adventure. How was I supposed to forge my independence at Olansky's pond? What ...<< MORE >>
I've just returned from a trip to New York. I love the city, it's so invigorating. The people-watching is excellent. The tolerance for my personal weirdness is practically unlimited. I've never had a bad experience in New York. Love it, love it, love it.
On this trip I mixed it up with the locals. I was invited to my first fancy-shmancy book launch party. Ooooo doggie, this soiree took people-watching to whole new levels of mesmerizing. This book launch was not held in a bookstore, but in someone's fancy-shmancy riverside apartment. You know the type. The address alone jacks the price of an apartment the size of a shoe box into the stratosphere. This apartment was the size of three shoe boxes, so you know it was pricey.
The writer in me tried to observe everything, everyone, eavesdrop on every nuanced word, all to mine for story material later. The bumpkin in me was completely overwhelmed, trying not to spill my red wine (Idiot, why did I choose the red wine?) on the precious furnishings/rugs/original art/esteemed guests/myself.
While everyone was completely gracious, and I met some fascinating people, nothing makes a girl feel more like a grain-fed heifer than being the largest woman in the room. By a lot. If I were British it would have been multiple stones worth, almost a boulder. As a well-nourished American, I was probably close to double the weight of most of the women present. Yes, I am a big girl but I've never been such an obvious, lonely outlier on the trend line before. Which made me wonder, have I ballooned that much or are these women freaking tiny?
Those two possibilities are not mutually exclusive. I am indeed an overfed piglet in spite of having lost a hundred pounds, and these women are truly made of twigs, twine, and coral lip gloss. Our charming hostess possessed legs the diameter of Dixie straws. Were I a landscape photographer, I would not have to ask her to move aside. ...<< MORE >>
I remember the day my little sister and I got brand new quilts. These weren't ordinary, store-bought quilts, no sirreee. These weren't hand-me-down quilts, either. These were custom-made, just-for-us quilts, with our names and birthdays embroidered on the top center square. They were sunshine yellow with bright, cheerful flowers appliquéd in every square. It made me feel extra special to have something that was so uniquely mine.
It wasn't until years later that I learned the sad story behind my happy quilt. Daddy regularly checked on a collection of elderly, independent-living people, just to make sure they were doing okay. Two of these people were a brother and sister in their 70s. The brother was nicknamed Penny and the sister was Izzy. Their mother had been a devoted Gilbert and Sullivan fan and Penny's given name was Stanley Penzance Freitag and Izzy's was Mabel Isabel Freitag, from the Pirates of Penzance. I can only imagine their relief that The Mikado had not been their mother's favorite Gilbert and Sullivan piece.
Penny owned railroad cars, specifically the kind that haul timber. He leased them out to the local lumberyards, or hauled his own cuts, always working the best angle. He had a small crew of men that regularly helped him out, loyal to a fault because Penny paid fairly and on time. Every Friday at lunch, Penny would hand out that week's pay in cash. Bad habit maybe, but it was his way and when Penny had decided that something had to be done a certain way, that was how it would be.
One Friday one of his regular workers called Daddy. He was concerned that Penny had not shown up yet and it was payday. He didn't want to go check on Penny and Izzy all by himself because Penny kept a sawed-off shotgun by the back door and he didn't trust Penny not to ...<< MORE >>
"I do it myself!"
That was my first complete sentence. Kind of set the tone for the rest of my life right there.
"I want a doggy!"That was my second complete sentence. On a roll now, boy. Both sentences are grandly imperious. Given the trend line these two statements create, I'm surprised my third sentence was not, "Off with his head!" Might have been for all I know, because my mother stopped recording my bon mots in my baby book after the second demand.
I routinely declared my need for a dog. Then one day, a fine and frisky female beagle puppy appeared. I was four years old and over the moon. I had chosen the honest name of Petey for my pup, and I didn't care if it was a boy or a girl. I wanted to call my ball of fur and ears Petey. That was not to be. Mama said the pup already had the name of Choc, short for Chocolate.
Having a puppy was more important to me than naming it Petey, though I was disappointed. I learned to go with Choc as her call name and she seemed to like it well enough. It was years and years before I learned that the name Choc was a slap at my Dad. Mama was a world class, champion grudge-holder. The name Choc was my mother's passive-aggressive way of commenting on another woman mooning over Daddy. Every time I squealed for Choc, it ripped a band-aid off a festering wound.
Note to passive-aggressives: do not use children and puppies to make your point. It's cowardly. It's bad juju. I know hiding your point behind other messages is just your normal operating procedure, but really now. Children and puppies are off limits. You may use cats because they're into it, but no kids, no dogs.
My daddy and the other state troopers set up speed traps regularly. They had their favorite hidey-holes in shady spots, ...<< MORE >>
I grew up in a farming community. It was a good place to be a kid and learn about life. These weren't factory farms. Dairy farmers in my county knew each cow by sight, watched over them, fretted when they exhibited signs of stress, and depended on them to support their families.
The cows knew their people, too. The cows learned who would take the time to scratch their ears, and who was too rushed to bother. Do not underestimate the intelligence of your average cow. Cows are not just standing there, chewing cud. They're thinking. Cows figure shit out.
For those of you who haven't connected the Vitamin D dots, milk comes from dairy cows. Cows lactate after they've given birth to a calf. Get it? That means every two years or so, a cow has to give birth in order to keep producing milk. That's a lot of calves. Approximately half of them are going to be male. Boy cows are fine animals but they are worthless for milk production, so they're often classified as veal. Cue Elton John's The Circle of Life.
Funny thing, though. Cows don't see their brand new, healthy calves as surplus. They see them as their babies. Turns out, cows care. A lot. If you misjudged due dates and didn't get the cow confined to the barn in time, cows will give birth in concealed areas to protect their newborns. Unfortunately, cows can get in real trouble giving birth to something with four spindly broomsticks for legs. It's safer if birthing is done in the barn, supervised. Not all cows agree. They will become decidedly uncooperative about the process.
That's why my friend Anna's brother built a calf cart. It was a simple wooden farm cart hooked to the back of his ATV. Whenever a pregnant cow went the clandestine birth route, he'd traverse the property until he found the calf, load it into the cart and take it away to the calf ...<< MORE >>
Molly Dugger Brennan
Between municipal budget cuts slashing library hours to a minimum and ever more children being diagnosed with ADHD, how is anyone ever going to access great literature or have the time and attention span to enjoy it? How will citizens learn the moral lessons that unfold within the pages of the classics? The drama, the pathos, the romance, the swashbuckling adventure, all lost? That can't be.
Say no more. I spend countless hours reading. I would do this anyway, but now I can serve your needs while I enjoy a good book. I have summarized the plot lines of the true magnum opuses. (Note: I so wanted the plural of opus to be opie, but it really is opuses which just sounds like the plural of opossum to me.) To fit today's needs, these synopses can fit on Twitter. You're welcome.
Jane Eyreby Charlotte Bronte: Hungry, cold, class system sucks. Edward's hot, my cousin's not. #orphansupportgroup #workplaceromance
The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway: Drinking & debauchery doesn't fix anybody's problems. It's fun trying though. #barcardi #viagra #seepamplona
On the Road by Jack Kerouac: Who's got gas money? Who's got condoms? Who's got ideas? Carlo? #californiatourism #aaa
To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee: The ignorant resort to racism to prop up their self-esteem. If you're black, do not move to Alabama. #NAACP #johnniecochrane
Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand: I got mine. Screw you. #paulryan #kochindustries
Fahrenheit 451by Ray Bradbury: Books make mighty fine kindling. #teaparty #Borders
Moby Dickby Herman Melville: Call me Ishmael. Do not ...<< MORE >>
Let me tell you about my friend, Leah. Leah and I are both particular when it comes to food. Particular is a much nicer word than fussy or unreasonable, don't you think? In all honesty, we are both fussy to the point of being unreasonable, but I prefer the word particular. Leah has worked in the food industry for decades and could whip up a Michelin star-quality meal if thrown into a kitchen with nothing more than a rusty spoon and a dead possum.
I spent quite a few years working in restaurants and have dedicated my entire life to eating, so I know my way around a plate or two. As we've aged, we've both honed our recipes to thoroughly please ourselves. Anyone else who enjoys our cooking is merely along for the ride because we cook for us.
We are making more of our own food as we become progressively more exacting in our tastes. For example, we grind our own meats and make our own sausages. We mix our own dry rubs and spice blends from recipes we have developed through years of refinement. We don't use frozen or pre-packaged meals. We marinate and fry our own chicken. Our macaroni and cheese dishes are divine, mine heavy with gorgonzola and hers flavored with smoked gouda. Delish. Leah even cans her own salsas, from her own homegrown vegetables, which she smokes, peels, and chops her very own self. Yeah, we're precious like that.
So we were lounging in her dining room, enjoying a splash of wine when she makes the pronouncement that she and Cooper went to dinner the other night at a well known chain restaurant and it just wasn't up to snuff. Wasn't special, wasn't nearly as good as her own cooking, wasn't worth the money or the time.
Oh holy crap. Now you've done it, Leah. You've violated a supreme tenet of the Chick Code. Take it back! Take ...<< MORE >>
"I think we Southerners have talked a fair amount of malarkey about the mystique of being Southern."
~ Reynolds Price
I have been asked to define what it means to be Southern. Since I am promoting myself as a native tour guide for all things from the American South, I should be able to answer this question easily, only it's not that simple. It's messily subjective when you start thinking about it.
My husband Gruff can't wait to read this one, since he thinks my values are more aligned with SouthPark than with South Carolina. It's true. I am more liberal than most of the geographically defined South, but the South is always reconstructing itself and its values. It must to stay relevant to its growing, shifting population. It has to reinvent itself every so often so it doesn't become dusty and obsolete, an inherited knick-knack destined for the world's yard sale box.
I was raised in Virginia which is a very different milieu than Mississippi. There are dozens of flavors in the Southern stew, each as important as the next. Different states offer distinct tastes of the South, but there are common spices that bind it all. So no, I don't have a pithy, bumper sticker definition of what it is to be truly Southern and probably won't be able to produce one. Damn, I could have made millions selling bumper stickers.
Let me start by telling you what the South is not. It is absolutely not whatever the A & E and TLC channels think it is. A & E stands for Arts and Entertainment, and they have a rather flimsy grip on the Arts part of their name. TLC stands for The Learning Channel, an ironic moniker if ever there were one. If there is a TV channel currently on ...<< MORE >>
Molly Dugger Brennan
Our English mastiff is getting on in years. His muzzle is peppered with white hair, and his hearing is not quite reliable. In Joe's massive chest still beats the heart of a Samurai warrior, and he takes his role as chief protector of all that is ours extremely seriously.
Be warned all that venture near, Joe is on duty and you are suspect. Even if he has met you a thousand times before, you are merely an unwelcome trespasser until he decides otherwise. Being deemed a friend at present does not convey those rights automatically in the future. Acceptability is decided on a case-by-case basis.
Joe's suspicions are triggered by certain events, or even words, that he has decided pose a threat. Since most people who possess the intestinal fortitude to come to our front door start with a tentative "Hello," this word now triggers a Def Con 5 level response. Unfortunately, he applies this criteria indiscriminately. So when Gruff or I answer the phone — Hello — fierce barking erupts.
Intruder alert, intruder alert, unauthorized person attempting entry. All security personnel to Sector Three. And by security personnel, I mean an indolent bulldog and a deaf, three-legged boxer who is inept but unfailingly enthusiastic. The Basset hound does not participate. The princess hound couldn't care less if we were invaded by a mariachi band and a horde of ninjas as long as one of them stopped and scratched her tummy.
Joe's reaction to the word "hello" has gotten so visceral, I'm thinking of changing the way I answer the phone. "Hola" did not fool Joe. Neither did the way my daddy used to answer the phone, "yellow." "Wazzup?" doesn't seem quite professional enough, and "Dude!" even less so. I guess I could use "Good morning" or "Good afternoon" but since I am so rarely aware of the time, this might come out wrong.
We've ...<< MORE >>
Molly Dugger Brennan
I've been thinking a lot about love recently. I've been holed up in the house due to frigid weather and when you're locked up with another human being, you'd best be thinking about love. Otherwise, it could get all stabby.
Don't act shocked, you know what I mean. When cabin fever intersects with quirky personal habits to make a Venn diagram of whoop ass, you'd better be concentrating on sweetness and light. It's a lot of work to get blood out of the carpet. Just saying.
Any adult relationship is a complex dance, passion waxing and waning, irritation peaking and ebbing, human frailty exposing its messy self at every pas de deux. Were it not so perplexing, we'd have never gotten great blues music. If love were easy and constant, all songs would sound like they were written by Barney. Life is messy. Messy surprises which makes it interesting. Interesting is appealing, compelling, and fires up our juices.
Please note that I am advocating the authenticity of a messy, true, human bond. I did not say one word about sticking around for a relationship that is difficult. Never confuse drama for depth of feeling.
If your partner tests you, takes without giving, doesn't recognize your needs are just as legitimate as theirs, you have my permission — no, my encouragement — to leave. We don't reward relentless selfishness. Weigh your options. Being alone is a gift if you've spent any time in a bad relationship. Don't be afraid to do what is best for you. As I said before, it's a lot of work to get blood out of the carpet.
I think I've made it abundantly clear that in comprehending lessons on love, I'm a thick-skulled heifer. I've been in many substandard relationships. Hell, I've been engaged what, five times?<< MORE >>
Saint Valentine's Day has come and gone. I had written a blog post for the occasion. In fact, I wrote three different posts. You might have noticed that I did not publish any of them. Why? Because every one of them made me sound like a bitter, pessimistic shrew so I erased them all.
What can I say? Sometimes I am just an insufferable bitch. Ride with me in rush hour traffic sometimes, you'll see. I don't like to publicize my non-Buddhist moments to the world if I can help it and in this case, I could definitely help it. It's the literary version of dying my increasingly gray hair. You don't need to see that and it doesn't do me any good to show it. It's not pretty, people.
I do want to make a point about Valentine's Day and I want to make it in a non-cynical way, so um, not in my usual style. I know that I am often the Queen of Cynicism, the High Priestess of Southern-fried Snark, or as Gruff calls me, the Snarkness Monster. I own that. I am trying to be tender here, damn it. Don't judge me.
Here's my point. Nobody in this world owes you squat. Period. Let that roll around in your skull for a while. I'll wait. Understand it's the absolute truth. Sorry, all you Harlequin romance freaks. There's no guaranteed soul mate waiting on horseback for you. He's not at the Starbucks or the Jiffy Lube either.
Now recognize that if someone is ...<< MORE >>
Molly Dugger Brennan
Here we are. We're already ankle-deep in a brand new year, 2013. No New Year's resolutions for me, though. I'm too cynical to be played by good intentions and resolutions any more. I have not kept a one, not a one, ever. So, now I issue a single declaration. More festive, more regal, more likely to become reality.
Hear ye, hear ye, I hereby declare that 2013 is the year that I get my Nojo working. Yep, I meant Nojo. With apologies to that great blues singer Muddy Waters, it's not the same as Mojo. Nojo is the art of telling other people no to keep yourself from getting stretched too thin. Nojo knows the difference between being helpful and getting used. Nojo protects you from others and more importantly, it protects you from yourself, or rather your fantasy version of yourself where you are some sort of 24/7 super hero. Who doesn't need a little of that in their lives?
Nojo is the magical charm to deflect people who ask for your help, just because it is easier than doing the work themselves. (Hint: it's not a compliment that they ask for your advice. They want you to fix their messed-up life because it (1) gives them someone to blame, and (2) lets them avoid responsibility. They also get your attention, which they crave. Don't fall for it. )
Nojo allows you to stop running yourself ragged. "No, it is not possible for me to make cookies for your bake sale." If I truly believe in the group, I'll toss them a $20, which is more than they would have gotten from my lame-ass cookies. I bet charities who hold bake sales would make far more money if they held unbake sales. All the people they regularly hound to cough up homemade goodies alternatively hand over a twenty. ...<< MORE >>
I am left-handed and unreasonably proud of it. We are merely ten percent of the population but we make ourselves known. Growing up, I felt special because I was different from most. Only one other student in my class was left-handed, and we had to race each other to get the only left-hander's desk in the classroom. Whomever lost out had to spend the semester turned sideways in order to take notes, but then you were looking out the window instead of towards the teacher, and that's not a bad thing.
In the artistic and creative fields, we kick right-hander ass. I think the creativity comes from spending your entire life adapting everything so you can use it. Sewing machines, I'm staring at you. Fountain pens, you suck too. Can openers, bite me.
Jimi Hendrix, Rembrandt, da Vinci, Beethoven, McCartney, Kurt Cobain, Michelangelo and so many more were left-handed and they definitely shaped their worlds to suit themselves. There have been an unusually high number of astronauts who were left-handed. Even more astonishing is how many astronauts were from Ohio. Hello? What is going on in Ohio that motivates people to not just leave but leave the planet? Ohio, we need to talk.
There's some research floating around that says being left-handed isn't so good for your overall health and life expectancy. Psychologist Stanley Coren published The Left-Hander Syndrome in 1992 that posited being left-handed shaved a fat nine years off your life. Really? That's a bigger difference in life expectancy than between smokers and non-smokers. If there really were such a threat to one's wellness from handedness, I'm sure that insurance company actuarial table geeks would put "Are you left-handed?" on their coverage applications right below "Do you enjoy parachuting?" and "Do you smoke?"
I would be willing to believe Mr. Coren's pronouncement if all the left-handers in his ...<< MORE >>
First Law of Desire: One's level of satisfaction with an object once acquired will be in inverse proportion to one's previous level of desire for said object.
I have lusted for many things in my lifetime. Most were items, some were events, more than a few were men. I have learned that the First Law of Desire is eternal and guaranteed, at least in my own life. The more I have vibrated with pure, intense craving for something, the less I enjoyed it once it was mine.
My first memory of powerful yearning was when I was in the fifth grade. There was a rain coat in the Sears catalogue that was unlike any I'd ever seen and I absolutely had to have it. It was a delicate ice blue color, double-breasted, belted, with a Nehru collar. It was chic. It was sophisticated. It was everything I was so desperate to be. Never you mind about the practicality of handing a pastel rain coat to a ten-year-old girl, it was all I thought about. It consumed me. My parents promised that it would be mine if I got all A's on my next report card.
I was an honor roll student. I got A's all the time. Easy-peasy. In six short weeks, I just knew I would waltz into school wearing a coat that would make me look like a glamorous, international spy. The coat was within my grasp. Then, it happened. I got hit with the likes of which I'd never seen before. Fractional math. Ratios. Word problems written by Satan himself.
There are two types of fruit at the farmers' market that outsell all other kinds, strawberries and blackberries. The ratio of strawberries to blackberries for sale is 5:3. If there are 64 pints of strawberries, how many pints of blackberries are there? How many pints of berries does the farmer need to sell to turn a profit? Why doesn't the cute girl selling eggs pay any attention to ...<< MORE >>
Stop it. The timeline from Thanksgiving to New Year's Day is full of food and the people you love. That's all that's necessary. So I'm going to give you a huge pass this year. I am secretly the Permission Pixie. Shhh, don't tell. It's my super power.
I, the Permission Pixie, grant you permission to ignore the urge to put up eight trillion blinking lights on your house. You absolutely do not need to decorate your vehicle. You can shove the Shelf Elf into a box. I don't even put up a wreath anymore. I realized that it appeared festively welcoming and therefore encouraged people to visit, always during my jolly holiday nap. Can you imagine?
I, the Permission Pixie, hereby give you permission to ignore all invitations that require you to make something. No cookie exchanges ever again. The pressure to show up with something other than a package of Oreos is too stressful. Cookie exchanges bring out latent Martha Stewart tendencies and all of a sudden, it's a world championship beat-down for who made the most elaborate cookies. Knock it off. You don't need to graze through eighty kinds of cookies in a month. You've got to leave room for the really good stuff, like pie.
I, the Permission Pixie, give you permission to stop wrapping gifts like you are set decorating The Nutcracker Suite. I have two words for you: gift bags. Easy-peasy, life is breezy gift bags. I have taken this to the extreme and use brown paper lunch bags with a bright ribbon. I am a sucker for anything industrial-chic that is also industrial-cheap, and brown kraft paper is a favorite of mine.
While we're on the ...<< MORE >>
Gruff does not think I'm funny. He does not read my blog and apparently does not want to. He asks that I inform him if I've posted something that he may be questioned about at his office, but other than self-preservation he displays no interest in my writing. He has his reasons, which have merit. He says he doesn't want to influence me in topic material or style. His opinion does matter to me and I never want to embarrass him, though it turns out I do, often, but I don't mean to. I'm not actively mining our marriage for comedic material, though Lordy knows there are just some stories that are too good to keep quiet.
Honestly, men and women are not natural housemates and there's a lot of misunderstandings and differences in habits that provoke a hearty laugh. If you didn't laugh, there'd be more gun play and then there'd be the brouhaha over whose turn it was to clean up all that blood.
So my dear, sweet husband doesn't think I'm funny. I don't think I'm being singled out because truth be told, Gruff hasn't laughed out loud since the 1974 premiere of Blazing Saddles. He just doesn't laugh. I will tell him jokes that I think are roll-on-the-floor funny and he'll just stare at me. On our very first date, I used some of my best joke material and he looked, um, perplexed. Okay, tell me if you think this is funny. "Where do they get virgin wool from? . . . . . from ugly sheep!" A hoot, am I right? Gruff, not so much. Maybe I shouldn't have lead with that one.
Gruff will begrudgingly skim any piece I'm submitting to magazines, just to make sure that I haven't written something that will make the editor's eyes bleed in disgust. Sometimes, I get rolling on tangents that are a side-splitting riot to me, but kind of odious to everyone else. It's best to let Gruff point out the potential for becoming known as "that bitter bitch" instead of "that funny chick to whom we should send a hefty ...<< MORE >>
Molly Dugger Brennan
I have been away from home for several days on an eye surgery/socializing with old friends whirlwind tour. Except for the cutting a hole in my eye part, I had a grand time. The eye thingy worked out great too, because now I can see like a freaking hawk. I can see individual hairs on the dogs. I can see tiny birds in the trees. I can see deer in distant fields. Unfortunately, now I can see cobwebs and dust. I can see my own wrinkles for the first time. I can see moles and chin hair that I did not know I had. It's a mixed blessing, really.
At dinner one night, one of my friends offered one of the best conversation starters I'd ever heard. What's the worst job you've ever had? This question really intrigues me and it sure got the ball rolling at dinner. Everyone has had some job experience that is at best awkward, and at worst, psychologically damaging. So, I'll tell you mine if you tell me yours.
Contest Alert! Leave your worst-job-ever story in the Comments section below. You've got 3,000 characters to play with. In my usual magnanimous fashion as Queen of All that is My Own Blog, I'll choose a winner and bestow a prize. I've not decided what the prize will be but I guarantee you that it will not be of the caliber that you will be able to regift it. This is more of a bragging rights kind of thing. I choose Friday, 30 November 2012 as the end date for this little contest. Are you in?
As promised, here is my Worst Job Ever story. It wasn't the work that made it the very worst, it was the boss, the vice president of my division. This job was at a typical, completely interchangeable, Beltway-bandit tech company. I was writing user manuals for custom software packages. I thought the vice president was okay, kind of discomfited, kind of socially inept, but you get that a lot when you take a techie-type and force them into management because that's ...<< MORE >>
My dad died recently. No worries, he was 85 years old and chose not to continue fighting Stage IV colon cancer, so it's not like it was a surprise.
I visited Daddy several times during the last few weeks. People who are dying have things to say. No matter how weird, you have to let them say it and you have to listen. They're dying so they get to say whatever they please and as someone who is not dying, you roll with it as best you can.
My mother died years before Daddy, just a few years after they divorced. Dad remarried and seemed to enjoy life with my step mother but I was moved out and long gone by then, so I couldn't tell you a thing about the inner workings of their union. I do remember my parents' marriage as poorly fitting shoes. They weren't quite right, they weren't comfortable, they weren't happy as a pair.
My mother spent many a day bemoaning the fact that she married Daddy while she was going steady with someone else, a boy that had gone off to serve in the military. I heard the name sweet Tommy McAffrey at least once a week. For all I know, "Sweet" was his first name as it always preceded Tommy McAffrey when she spoke of him. He never married, she said. He loved her that much. She broke his heart and ruined him for all other women, she said. I should have stayed faithful to sweet Tommy, she said.
What's that old saying? Absence makes the heart go wander. Anyway, it certainly applied in this case. Mom eloped with Dad to Delaware and married over the Christmas break in her senior year of high school. Grandma wasn't keen on Dad, since he was a good nine years older than Mama and she certainly wasn't keen on her only daughter dropping out of school in her senior year. It was not a union showered with blessings by either ...<< MORE >>
The current hurricane naming protocol just confounds me. In the aftermath, when distraught people are interviewed on the local news while sitting amidst the rubble that was once their family home, it is just not right to hear them say they were wiped out by Sandy. It's like admitting that someone named Brittany kicked your ass.
If I am going to lose everything, I want the dignity of having it taken by something with a sinister thug name. A hurricane should sound like someone who would knife you in a back alley, not steal your cupcake at a Junior League tea. If a storm is going to bust me up, it had better be named Sergei, Esteban, Kurt, or even Earline. These are storm names that demand respect, even fear. Jorge, Boris, Adolph, and Otis are a' coming and you'd best be prepared. I am certain that storm preparedness would be taken far more seriously if the population has been warned that Bruno is barreling their way. But Sandy?
If the name of the storm reminds you less of devastation and more of a perky cheerleader, the PR battle has been lost. I don't want to hear about destruction from Tammy, Kathy, Justin, or Donny. I've watched the Weather Channel. I've seen the wide bands of storm activity and heard the breakdown of impending doom. And yet, every time they attribute this potential Armageddon to Sandy, I giggle. The message is diluted, even lost on me. Thank God I live with an authentic adult who will prepare our home ...<< MORE >>
These are the words inscribed on a very popular paperweight. It is meant to be inspirational, encouraging you to aim high in life. Nice platitude. They've sold about a squezillion of these office accessories. I don't know who came up with this phrase, but it smells like Stephen Covey to me. Mr. "Seven Habits" was always good for executive inspiration. Could be Robert Schuller though. He loved his bromides, too.
What would you attempt if you were guaranteed success? If you were certain that there would be no downside, no penalty for your actions, what course would you set? What would you really do if you knew you could not fail?
What does it say about me that whenever I see this paperweight I think, "I'd kill a few people and buy lottery tickets." What, not lofty enough for you?
Sure, it might be more noble if my goals were to end world hunger, but I'm too tired to care at a global level any more. That "saving the planet" shit is for the young. I remember being young. I was invincible. I was fierce. I was willing to slog through gator-infested swamps to achieve my goals. Now, not so much.
When I was young, I wanted to save the world. I tried to enforce order. I followed every rule, even the stupid ones like don't wear white shoes after Labor Day. As if that made any difference to the greater good. Now that I'm older and have more perspective, I'll wear white shoes whenever I please. Hell, I'll wear white, bedazzled flip-flops to Thanksgiving dinner if I feel like it. My choice of footwear does not taint my standing as a good citizen. How about that?
The perspective gained from living for a while makes life better. First, you realize that you don't know everything. That takes a lot of pressure off. Eventually, it dawns on you that you really don't know a damn thing. Then you'll realize ...<< MORE >>
I'm not much for taking advice, even when I ask for it. If it is unsolicited advice, it would have found a more receptive audience than me if you'd written it on toilet paper and flushed it. For example, some guy recently sent me an email with the subject line, "Your Web Site Sucks!!!!!" That was it. There was no message other than the subject line.
So what am I supposed to do with that? What response could he have been hoping to elicit? Could he have been awaiting a response with the subject line, "Oh Grand Poo-Bah of Web Site Suckery, I crumble before your magnificence and genuflect appropriately." If he were, then he's still awaiting.
People have told me that once you start to get a teensy bit known, that once your writing is out there for all to read whether they remembered to take their meds or not, that you had better grow a thick skin. That's not quite true. You had better grow yourself a damn exoskeleton, because you're going to need it.
There are a lot of people riding the internet who do not feel that they've made the most of their day until they criticize someone else. I'm not talking about the people who point out honest mistakes. Constructive criticism is helpful. I've always got room to improve. I appreciate the assistance in getting better faster. No, I'm talking about the shit-slinging monkeys of the world who swing through web sites flinging crap on other people's work without consideration, pleased to destroy instead of build. Building is hard. Building takes thought. Building makes monkey brain hurt. Poop more, think less. Happy, hating monkey.
Here's the deal, when it comes to writing there are two people whose guidance I value. One is Chuck Wendig, author of Blackbirds and Mockingbird. He gives great writing advice and says it in a way that cuts through my cortex to where my procrastination lives like a spider web eating hermit. Here is a bit of his advice.
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"I'll put it on the list" Gruff purred into my ear.
I melted. My heart fluttered. I thought, "Oh, it is so wonderful to finally be involved with a guy who can do useful manly things, like fix busted appliances, build stuff, and replace the old mailbox."
I was in heaven. I was elated. I was so naive. This was way back in the year 2000, when Gruff and I were all fresh and fluffy and playing footsie in our brand new relationship. Now I have learned what the phrase "I'll put it on the list" actually means. Allow me to translate. What Gruff is really saying is, "Your request has been heard and is duly registered on the Majestic Master of Home Repair's Magnanimous To-Do list. Your item is number 27,383. We are now servicing item number 5."
I have lived with three men in my life. My dad, my starter husband, and now Gruff. Neither my dad nor Starter could screw in a light bulb without assistance. Thankfully, both of them had learned not to attempt home repairs. If anything broke, or even flickered, you called The Man. There was a plumbing Man, an electrical Man, an appliance Man, and so on comprising an army of Men who could fix things, awaiting your phone call to leap into action, all for a $75 minimum charge.
Then I married The Man. Gruff can fix anything. That means that I can not call another Man because that would be a waste of money when Gruff has the skills to do it himself. This is a dilemma for me. On the one hand, it's nice to have someone handy that is handy. On the other hand, Gruff's schedule is so overbooked that I end up waiting until all other home, greenhouse, or office fires have been extinguished before he turns his attention to my requests.
Case in point. I bought a beautiful, grandly large, sparkling white mailbox to replace our small, plastic, spider-infested one ...<< MORE >>
E. L. James, yep that's a pseudonym, wrote a humdinger of a trashy trilogy after she read Stephanie Meyers' Twilight trilogy. I haven't read Meyers' work, but I think it involves sparkly vampires, hunky werewolves, and one pale, angst-ridden teenage girl. I also heard that it has sold about a gazillion copies worldwide and launched the careers of several youthful, nubile actors. In other words, it's a monster money machine.
Ms. James' homage to Twilight is well on its way to mega-profitability, too. This sexy stunner is set in Washington state, a steamy locale if ever there were one. (What was wrong with Aruba?) The motherland of flannel shirts, fog, and frappuccinos makes the perfect setting for a fresh college girl to meet a billionaire, that's with a "B" folks, a billionaire who is fairly fresh himself at only 27 years old. He's mysterious, he's attractive, he's young, he's brooding, he's a billionaire, so of course virginal Susie Sorority is going to get a slick case of the thigh-sweats for this guy.
Well, why shouldn't she fall for the incredibly wealthy, but emotionally bruised boy? What woman among us hasn't let our sympathies sweep us into dating the damaged dog? Women have a soft spot for a stray dog of a man. We have that weakness for men that don't pull up in a limo, so think how vulnerable this baby girl is. Thankfully we grow out of this need to nurture once we learn that there's always mange, fleas, and possibly rabies included in the package. Men who are stray dogs have attained that status because smarter women have already ...<< MORE >>
Friends tell me that I'm so lucky to live in an historic house far away from it all. These are the friends who subscribe to Country Living magazine. These are the friends that want to chuck their daily spin on the hamster wheel and buy a farmhouse in the country. They long to live happily ever after, as if moving to the country is the answer to that equation. These are usually friends that own homes devoid of "historic quirks." These are the dear friends that are, quite frankly, delusional.
My house was built in 1905 as the carriage stop between the train station and the mineral springs resort. It handled the horses and housed a cafe before the carriage trade dried up, then it became a family farmhouse. My house has provided shelter and meals to more people than I'll ever know and that's part of its charm.
Gruff labored like a rented mule to bring our home into this century by rewiring, replumbing, reinforcing, and insulating everything. I would have said reinsulating, but that would imply there was a lick of insulation here before. Well, there was if you want to count newspapers from the 1930's balled up and shoved into mouse holes. I don't think that qualifies as insulation. I don't think that even qualifies as an annoyance to mice. Gruff jacked the whole house up and installed steel I-beams to prop everything back to a perky place. There's not a surface or sub-structure in this building that's not been reworked by my very own Handy Andy.
Houses that are older than one hundred years become cranky, despite all the care and attention. Changes in temperature and seasons send our home into little spasms. There's not much we can do to mollify it, so we just ride it out.
For example, there's no way you can know about every itty, bitty crack or hole in a house this old. Antique boards give and buck according to the season, so a tight joint in July will be a critter causeway by Thanksgiving. While you might not be aware of all the ...<< MORE >>
There are several concepts in humor writing that are long past due for retirement. They've been trotted out since time began and we really need to let them go with a little dignity and grace. They're exhausted, they're not funny anymore, and they're not helpful. Good contemporary humor is built on surprise and clever wordplay, not stealing from Henny Youngman. Can't think of one? Allow me.
Concept 1: Men are too stupid to care for themselves and would be lost without women. Au contraire, my pet monkey. Men are freaking brilliant for conning women into believing that the dishwasher is too complicated for them when they go to work everyday and build space stations. If you honestly think your guy can't operate household appliances, fold laundry, or drive a car safely without you beside him stomping on the imaginary passenger brake, then put him in a bib and a diaper and don't let him leave the house.
Concept 2: Women are bad drivers. Again, women manage to drive themselves to work, ferry children around, run errands, and compete in NASCAR just fine on a daily basis. If we couldn't, we'd have run your ass over years ago. Oops sorry, I was checking my makeup in the rear view mirror and just didn't see you in the crosswalk there. My bad. As a group we are no more pitiful behind the wheel than men, which isn't saying much.
Concept 3: Women don't understand sports. Oh, come on. This is not gender exclusive. I know lots of women who go into trembling withdrawal after the Super Bowl ends and I know plenty of men that think Neon Deion Sanders is a tap dancer in a Broadway musical. People take the time to understand that which interests them, whether it's box scores, bond rates, or baking. Let it go.
Concept 4: No matter how old they are, men think fart sounds are funny ...<< MORE >>
When I was a little girl, my Daddy took me to funerals. No one attended more funerals than us except perhaps the minister or the undertaker. He was the local policeman and knew everybody. It was important to pay respects to the family, he'd say. The family hardly seemed to take notice at all, but just being in attendance was enough. You didn't want anyone to look friendless on the day they were planted. No one was either, because it's easy to like a dead guy. No matter how big a son-of-a-bitch he was when breathing, the dead become downright virtuous once gone.
Here's the deal. If I behaved appropriately, all clean, quiet, and polite, we would go to the grieving family's home after the funeral service and I could eat pie. There was always a spread set out by the Ladies' Auxiliary of the church and it would be both delicious and heavy on desserts. In the South, sugar helps ease the grieving process. I could have two slices of pie even. Different flavors on the same plate if I chose. The promise of pie motivated me to be the embodiment of an angel during services. By the time I was seven, I could shake a grown-up's hand, look them squarely in the eye and say sincerely, "I am so sorry for your loss."
Some foods were only served after a funeral. My favorite of these foods was known as Funeral Pie. It is a
simple, understated, raisin pie. It is the color of mourning, somber black filling, totally appropriate for consoling the grief-stricken. No flashy meringue,
no showy tropical fruits, no hint of cheerful color to be found. It is perfect funeral food in every way, completely inoffensive to even the most sensitive.
This week I made a Funeral Pie. I buried my Daddy this past Wednesday and it seemed only appropriate to cook bereavement fare. Here is my recipe. Good-bye, Daddy. ...<< MORE >>
We are in the thick of the ickiness (new word: thickiness) that is the American presidential election season. Every four years, we citizens are subjected to an embarrassing largess of kindergarten shenanigans, tantrums, and mad monkey poop-slinging. This is how our country chooses its leader. Murrica rules!
Do candidates ever try to win voters' confidence with leadership skills, vision, clarity and gravitas? Oh, hell no. What a waste of time and advertising dollars that would be. Nope, it's subterfuge and tap-dancing all the way to Pennsylvania Avenue. Tappa tappa tappa.
When you have a population that is hooked on television programs like Hillbilly Handfishing, Toddlers and Tiaras, and Jersey Shore, why would you waste a dime explaining your foreign policy? As the old advertising rule says, "Know your target audience." Candidates, your audience is tired. The fight has been whooped out of us. Our heads hurt. We're unsure. We just want the Cliff Notes version of your platform. The dogs are barking and the baby's hungry, we don't have all day to listen to you blather on especially since we suspect you'll lie your ass off and strangle the housekeeper to get the keys to the White House washroom. Say anything. Promise to protect us from the Martian zombie vampire hordes that are en route to our planet right now and that'll be good enough. Then please sit down and shut up. We're busy.
But no, you want to appear "presidential." You want to see yourself on TV. You want people to pay attention because you are important and running for leader of the free world. (Actually, the free world is now secretly led by Guatemala. Shhhh. Don't tell.) I am assuming it's an ego thing. So there's billions and billions of dollars wasted on a presidential beauty contest that could actually be used to pull this country up to its feet again. Why fund Head Start when we need ...<< MORE >>
I grew up in Mayberry, RFD. Officially, the show was named The Andy Griffith Show for most of its on-air life, but the location was Mayberry and that's how I remember it. RFD for those who don't know, stands for rural free delivery. What it technically means to the post office, I can't tell you. What it means to the world is that the post office services an area so small and intimate that an address is barely necessary. I received mail with nothing more on the envelope than my name, county, and state. The postman knew everyone, had time to chat, had time to lend a hand to the elderly on his route if needed. He was civility incarnate. The postman was the thread that connected all.
In this world, my daddy was Andy Taylor and I was Opie. Dad wasn't the sheriff. He was a state trooper, but in our county if you were in danger you called the state police. Our local sheriff was a sorry excuse of a man. He took his phone off the hook every Friday afternoon and didn't put it back until Sunday evening. If you got in trouble on the weekend, and the weekend is where trouble thrives, you got a busy signal on the sheriff's line.
How did he keep getting elected? That's a good question. The sheriff's wife was the ...<< MORE >>
Pancakes are a happy food. They are comforting and incredibly easy to make. I don't think it's possible to have a heated argument over a platter of pancakes. They ooze kindness. Everyone should have a plate of pancakes once a week to keep their point of view balanced.
I took a survey for the International House of Pancakes. Their new casual nickname is IHOP which makes me think of hip-hop, which colors my expectations. I want to order in rhyme. "Yo, yo we, you and me, gets a hot stack with blueberry." Okay that's embarrassing.
Anyway, for my efforts I received a coupon for a free stack of pancakes. Yeah! There's an incentive I can appreciate. Of course, I did not dawdle in redeeming my coupon for free pancakes. I was at IHOP, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, within the week.
So there I sit, enjoying my free pancakes glorified with pecan syrup and melted butter. Did you know that pancakes, delicious as they are normally, are that much better when they are free? Yes, indeedy. "Free" adds a gossamer dusting of sweetness that paid-for pancakes can not muster. I was truly happy. Nummy, nummy, free!
In came an elderly couple, holding hands as they cautiously navigated the path to their booth. They were adorable, hair pure white, thin skin almost pink from the activity of reaching their table. They chattered the whole time they settled into their booth, which adjoined mine. ...<< MORE >>
"My wife just doesn't understand me."
As he spoke, there was a perceptible tinge of sadness. His voice trailed off into a small sigh. His eyes flickered disappointment as they tried to focus on the amber liquid swirling in his highball glass. His posture was slumped, signaling that he was a fragile, heartbroken man who had valiantly given his all to a doomed marriage. If only you would save him, tell him it would be all right, hold him close, he could once again become the tender, generous lover that he was born to be.
Bravo, asshole. This stale performance continues to be trotted out in watering holes all across the world, and on occasion it still finds a receptive audience. If Sir Lawrence Olivier of Loserville can just find a girl who ranks higher than six on the Desperation Scale (one equals "complete contentment" and ten is "has attempted to kidnap another woman's baby"), he has a good chance of getting laid. Woohoo, score!
Ladies, guys are above all else highly adaptable creatures. They do not waste time on tactics that do not achieve results. If this tired old cliché still finds a sympathetic ear, then it's time for all of us to thoroughly Q-tip our ears. To the young, anxious, inexperienced, lonely, fearful, or baby-mad women out there, I beseech you, don't become easy prey. Giving a man who says "My wife doesn't understand me" attention will not improve your life. He is not a stray dog that needs saving. He's a skirt hound who is driven ...<< MORE >>
My choo-choo train has been known to jump the track from time to time. Sometimes I get so irritated that I fly right past miffed, hang a hard left at pissed off, and head deep into hissy fit territory. I believe that it is perfectly fine, better than fine even, for a woman to let it be known when she is right livid with the world.
Lord knows, I'm not one of those darling, demure little dears who politely hold it all in. Stuffing your conflict down inside often results in a very messy and public explosion in your late 40s and early 50s, most likely involving the cabana boy from the Mirage hotel in Vegas. What is it about the scent of coconut oil and margaritas? Anyway, back to me. The embarrassing part of my occasional derailments is that I am often mad about the wrong thing.
Let me tell you a story about one very mistaken hard-core huff I had going right after I met my Gruff. I realized quickly that I could spend a whole lot of time with this guy. We were in synch immediately, comforting in the way a perfectly broken-in pair of fuzzy bedroom slippers are. That might be a reference that is understood only by women, but you get my drift. Everything felt cozy. It just felt right.
I liked right. I'd done wrong, horribly wrong. Right felt well, right. This could work. This was much better. I ...<< MORE >>
"This is Maria Sanchez, reporting from the Capital Beltway where it is absolute pandemonium. The Beltway has been completely shut down, both in Maryland and Virginia, due to incidents of extremely hazardous driving. Standing here with me is Virginia State Trooper Marcus Wilson. Trooper Wilson, please explain exactly what is happening here."
"I wish I knew, Maria. We have people driving erratically, endangering themselves and others, and there doesn't seem to be an explanation for it."
"Trooper Wilson, can you give us an example?"
"Sure Maria, the dangerous drivers seem more likely to be Cadillac owners. They also seem to be female, although I have seen a couple of male drivers that were out of control, too."
"So this phenomenon is happening to all Cadillac drivers? Do you think there's some sort of mechanical malfunction?"
"No ma'am, it just seems to be happening with the new Cadillacs. The older models are functioning normally."
"Oh. Which Cadillac models are effected, Trooper Wilson?"
"Well Maria, look over there at that black 2013 XTS. Now she's been backing into that cement pylon for 25 minutes and I just can't stop her. I've used spike strips, I've tried pepper spray, nothing. I'm just waiting for her to run out of gas at this point. Look, there's the red XTS that ...<< MORE >>
Want to get a divorce? Easy-peasy, my friends. Assemble furniture with your mate. Just getting a glimpse of the IKEA logo is enough to start me twitching.
I think IKEA wants us all to divorce at least once in our lifetimes. Divorce is great for the bottom line. Post divorce, there are two households where there was once just one. That means that more Kramfors sofas, more Beata Blad beds, more Melltorp tables, even another set of that hipster-trendy Ljuvlig dishware gets sold. Ka-ching, IKEA!
I mean really, what is IKEA's home country of Sweden really known for? Hot, frisky, blondes and meatballs, a combination that sure spells home wrecker to me. I know y'all all understand the universal attraction of willing women, but do not underestimate a really good meatball's ability to seduce. Combine the two, and you have husbands too bewitched to process the equations necessary to realize just how freaking devastating divorce will be. Their minds are clouded to the fact that both the babes and the meatballs magically vanish once they're officially single again, unless of course they buy that Utby bar, Diod glassware, and enough liquor to prolong the fantasy of sex-starved snow bunnies bearing steaming platters of meatballs and potatoes.
I suspect that IKEA employs a Vice President for Relationship Stress. It is this person's job to analyze every product produced by IKEA. He identifies the most critical sentence in the assembly instructions and deletes it. He determines which piece is most ...<< MORE >>
I would rather go to the dentist than attend a wedding. That is the stand-on-my-mama's-grave, honest truth. I know what you're thinking. You've surmised that I'm single and therefore uncomfortable with everyone's Aunt Stella coming up to me at the reception asking when it's going to be my turn. Yeah, that would suck but that's not it.
I'm married, for the second time even, so I've gotten my fair share of ceremony. Well, ceremony as I define it, which is kind of loose. I got married at home in front of the fireplace the first time and in the backseat of a pink Cadillac convertible the second. By the way, getting married in a pink Cadillac is the best thing ever. I highly recommend it. No stress, no procession, no family fighting, no canapés. Of course, it is a lot more fun if you've chosen the right person to sit in the back seat with you. Botched it the first time, nailed it the second.
I'm just not a hoopla kind of girl. Weddings seem a silly waste of money to me when the cost could be such a nice down payment on a house. Having a comfortable home is very important to me. Having a photo of me in yards of tulle and taffeta is not. No, the reason that I hate weddings is that I was a bridesmaid nine times. Being a bridesmaid nine times is more than enough trauma to induce wedding PTSD.... << MORE >>
There's a saying here in the South that we do not like to admit is true. We like to think of ourselves as evolved, strong, dare I say even erudite. Underneath our perfect pedicures, perfect blonde highlights, and perfect Talbot's ensembles lurks a dirt road tomboy hungry for mama's cooking. Yes sirreee, "It ain't fit to eat if it ain't fried."
My weakness for fried food is hard coded in my DNA. I'm certain that I was weaned from mother's milk straight to fried chicken as a toddler. Otherwise, I can not explain the visceral reaction i have to the smell of hot grease. My knees buckle a little and my mouth starts to water. The smell triggers genuine primal desire and woe be to anyone standing between me and the source of deep-fried deliciousness. This is why I have never, ever owned a deep fryer. I knew that I could not be trusted with one in my house.
My brother-in-law Bull got a deep fryer one Christmas. He wore it out. Broke it from overuse. Swore he wasn't going to replace it. Somehow a brand new one managed to sneak into his kitchen as if the grease fairy had delivered it in the night. How did that get here?
Not to let an appliance go to waste, the new fryer got fired up and put to work in no time at all. I have listened to Bull wax rhapsodic about fresh French fries at ...<< MORE >>
Usually, I avoid writing about current events. I get all spit-slinging frothy reading the news and you don't need to hear about that. You are all good people who are no doubt acutely aware of the state of the world and are quietly folding tin foil to make your own protective headgear.
I am bending my no-news rule because there's a story that I can not eject from my brain. I'm hoping that sharing it with you will expel it. Archibald and Violet D'Mello of Scotland traveled to South Africa for a dream vacation celebrating Violet's 60th birthday. The D'Mellos visited the Kragga Kamma Game Park in Port Elizabeth because what's South Africa without wildlife, right?
Violet and Archie, along with other tourists, were in the petting area with Mark and Monty, two adult cheetahs who were hand raised from the time they were wee baby kits. After photos and petting, one of the cheetahs turned peckish and grabbed the leg of a little girl. Violet jumped in to save the child, who ran to safety. The cheetahs then turned their full attention to Violet, knocking her down. They scratched and bit her head, stomach and legs. The attack lasted three full minutes before a game guide was able to knock the big cats off our birthday girl, Violet.
This raises some troubling questions. First of all, where were the child's parents? Why did a stranger ...<< MORE >>
My name is Molly and I am a shopping cart snoop. (All together now: Hi Molly!) I am an addict and I can not stop. I am compelled to inventory the things that people buy at the grocery store. The combinations are intriguing; they reveal secrets.
Look, I know I should respect people's privacy. What they're buying is certainly none of my business. Maybe if I had more friends, I wouldn't make up games like this to entertain myself. The truth is, I'm not really very good with people. I had a rather isolated childhood, and I'm still kind of awkward. I want to know people better but I don't know exactly how to make that happen so I observe from a distance. I will invent whole life stories for strangers based on their Starbucks order. (What exactly is a wet cappuccino?) Doing that somehow makes me feel connected. Also, it's fun. So far no one has called security, so what's the harm?
My favorite time to cart spy is Friday night. On payday, carts carry real potential. I remember the optimism exhibited by one guy in the Express Lane whose only items were Cheetos, two dozen condoms, and a jug of Gallo wine. That's a grand weekend in the making. There's some confidence in a paper sack. I wanted to cheer for him. "You go get 'em, Cowboy!"
I can smell a break-up cart from two aisles away. ...<< MORE >>
vegetable: (veg-e-tobl) noun. a plant cultivated for an edible part such as a root, leaf, or bud.
Here's the dictionary definition of the word vegetable. This simply does not do the category justice. Anyone who has ever been lucky enough to encounter the veggie choices on a Southern menu knows that vegetables are so much more than that.
My British friends who love to vacation in the American South were flummoxed by their first encounter with the classic meat-and-three. Personally, I don't think anyone who pines for a good bubble-and-squeak or a well-made spotted dick can criticize our menu shorthand. I mean, really. Spotted dick? I'm sure the waitress' accent threw them a curve ball. I know they asked her to repeat herself when she said, "Shugah, our best today is rivuh trout. Why don't y'all get sum wit' a mess a greens?"
A meat-and-three is a Southern menu staple. You choose a meat entree like fried chicken, meat loaf, barbecued pork, or catfish plus any three vegetables. Get it? Meat-and-three. You can also get a vegetable plate, which gives you four servings of vegetables. If you're in a good, just-like-Mama-made-it, Southern restaurant you are in luck. Available vegetables include a long list of universally recognized, actual vegetables such as stewed tomatoes, collard greens, squash, peas, mashed potatoes, green beans, okra, butter beans, yams, corn, and beets. There's also cole slaw, ...<< MORE >>