Monday, March 27, 2017

Around Town Again

Image result for fisher animal free image

Dreary weekend – rainy and looking kind of Edgar Alan Poe-ish out there. Can’t go outside and sick of being inside. Thank the good Lord for wheels. Right?

So, hubby and I hopped to and got ourselves on the road only to be stopped by the train. We live very near some railroad tracks on the Boston to Buffalo line. Both of us hoped for a short wait, but as the big arms and flashing lights blocked our exit to freedom (aka the grocery store), we knew all we could do was wait it out. And then I thought, “Hang on! Graffiti – I love graffiti and side-of-the train graffiti is the best.” My face brightened as I watched. Spray painted and bold with block letters spewing forth phrases like “Go Bulldogs” and “Hey Man” assaulting my vision. But the best one was simple. The word “Chico” in chubby black letters (remember those from school?) setting in a cloud of white with a little green thrown in for good measure all running along the bottom of one rusty boxcar. Whoever Chico is, I’ll bet he’s beaming. I wonder if railroad execs secretly hire spray paint artists so we don’t go all crazy waiting for the 120 car train to go by. In any case, it’s nice to have some interesting reading to do while you wait, don’t  you think?

Then, on Saturday, I happened to be in Walmart. As I cruised down the aisles an employee with a wide broom came towards me. An older man, longish hair and it looked to me like he and joy were complete strangers. I dodged his broom and zipped over to a clearance rack. Then I saw him again on my way to dog food. He was leaning on the jewelry counter as a fellow employee nattered on about fishers. “The only natural predator of porcupines,” he enthused, leaning in. The joyless man listened with great patience. “You don’t see hardly any of those around anymore,” opined his friend. Hearing this and glancing at broom guy’s face, I reassessed my opinion of him. He was a serious dude and perhaps reserved his joy for the chance of one day seeing an actual fisher (related to minks and ferrets) and hopefully not as road kill.

Sunday it was off to an afternoon of basketball game. #1 grandson is on a premier team and was plucked from his regular school team to play for them. HOWEVER, for this game he sat on the bench for nearly the entire time. Here was a situation that put those of us who came to watch in a bit of a snit. Yeah, we wanted our team to win. Yeah, we want Sam to be on a winning team. But our boy is our love and our favorite player and we came to see him. But I paused in my inward ranting when a thought popped into my stewing brain. Sam was a preferred player on his former team. While having to watch rather than play he may develop some empathy for those who sat on the bench all those games while he owned the court. It calmed me to think more in that direction than the other.

Life. Things happen. So - how goes it in your neighborhood?  

Image: A Fisher                                                            Free Internet

Monday, March 20, 2017

Comfortable Spaces


When I was a kid I loved the funny papers and comic books. One of my favorites was Nancy and Sluggo. I know – from a very long time ago. The two of them were best buds. Always having grand adventures and  pulling stunts on each other. Similar to how my sisters and brothers and I got along. I wax nostalgic whenever I think of Nancy and her pal Sluggo. I was someone who would have jumped right into the cartoon frames to live in the world created by Guy Gilcrest.

Coming forward  many decades and some of that same feeling was roused a few nights ago when I decided to re-watch “Cranford” set in nineteenth century Britain. The opening credits are rolled out against an artist’s rendering of what the village of Cranford and its surrounding countryside might have looked like. Again, I thought of how lovely it would be to jump into that space and live the idyllic life. The sheep pastures, the flys (a kind of carriage not the insects), lace collars, bright bonnets, quaint haberdasheries and all the marvelous and quirky characters with which Elizabeth Gaskell peopled her village.

But, as comfortable as it is to inhabit those spaces, reality has a way of popping up out of the floorboards and smacking  you one. Like when Nancy and Sluggo get into a name calling contest. “You’re dumb!”  “No, you’re dumb!” In the last frame that’s the only word either of them is shouting. Dumb, Dumb, Dumb. As a kid this cracked me up. It was a very real scenario in our household of nine children and there was some pleasure in seeing that two of my favorite comic book characters knew about real life.

In the second episode of Cranford things were not so amusing. A small child is stricken with the croup and does not survive. He lies dead in his sister’s arms and the family is devastated. The new doctor in town was unable to save him and is stunned.  In the same episode, across town, Deborah dies of a stroke leaving her sister, Miss Mattie, alone. It was a fate all too common then. These two old spinsters had been life itself to each other and it brought to mind the very real possibility that I may outlive one of my own sisters. Quite sobering.

Sometimes I hate reality. Fights. Family feuds. Loss of friends, funds and function. In the dark times It takes some doing to remember that reality doesn’t always mean the dreadful things. Reality is a complete package and until the dreadful outweighs the delightful we have a reason to smile. Jumping into the comfortable frames – whatever they are - every once in a while helps us to cope and makes us better. It’s a great place to go when  you need it. I have mine. What are  yours? 

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Tuesday, March 14, 2017

An Old Truck Story

This is a story (a repeat) from my sister-in-law, Elizabeth Bagger. She is married to my brother, Tim, and sent it to me years ago when I requested car stories from the family thinking maybe I could do an anthology of sorts. Our late brothers, Jim and David, had tough lives, but this story illustrates how crazy and puzzling those lives could be sometimes. This one's for you, boys. Miss you.

The year was 2002, and the Anaheim Angels were in the World Series.  Jim and David were at Mom’s house watching the 7th game, and the Angels won their first World Series! What a glorious time of jubilant celebration! And this was happening just three miles down the road. Dave and Jim leapt off the couch in celebration and said, “Let’s go down and watch the fireworks and join in the celebration!” They jumped in Jim’s 1978 Ford Ranger, decided a quarter tank of gas was enough, and headed toward the festivities.
The crowds were thick, and they had to park blocks from the stadium.  Knowing the potential for vandalism, Jim was sure to roll up the windows, and lock the doors.  The two brothers walked toward the stadium, mesmerized by the extravagant show of fireworks. People were in the streets shouting and cheering with joy.  They arrived on State College Blvd where there were parades of cars honking and people cheering. They talked with other members of the crowd about what a great year the Angels had had. After about an hour, having sufficiently experienced the revelry, Jim and Dave headed back to the truck four blocks away.
They were parked just east of the stadium, in an industrial complex parking lot, filled with the vehicles of other fans. As they walked, they noticed flyers for a local gym under the windshield wipers of all the cars. When they arrived where they had parked, the truck was not there.  After searching through the complex to be sure they were looking in the right place, they finally concluded that the truck had been stolen. Jim made a call to the Anaheim PD to make a report. After his interview with the officers, they found a phone and called mom to come pick them up.
The Police checked with the local tow services and impound yards, suspecting that it had been illegally parked and towed away. Nope. No records of such a vehicle.  Jim hoped to get a call from the Police Department saying they had retrieved his stolen truck. As the weeks turned into months, he began to lose hope.  
Six months later, he got a call. The police received a call from a local impound yard, looking to find the owner of a 1978 Ford Ranger. The police contacted Jim, and told him he could pick up the truck.  No, there was no record of any theft. No, there were no fees due at the impound yard, and there was no damage to the vehicle. When Jim asked how it got there, they could give him no answer. They said, “It just appeared, and we want you to get it out of here.” It still had a quarter tank of gas, and the flyer was still under the wiper.
What’s the moral of the story? When God does not want you to drive for a while, He will snatch your vehicle out of existence, and return it just as He found it when the time is right!

Image: The truck in question. 

Monday, March 6, 2017

Magazines - A Few Reviews

Done any good magazine reading lately? That’s a question readers don’t hear too often, right? But this morning it occurred to me that while book reading is awesome, so too is magazine reading. Shorter and often of greater impact. And even though I’m not being paid (darn!) to mention any of the following, I think you may enjoy my review of a few of my recent reads.

Reminisce – I actually have a subscription to this one and it arrives every other month via the Way Back Machine. Memories of the adventures, ill spent moments of youth and grandma’s fabulous Sunday chicken dinners abound. Written by readers and accompanied by all manner of old photos, it’s a big hit at our house. The photos are awesome and bring it on home as far as memories are concerned. We who grew up in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s love this one.

Popular Mechanics – This was a Christmas gift to hubby from our youngest son. It’s been relegated to the “necessary room” and gets snatched from the basket when something short and informative is called for. That’s where I learned about gas – uh – natural gas, that is. The kind from the ground! Settle down. I took the Test Your Fuel IQ quiz that popped up in the article sidebar. But even after reading the article, I failed the question about which firewood has the highest BTU. See? That’s why I read the mag. To find out good stuff and never use it.

Woman’s World – This one brings out the girly in me. Well, and the bound and determined writer who wants to sell them a mini-mystery or a romance. That comes out, too. Been trying for years. Anyway, this one is full of the latest diets and rich desserts (go figure), fashion, home d├ęcor, and a complete diagnosis of what your guardian angel may be telling you if only you'd pay more attention. I love it. It’s a weekly pub and I grab one at the grocery store at least once a month.

Now watch. Because I’ve written so wittily and in-depth about magazines, the Prize Patrol will probably arrive to award me with a gazillion of them instead of the $$$ check. Just so you know, PP – I’ll take the check. Okay?

What are  your faves in the magazine realm

Image: The Fuel Quiz is in this issue  

Monday, February 27, 2017

While Out Driving

We were in the car a lot over the weekend. Basketball, bowling and an International Food Festival. The mister was at the wheel which gave me a lot of time for random observations. Of course he observes during the ride, too, or perhaps it’s just mind wandering. In either case that truly only adds to our excitement and sense of adventure.

“Hon,” I whisper. “You’re heading for a guardrail.” I whisper because I don’t want to alarm him. He tends to over correct and if we’re next to a semi – well – you can imagine.

But other than those few rare and terrifying moments there’s lots going on as we whiz down the highway. Like the pine trees. We had to use the Snarly to get to the food festival at Albany Academy. I call the web of overpasses, big green signs, off ramps and bridges the Snarly. I do lots of “whispering” when we’re on it. So we’re heading for an off ramp and as the road dipped slightly there appeared a patch of rough ground on my right out of which three pine trees were growing. Kind of dusty and windswept looking and reaching plaintively for the sun. I looked quick as we sped by and I think I saw a small sign in their midst saying “Help!” in pine script. Maybe not. But there may be some kind of movement afoot and you heard about it here first.

The next day we took the long road home from granddaughter’s bowling tournament. Lovely ride. Lots of open fields, stone walls and balloons. Say what now? Yup. Right there stuck in the overhead wires. There were four of them all bouncy and giggling with helium and tangled string. Two were red, one silver, and one white (I think. It was kind of hiding). They didn’t’ t look like birthday balloons – more like the ones you see for an open house. Probably the white one was hiding because the price of the house was on it. 350K. For that dump? That’s what the balloon was thinking, not me. No wonder the bunch of them cut loose and headed for the high wires. Balloons can be so judgmental. 

The last thing I noticed was the lack of snow. A week ago Sunday we had a near blizzard and them Wham! Impossible degree weather attacking our white quilt all over the place. But March is just around the corner after all, and someone must have told the sun. Early spring? Hmmmm. You never know around here.   

Dining room Still. Not. Done. That’s what happens when you’re in the car all weekend. But how else would I have seen the lonesome pines, runaway balloons and brown fields yearning for warmth? I’m telling you, sometimes you just need a break. Right?

How was your weekend?  

Image: Free Digital Photos

Monday, February 20, 2017

Blast From the Past

Crazy busy with a paint job in the dining room. It’s taking forever but we’re hoping it will be a masterpiece. So . . . that means I haven’t had a lot of writing time. But we have been taking time out for grand kids and this repeat exemplifies what can happen at a soccer game. Off to the paint brush I go and leave you with this . . .

It must be tough, I thought, to sit on the sidelines and watch your two older brothers sparring on the soccer field. Out there with their buds defending the reputation of the Crane team. Dad and Poppy are on the sidelines making sure you don’t get into trouble. But then there was . . . the monkey.

Julius had come along to keep him company and I could tell it was a love match. From the second step on the three tiered bleachers Julius got flung again and again. Soccer game? What soccer game? When you’re not yet two it’s hard to imagine anything more fun than monkey flinging. And it never got old. Over and over the beloved stuffed animal took to the air.

As I sat on the third step I was peeped at with scrunchy little eyes and his grin was impossibly cute. “Go get him,” I whispered. And he would. Julius was rescued from the narrow bit of Astroturf that dad had allowed as a play area. Then it was back to the second step and off Julius would go. Whee . . . “Oh, no.” That’s what he said each time. Then he’d look at me and wait.

It was hard for me to give the soccer game my full attention with this little boy and his monkey for a distraction. He was being so good and entertaining himself superbly. I was enchanted. It made me realize how much time had passed since Sam was that small. Now Sam is Number 8 on a rocking soccer team that won both of it’s games last night. A boy taking the direct route to manhood. I sighed inside – a deep grandma sigh.

Towards the end of the game little Ryan must have realized there was a need for his input. His brother was being called upon to “Shoot!” and needed to hear “Go!” from the sidelines. Guess who yelled that out? With his head back and a little hop at the end. Doing his part in the clinches. Go team!

And here in a nutshell is what I know about men. Little boys, not yet two, grandsons out on the field, dads pacing as the soccer ball flies, and grandpas beaming with pride. This is what unites them, I think, more than anything. This contest. This mission to win. This common love through the generations of all things sporting. It satisfies a deep need, one that’s sometimes hard for members of the fair sex to understand. But it’s a universal intense form of bonding that I’ve observed for decades and I have to say . . .

I completely approve.

Image: sattva                              Free Digital Photos

Monday, February 6, 2017

A Peek at Book # 3

It’s Monday, the Patriots pulled it off, the sun is out and things are okay here. I thought  you might enjoy another excerpt from my latest Minnie Markwood Mystery, The White Pizza Caper.
In it Minnie has just taken a seat in the theater where she’s doing a head count for Chapel Marketing. As the movie begins she hears, for the first time, the voice of Meathead Mulovich, a Russian mobster who is soooo not a nice guy. And he’s in the seat right behind her. Yikes!

     I munched on my no butter, lightly salted popcorn, and took a few deep breaths. There were five trailers all together. Most people call them previews or coming attractions, but in the industry they’re still called trailers as they were long ago when they ‘trailed’ the main feature. Trouble was most people began to leave before the trailers were over. Now we’re stuck with them up front, and they are a must watch if you want to see the feature.
     By the time the movie started I was nearly done with my popcorn, down to the half popped kernels. I was rudely jolted from my bottom of the bucket dig when the back of my seat was kneed by someone taking the seat next to pizza guy. The man began to whisper in Russian. I had never heard Meathead Mulovich’s voice, but I had the chilling thought that this might be him.
     Then he said, “I will do English. Let girls enjoy movie.”
     I was afraid to move a muscle. This was even better than I’d hoped. Now I wouldn’t have to hang out in Bianco Pizza all night. I only wished I had a small tape recorder with me. To stealth and coolness I now had to add ‘mind like a steel trap’.   
    “Evelina is well?” Meathead asked with a bit too much nonchalance.
    “I had money. It was delivered at wrong table. I will get it.” Pizza guy’s voice shook with emotion and fear. But he hadn’t answered the question.
     “My American friend is disappointed with your sister. He is rich and offers much.”
     “He is very big crap!” Pizza guy hissed vehemently.
      Creep, I was pretty sure he meant creep. And then, of all things, a stray popcorn kernel took a crooked path through my esophagus forcing me to sit bolt upright. I fought off the coughing fit I felt coming, but it was no good.
     “Gack.” A sharp intake of breath made it worse. “Gack, gack!” I bolted from my seat and flew past Meathead who looked up at me with black soulless eyes. Pizza guy looked like he wanted to kill the man.
     The dark theater aisle suddenly seemed the length of a football field as I staggered along, and I wondered what day I’d reach the lobby doors. A woman pushing a baby stroller was right in my path as I came through, and my toe caught on one of the stroller wheels. I went down on one knee like a mobster at confession.

PS: I hope to have this book out in 2017. Fingers crossed!