Sunday, May 31, 2009

Never wake a sleeping baby

The lil guy, now two months, came to visit and this is what we got. Adorable and we stood and watched him sleep. He was sleeping so comfortable who could pick him up. Unfortunately we were on our way out so Mom will just have to bring him back again when she can visit longer and we can actually see those eyes open.

Buddy dog was interested even though he didn't make a noise. Don't you wonder what the dog is thinking when he sees a little person?

Note to lil bird, he seems to like the car seat.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Growing up: Pre California

My sister and I were born in Indiana but left in 1957 which made me seven-years-old, her 14. We had both sets of grandparents and a myriad of cousins, aunts and uncles, and assorted friends of the family and one Aunt and Uncle in California and no friends. My parents being the friendly type they had no problem with the latter and as crazy as both sided of the family were leaving the former seemed ok, too.

When told about the move, which was only a few weeks before, I never remember feeling sad at the thought of leaving all this. Though only as far as the first grade in my education I still had friends I'd made but I can not remember even one day in California that I yearned to return to Indiana. My sister might have had different feeling, maybe my Mom but my Dad, nope he knew what he wanted and it was to get the hell out of Indiana. He was stationed in Southern California during World War II and he never got over the fact that the weather was so nice. No snow in the winter, no bugs in the summer. I remember watching something about President Eisenhower at his Palm Springs Western White House and Daddy commenting on the fact we had feet of snow and they had yards of sunshine and they were golfing right there in January, hitting the ball is short sleeves. Our time had come to move. Yes, I remember President Eisenhower, I'm that old.

It was June 1957, we had a new Mercury Turnpike Cruiser, ours was two-toned copper color, and after selling everything in our house we loaded up a few things and off we went down Route 66, heading West.

That was an adventure for a seven-year-old who'd never been further than Chicago. Momma planned ahead for me she had books and paper and crayons so I had things to keep me busy but I did enjoy seeing the country whiz by my window and every night, Daddy would find a motel with a swimming pool for us. I thought life was grand.

We had one near tragedy. When my parents sold everything they took the money with them. The cash was in a wallet and Momma kept it in her purse or in the glove box when we were traveling. One morning, for some reason she put it in the pocket of her jacket. As the day went on and the weather brightened she removed the jacket but had it in the front seat.

Often we'd stop and get gas and that meant we could get out, stretch our legs and make a potty stop. We'd all done that and were back in the car and ready to head down the road. We were only about fifteen minutes away when Momma screamed. Her jacket must have fallen out of the car at the gas station and all our money was in the pocket.

I never saw my Dad drive so fast and when we pulled in to the station there was the jacket lying on a stack of tires. He waved to the attendant, said it was his, grabbed it, then got back in the car just as fast as he could. He couldn't look but handed it to Mom and yes, all the money was still in the wallet. That was the first time I'd seen my parents cry. Daddy found a motel early that day, he was way too upset to go any further.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Sad Day

California Supreme Court upheld the ban on same-sex marriage. The decision, however, preserves the 18,000 marriages performed between the court’s decision last May that same-sex marriage was lawful and the passage by voters in November of Proposition 8, which banned it. Supporters of the proposition argued that the marriages should no longer be recognized. (as appeared in NY Times article)

So those marriages from May to November are ok? How does that make sense. If they are valid then this shouldn't even be a question. This is what I hate about the way we handle propositions in California. If you have enough money you can get anything on a ballot measure and those bastards in Sacramento do nothing.

Free, not always the best choice

Today started the free-in-the-park-concerts and we tried the Thousand Oaks flavor of the month. The group billed themselves as Manhattan Transfer meets Take 6. This was a bit of an overstatement but it was free. They were real fine with the harmony but white people should never cover James Brown, N-E-V-E-R.

Free concerts mean people drag their kids and food and chairs and blankets and it's a bit odd. Why would people come to the concert only to talk with friends and ignore the performance on stage? On one side of us, a man started talking when the performers came out and never; never shut up. I mean he didn't even take a freakin' breath.

The group on the other side had a million kids with assorted parents and not once did they look at the stage. They too were afflicted with diarrhea of the mouth. These people were not on the periphery but close enough to see the group.

Truly, I have no problem with kids being at these concerts, and if they run around and don't pay attention, hey they're kids, but what's up with their stupid parents? Sit out away from everyone who might not like to hear your conversation or your cell phone and have a nice day in the park.

Up by the stage there were a group of parents dancing with children. The kids were having a ball, the parents, too. This is great, kids need to see live performances and what better place. Their experience was much better than the little ones running amok while their parents all chatted like magpies. Selfish bastards. And to think, the park wouldn't let me bring my dog. Why?

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Today is our little girl's birthday

Being parents mean you no longer turn on your planetary axis but on your child's. The world slows when they are small to give you time to learn about each other. Time for you to bring them from their world into yours. Your steps become tiny as they run to keep up until you stride together side by side. Hoping all along you've prepared them for the lives they'll live without your guidance.

From the beginning your hearts are tied together, and though miles will eventually separate you, the gentle tug is always there reminding you both you are made of the same cells, the same breath, the same stardust.

We wish our lil bird the most happy day and look back on all the love and good things she's accomplished this year knowing a year isn't made up of days and hours and minutes but of memories.

Happy Birthday

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Wish I'd said that

It's not a lie, it's a gift for fiction.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Growing up: Wild Violets

ED note: I follow a blog from Chicago, Mr Brown Thumb, and his latest post reminded me of a long forgotten memory. I found his writings on Blogs of Note and his blog is being picked up by Chicago Now an offshoot of the Chicago Tribune, their new online venture. He is funny AND informative.

In my early years I remember my grandmother Emily, everyone called her Pruce, lived in a small house with her second husband Virgil. The house was Pruce's before they married and I guess they saw no need to move anywhere else. Pruce had raised her children there after her first husband, Thomas died.

The house was tiny, just two bedrooms, with the kitchen being the biggest room in the house. There was a walk-in pantry and only one bathroom but who even noticed then. No one but the wealthy had more than one toilet. The tub was big and deep and sat on four claw feet. The underneath of the cast iron tub was painted the color of the walls but occasionally the paint would chip off to reveal layers of the past decor. Baths in that tub were the greatest and it was usually with a cousin or two but it was big enough for the whole family. I can still feel how cold that porcelain was until the water warmed the iron tub. If we were lucky we'd get a bubble bath which was a few sprinkles of Tide detergent. I'm surprised we had any skin left after that.

There was a register in the floor and after a bath on cold days momma would spread a towel on the grate so you could warm up while she dried you off. The coal furnace in the basement would be humming along sending a continuous blast of warm air through the register. I was too young to shovel coal so it seems like a great way to heat the house. To leave the bathroom you had to run from register to register, jumping like little goats, until you got to the bedroom and changed your clothes. As an adult, I know it was two steps to the register and two steps to the bedroom but as a little kid it was a race to stay warm.

The basement was always a bit scary for me down a few rickety stairs and always smelling of dust and mildew. The furnace took up most of the space but a little corner held the washer. It was a big tub with a wringer. The two rollers had an electric motor and you had to be very careful not to get caught. Today we say, "Don't get your panties in a bunch" then it was "Don't get your tit in the wringer" -- same thing.

Grandma had a big wooden paddle and she'd fish out the clothes from soapy water of the tub and feed them through the wringer into a deep sink. Then she'd drain the water, refill the tub and rinse the clothes, then back through the wringer again. You can see why wash days took all day and this was seen as modern for the time. The clothes would go into a basket and upstairs to hang outside on the clothes line.

She'd fill her apron pocket with clothes pins and stand on a box while I helped by handing her the wet clothes. Not the sheets because they were too big and heavy even though she'd run them through the wringer a few times.

Because the clothes line would sag under the weight of the wet clothes you had to prop it up. For that there was a long stick with a notch at one end. You'd put that notch in the center of the line and lift everything up. This made sure nothing like the heavy wet sheets would drag in the grass. Everyone had this method and I remember a cousin getting whipped from my Dad's father for running through the wet laundry and knocking out the post. You only had to see that once before you figured out we couldn't play there but there was something quite strange about running through the wet sheets as the wind flapped them about.

Besides the clothes line, the back yard was big enough for a small garden and a sidewalk leading to a detached garage set on the alley. Along that sidewalk, in the spring, the wild violets would grow and it was our job to carefully pick hand fulls and bring them to Grandma where she'd put a little water in a jelly glass and set them on the kitchen table. If you grew up in the 50s who culd forget the jelly glass, everyone had them. Good old Welch's Grape Jelly. On the shady side of the house the lily of the valleys grew and when there were enough they'd get added to our bouquets. We learned at an early age what not to pick because my cousin Dana and I got our butts spanked for picking some of Grandma's strawberries, green of course, and proudly bringing them to her.

There were no fences but we knew not to wander anywhere or play in the alley for the fear of the switch. When I was old enough we could walk down the alley to a little store about a half a block away. The proprietor was Herb and he knew everyone and everyone's kids and grandkids. You'd walk in the back screen door to the distinctive smell of butcher shop. Herb had penny candies and he'd always stop what he was doing to sell you some. I'm sure it wasn't his biggest sale of the day. Next door to Herb's was the Dewald Tap, a small neighborhood bar that my Grandpa Virgil frequented. Virgil love his beer. This bar was not unlike the one in the Simpson's and anytime they show Moe's Tavern I'd remember the Dewald Tap. The door was always open and it was dark in there but, on occasion, we'd peek in to see the bar stools and hear the jukebox.

So this post was suppose to be about violets but somehow it got me thinking of a variety of different memories on East Creighton in Ft Wayne, Indiana in the 50s. You see, it was at this kitchen table that I heard most of the stories, met most of the relatives and have most of my Indiana memories.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Growing up: the Plunge

During the summer we'd meet at the "Plunge," the local swimming pool, and spend the morning there. It was 25 cents to swim for the morning session and for a 10 cents deposit you could put your dry clothes in a cubby hole. You'd get a big old rusty safety pin that made a hole in your bathing suit with the number of the cubby and when you brought it back you'd get your dime. Everyone said the old man behind the counter would go through your stuff and steal your money but I never had much stuff and never lost any money. You could change your clothes in the locker room but I always wore my bathing suit under my shorts and t-shirt. Who wants to waste time plus the dressing room smelled of chlorine and mold so you wanted to get outside quickly.

We'd swim, really just play in the roped off shallow water, until the lifeguards blew the whistle for a rest. This would give everyone a chance to use the bathroom, yeah, like most didn't just pee in the pool, or rest a few minutes, or buy a snack from the vending machine. If I had an extra dime I'd buy a bag of Corn Nuts. They were salty and tasted like chlorine but I loved them. We'd sit on the deck waiting to be whistled back in and it seemed like ages. At noon they'd blow the whistle again and that was the end of the first session. You had to leave but you could come back at 1:00 and pay another quarter. Most of the time that would be enough water even if you were only ten.

Even if you went alone there were kids you knew from school and summer was a great time for the Plunge. There was a girl who's mother wouldn't let her go alone, which was so embarrassing. The mom would pick me up and drive us there then sit on a blanket outside the pool fence. My friend was an only child and she could swim because she had private lessons, but mostly we just splashed and played Marco Polo. I could swim a little but to go beyond the roped off section you had to prove to the lifeguard you could swim the width of the pool. I tried it once and then some punk boy kicked me in the gut as I was swimming by. The lifeguards only gave you one chance so it was back to the shallow end.

We could only watch the older kids in the deep center of the pool jumping off the diving boards. Every once in a while some brave soul would climb the ladder to the high dive. There would be a hush as they walked to the end of the board and jumped off. Some would cheer and clap others boo, tough judges there. Once someone thought they were brave and climbed the ladder only to climb back down again. I felt sorry for that boy as everyone booed him as he walked back to his friends. This is where I learned about peer pressure.

After the swim session we'd go across the street to a little mom and pop store, I think it was called the Corner, and buy candy. You'd have your wet bathing suit rolled up in your wet towel and one of the owners would always yell at us not to leave them on the floor as we perused the candy selections. My favorite was Abba-zaba, a taffy with peanut butter on the inside. You could chew that forever and it would last me all the way home, usually barefoot hopping from one shady spot to the next.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Wish I'd said that

On Twitter there is something going on about how to create your Porn Name with the suggestion of your pet's name and the name of the street you grew up on. Mine is rather tame, Sassy Fairbanks. So I'm reading some of these Twits and someone changes the rules: your SS# and mother's maiden name, please. Too funny.

Editor note: I just realized lil bird's would be Armstrong Downing. Unfortunately I realized it while drinking my tea. I must go wipe-up my desk.

Monday, May 11, 2009

I have a green daughter

Mother's Day present from my thoughtful daughter. It is a recycled pot filled with drought resistant plants. How great is that? She really knows her momma.

Thanks lil bird.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day

Growing up: Culver Center

Culver City was a nice little town in Southern California to grow up in during the early 60s. Tucked in between the Pacific Ocean and downtown Los Angeles, and in the sunny part of the state, what's not to like about it.

We had so much freedom then and I can remember, at age 10 or so, walking by myself to friends houses or to the big shopping area, Culver Center, about a mile and a half, to meet friends. During the summer we rarely wore shoes and when we'd cross the hot blacktop street we'd either run or walk on the painted white crosswalk lines. I guess I got fed up with this and bought myself a pair of Zorries, that's what we called thongs, and wore them home only to rub a nasty blister between my toes.

Culver Center was one of the first shopping centers in Southern California and the strong merchant's association, with the help of the city council, kept May Company, a large department store chain, from moving in. The block had a long narrow street with businesses on both sides and large parking lots in the back. At one end was a Bank of America and a Market Basket, a chain super market. There were a few shoe stores and both men and women's clothing stores, all privately owned. At the other end was Hellmans Hardware and a toy store where I bought a hula hoop when it was such a craze. I paid one dollar in 1959 and that was a few weeks allowance.

Mom worked at Torrey's, a jewelry store in Culver Center so if I stopped by she'd give me a quarter. When she was almost 16 my sister worked across the street at W.T. Grants, the five-and-dime store. Her job was to dip up ice cream cones and sell candy and we all fell in love with Jordan Almonds when she had that job. You could go in and buy a nickel's worth of candy in a little white bag. Most of the time my money was spent on a Drum Stick ice cream or root beer Popsicle at Thrifty Drug Store. We never had enough money to go to Curries so that experience was reserved when adults were paying the bill and it was a treat. Their "Mile High" ice cream cones were wonderful and there was a giant replica of it outside. It was the pole to hold up the front of the building painted like a huge ice cream cone. Fascinating to a ten-year-old.

Culver Center had a music store, Martin's. There was a little soundproof booths, only big enough for two people, with turntables so you could listen to a record to make sure you liked it. My sister remembers seeing a young Johnny Mathis come to Martin's Music to sign autographs. What a heartthrob he was.

A big favorite with my sister's friends was Wellingtons. This was a drug store but they had a soda counter and a magazine rack. What teenager didn't love Wellingtons. They made hamburgers but I loved the grilled cheese sandwiches, that was my treat. I can remember listening to the big kids talk about the scandal of the day, Payola.

Since my mom worked on Friday evenings Daddy would often take his two daughters to Ships for dinner. Ships was a coffee shop and though it wasn't on Culver Center street it was on the next corner. Everyone went to Ships with it's 50s modern deco and coffee shop fare but it was too expensive to be a teen hangout. Being a small town you would see many familiar families in line for a table. Fried shrimp and a baked potato I thought that was the best. My sister loved the boysenberry deep-dish cobbler. They came out hot with a scoop of ice cream. They had toasters at each table. Who knows, it was the 50s.

During Christmas they decorated all the store fronts and the street and parked Santa's Sleigh in front of the toy store. You could just walk up and sit on his lap to tell him your holiday wish, no photographers waiting to take your photo but mom or dad could snap one if they had a camera. I was in third grade when I realized a teacher from our school was Santa. I never told anyone for fear of not getting any presents but when I sat on his lap I saw it was him. To me he looked like a sad Santa and as an adult I'm sure there was some humiliation taking this part-time job. Teachers have never been paid what they deserve.

Most of Culver Center is gone now. A Ralph's market took over the Market Basket and Ships has gone the way of most 50s coffee shops. It was torn down and it's now a Starbucks and a juice stand. Grants and Wellington's are gone too and the Thrifty's is a Rite-Aid but I can't help thinking that it was there when I needed it and I'm glad for that.

Friday, May 08, 2009

No lint

Oh this is pathetic. You know the lint you clean out of filter on your dryer? Well, if you wash a load of everyday clothes, dry them, and have no lint afterwards; your clothes are old. Mine seems to be pathetically old.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

What a dope

Manny Ramirez has really got himself into trouble this time. He's brought shame to himself and a team and city that took him in. I usually want to give people the benefit of the doubt and hear the whole story but if it looks like a pig and smells like a pig … and this does; then he's a pig. I hope the Dodger's let him go.

The drug he tested positive for is HCG. It is one of dozens of substances prohibited under baseball's drug policy. Players can call a hotline to check on the legality of any substances, and they can obtain a therapeutic use exemption for any legitimate medical use of a banned substance. So did Manny think he was smarter than everyone else? Or was he just too stupid.

Thanks Manny, I hope you rot in hell.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

G**** H***

My office window faces the front of the house. Yes, I have an office and for the life of me I can't figure out why I need an office but it's my space; I've claimed it. He has the entire outside, garage, yard, storage area and I have two rooms; my office and a miniature room I laughingly call my studio. I share my workspace with two large stand-alone closets with drawers and storage. It is also crammed with "stuff" waiting to find a home whether it's going off to a charitable organization or the trash, I'm still trying to decide.

At first these cupboards were to house my artwork and supplies but I found I really needed some more space for those big-box food items and it's now become the Glory Hole. To glass blowers it's the furnace, miners; the opening of a mine, but my mom always gave that name to a large cupboard where you stored food.

Typing those two words, G**** H*** is going to get me into a whole bunch of trouble. You see G**** H*** has some porn reference and there will be a lots of people, surprised people by Google-ing those two words and coming up with this rather tame site.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Third Eye: Open

Ajna Chakra

After I'd had that lightening bolt experience and started painting again I shared my first pastel with a docent friend and she immediately said it opened my Third Eye. This is an Eastern spiritual reference to vision. It did get me thinking. Is there a special part in your brain that if repressed kills your creativity?

Some researchers have suggested that the third eye is in fact the partially dormant, pineal gland which resides between the two hemispheres of the brain. This pineal gland has some cells that resemble the photoreceptor cells in the eye and some reptiles can sense light via that third eye

Do I believe this? I'm such a skeptic which leaves me in a place where I don't believe much of anything. Raised in a Catholic family I tend not to agree with anything from Rome but do feel somehow we, as organisms, have a connection. Whether it's electrically or biologically or spiritual, I have no idea but feel some invisible connection.

Listening to NPR, National Public Radio, I heard an interview with Bruce Hood, chair of developmental psychology and director of the Cognitive Development Centre at the University of Bristol in southwest England. He's written a book, Supersense: Believing the Unbelievable. What he said was superstition is baked into our human nature. Humans are born with brains designed to make sense of the world and that sometimes leads to beliefs that go beyond any natural explanation. To be true they would have to be supernatural and it's these supernatural beliefs that bind us together into a society. If you get time, listen to the interview it is thought provoking.

So, are you superstitious?