Monday, October 31, 2011

Values of America

I've been watching the news and the votes and the hype and the campaigns ... not a lot, but enough to be disgusted.

Well-loved neighbors moved, putting their house up for sale, because they fell for the scam (and it is a scam, make no mistake) of re-financing their house at the top of the market, just before the crash. They are well-meaning people, but someone lied to them about what the market would do (and Bernie and I are not super-heroes with prophetic powers; we knew the bubble would burst, because it was artificially blown up, and thus so must have our neighbor's lenders) and they succumbed to a false vision of Free Money For All!


Every business you see is out for one thing: profit. Every worker you meet is out for one thing: money.

I'm sure there are exceptions. Even among my dearest friends, I can't think of one, though. Get me the money. My boss is crankin' for that bottom line. Yeah, we bought a boat, a time-share, an RV, a rental property, got a gym subscription. But shit damn hell, we may be spending money that we don't have, but it's the bastards that tell us we can do that -- those are the enemy.

Yeah, we can all jump on the bandwagon, or cheer on the OccupyWallStreet movement that rails against that sort of greed. Bleed people dry? Why, you dirty, immoral bastards.

And anyone who is anyone jumps into the children's park sliding board that says: No Sexual Abstinence Allowed. Seriously. You tell your kid to keep his or her pants on, and you are condemned up, down, and sideways. How dare you instruct your children about sexual mores if they are Christian or Islamic or Jewish?? You restrictive, abusive, unenlightened destroyers of pleasure! You should go to jail for having religious beliefs, damn you!

In America, everyone, regardless of age (at least from the youngest age up) should have the right to fuck anyone, regardless of gender (hell, you all know that if it blows up, it will be the older fucker that will get blamed), regardless of their parents' wishes. OMG, let the kiddies fuck -- we've given them contraceptives that imply we know they will, and by all that is "true," we'll make abortions available when the contraceptives fail, as they often do.

Wait, shhhh, we won't show them what an abortion looks like, because it's gruesome beyond words. Tell the kiddies it's okay to fuck, but don't ever show them what it looks like when it all goes wrong. No, no, no, don't show them dead puppies or kitties or torn-up aborted babies. Fuck like an adult, pull your hat down over your eyes like a toddler at a scary movie and don't look at what the consequences of your fucking do to human flesh.

"I love you more than I love life." How many lovers have heard those words? "I love you more than anything."

Do you love him more than you love your orgasm? If no, then, duuhhh, you don't love him more than anything. Do you love him enough to say that you don't care what society thinks, or what your parents thought, for richer or for poorer, in sickness or in health, until death parts you -- even if you don't have the orgasm dimension? Or does Orgasmic Entitlement supercede all that? Are you vowing that as long as you have Orgasm, you agree to all those "marriage" agreements, as long as you both shall live, or at least as long as you both have the capacity for Orgasm?

Wow, there's the two moral constants for America now: Wealth and Orgasm.

That sounds harsh. But just think about it.

I want to be free from debt, with plenty of cash left over. I want to be free to fuck whoever I want, however I want, whenever I want, without physical, economical, or social consequences.

Instead of the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave, we now have the Land of the Grabbers and the Home of the Freedom-Fuckers.

So much for October.

Sunday, October 30, 2011


 In the square of sunlight, appearing white on the floor, is a tennis ball.

A tennis ball is of sublime importance to this dog, Sebastian; half border collie/ half God alone knows what, Sebastian is intent on that tennis ball being kicked, and how he will catch it before it gets past him. There is nothing in his universe apart from this activity. Food? Forget it. Need to relieve himself? Back seat. Invading Visigoths bursting through that front door? Are they going to snatch the ball? Might deal with them then, but otherwise, tell them to get out of the way!

Here comes November, and NaNoWriMo.

On November 1st, a writer opens a document, and sees nothing. The goal is to see 50,000 words appear in that document by November 30th. The key to meeting the challenge is to keep the author's eye on the story. Not so much to keep to an outline, but to keep an eye on the characters, what they wear, what they eat, why they live in Baltimore as opposed to San Diego ... and let them do what they will do. It's great to enter NaNoWriMo with a beginning and an ending, but it's not necessary.

If you think about the people you know, they all have stories behind their lives. You don't know all of those stories intimately. But you could, if you wanted to, speculate upon the facts of their existence, and extrapolate.

Lots of NaNovelists get bogged down by time constraints, and that's totally understandable, as Life is busy for many, many people.  The breakdown that saddens me is fear of their own words. Starting to write, the author finds his/her words aren't "good enough" or are "too far outside the box" or perhaps simply not what the author expected to find within him/herself.

NaNoWriMo is just about focusing on word count, and the telling of any story.

Like Sebastian, all of us who sign up for NaNoWriMo have to stay focused, and like Sebastian, it's not the ball, not the words that come out, but something more integral:
in both pictures, Sebastian is not focused on the ball, even though catching the ball is his goal. He's watching that foot, that power that drives the ball.

Writers for NaNoWriMo: Don't watch the words, don't judge the words, they can always be edited. Watch instead the source of the words, and believe that source has lots of power behind it. In your mind, in your heart, there's a story that might want to be told. Give it at least an airing this coming month, and worry about giving it perspective and depth and a makeover ... later.

Here comes the kick!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Simple Things

We went to the Egg Place to buy eggs today.

Commercial producers of eggs for local markets, Den Dulk also has its own retail outlet a couple miles down the road. We buy our eggs there not only because they are inexpensive, but mostly because they are so fresh and taste sooooooooooo good.

Today, we found that the young hens are still producing a myriad of Medium Brown Organic eggs.

Hot dog, we say, that means we get five dozen eggs for $3 -- beats paying $3.69 or more at the store for Organic Brown Eggs.

When I picked up the flats of eggs, I had a look at them, and said to the cashier, "Wow, these are absolutely beautiful!"

She giggled nervously, and said in an offhand kind of way, "Yeah, uh ... simple pleasures, right?"

Obviously, she didn't think I was serious.

But I was. Look at these eggs. They are works of art. Technically they are all "Medium Brown Eggs" but what a difference in each of them! One such a dark brown; one so light with a dark cloud sketched upon it. Speckles, freckles, on the others, darker, lighter, in a cap-like pattern ...

I really meant it. They are beautiful.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Where Did I Store That Darn Coat?

Nothing says "Get ready for winter" like sundown at 6pm, with a sudden need for a heavy sweater by 6:30.

I suppose that I'm ready for the season to change; we've got the winter's supply of wood stacked, I brought out the flannel shirts and sweatshirts, and I've got about two-thirds of my winter garden in. (Snow peas and lettuce/spinach mix.)

Still, it seems a bit sad to give orders for the last of the barely-coloring tomatoes to be picked, a few nice green tomatoes to be saved for frying, and the rest to be put into the compost bin. In another week, the perfectly stupid time change will occur, and darkness will fall at suppertime. The weather service's long range forecast suggests it will be raining by then, too.

That will be welcome -- the air quality from the dust of the almond harvest is atrocious. And looking on the bright side of this autumn evening, we're not getting 6 - 10 inches of snow tomorrow like my sister-in-law is back in Pennsylvania.

Maybe I'll call her tomorrow and ask her how she likes it.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Dog and I

And here is my little old man, soaking up some Vitamin D, basking in his favorite spot.

He's recovered from his "separation sickness," now that we're home and the first thing he can do in the mornings is come to my side of the bed at and give me kisses and cuddles. He's also mostly recovered from his frolic in the river on Sunday, when he overdid it trying to out-swim and out-race young Sebastian; he stiffened up so he could hardly walk by Sunday nightfall, and was pretty gimpy all day Monday, too.

Today Bernie and John had places to go and things to do, so it was just me and the dogs for a few hours. Sebastian curled up on his Daddy's pillows and kept warm on this chilly autumn day, and I don't count the cat because he sleeps all day in Lillian's bed. Howie, however, followed me from room to room, bouncing his tennis ball off my toes, playing "Make the Bed Ball" (he tosses the ball into the bedding to make me get it) and "Laundry Ball" (he bounces the ball to me as I'm folding clothes so I kick it back to him); while I did my ironing in the garage studio, with the garage door open, he lay patiently on his rug, watching cars and people go by, following me in and out as I put shirts away and got the next batch to iron. While I cooked spaghetti sauce, he puttered around the kitchen, hoping for a sample, but not really mooching -- I think he's figured out that if there's a garlic smell, he's not getting any taste treats. (Fish or chicken or beef being cut up brings both dogs running to watch the cutting board!) Lately he's begun to try to get me to play Kitchen Ball, but I really don't encourage that one. All I need is to have a tennis ball go flying and land in the butter dish.

Tonight, too, we're on our own, as the rest of the household went to a concert. Howie is on the couch, leaning on the pillows, keeping an eye on the front walk through the windows. Now and then he and I look at one another, just making sure we know where the other is.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Lovely Marglobe on My Table

There is not a single flaw on this tomato.

No bug stung it, no ant chewed at it, no slug slimed and tore at its tender skin.

It ripened perfectly and evenly, with no sunburnt top or dry cracking from irregular watering.

This is a thing of beauty.

However: it is past mid-October, and this is THE. ONE. AND. ONLY. PERFECT. TOMATO  this season!!!!

Not fair, not fair at all.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Home, and Howie

We drove to San Diego this week, as I said in my previous post.

Meeting Lydia Manx and her folks was wonderful. Even if I didn't enjoy Lydia's work in the Piker Press, I'd read it because she is a delightfully alive person, full of humor and sparkle.

Lydia's parents, Phil and Maureen, were so much fun that I wish they would adopt me (me being an orphan now and all). Both of them had me roaring with laughter at their stories and hoping to see them again some day.

Getting to San Diego was a lot more easy than I thought it would be. I was ready to pack sandwiches for the trip, for crying out loud. As it was, we stopped for a little breakfast at the foot of the southern mountains, and in less time than it took to get hungry again, we were there.

We spent Wednesday puttering about Balboa Park, looking at mummies and flowers, and wearing jackets because the marine layer was making everything gray and dim and damp. We toyed with the idea of taking an extra day and wending our way home via Rt. 1 along the edge of the Pacific Coast, but opted to wait for a time when there wasn't quite so much fog.

And well that we did. Howie was so distraught that we left him behind that he worried himself quite sick. I didn't mean for John and Alex to have to care for a hysterically ill dog; future vacations will have to take into account that this little beast has given all the rest of his days to us, No Returns Allowed. My poor boy. We had to run to the store today, and even that separation affected him deeply. When we make our jaunt on Hwy 1, some time in the future, it's going to have to be a dog-friendly trip.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Ready for the Road Again

Clothes are packed, the maps obtained. Hotel is booked, the laundry nearly done.

The dog knows something is up and is getting a head start on moping.

Tomorrow morning, before it's light outside, we will be setting off for Southern California, to Del Mar, to finally meet up in person with Lydia Manx.

We've known her for years; she's been with the Piker Press since 2004 as our vampire serial fiction writer. Years of staff meeting chat rooms, days of keeping each other company via instant messaging, sharing turmoils in our families' lives ... we've talked on the phone, I know her voice.

It seems odd that we've never looked at each other eye to eye.

Tomorrow, that will change.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Eggplant Gets Ready for Its Date

Alex left one of her skinny eggplants lying on the counter in the kitchen. And Bernie left his sunglasses nearby. I thought the eggplant ought to have one last chance to look cool before it fulfilled its purpose.

Not to be outdone, on his next pass through the kitchen, Bernie raided the leftover spaghetti and gave the eggplant a more humanistic visage.

Glad someone else is going to eat this eggplant. I can't stand chopping up someone I've spent so much time with.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Suddenly Inundated

That's three stews' worth of peeled and diced tomatoes, ready to go into the freezer.

Freak weather all this year, not the least freakish of which is weather that is spurring the tomatoes to ripen at an alarming rate in mid-October.

I decided to put this batch up after viewing how many tomatoes are coming ripe on my Marglobe and Bernie's Romas. Oog. I also negotiated with a neighbor to foist off on her the excess we're going to be picking in the next few days.

These are all Romas, firm-fleshed and medium-flavored. I'm thinking about stews with beef, thin slivers of celery, these tomatoes, fresh parsley, some potatoes, and green beans. With a skootch of Louisiana Hot Sauce. And French bread, just baked from the local bakery.

If that doesn't make you wish for December, nothing will, unless you're a kid with a Barbie Jones.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

NaNoWriMo 2011

Last year, by the 20th of November, I was swearing profoundly that I would never do NaNoWriMo again, ever. Nothing would persuade me to put myself through it one more time, neither hot blacksmith tongs nor bribes.

The first time I did it, in 2001, it was high adventure -- write fiction? Me? A whole novel's worth? Preposterous! But wait -- I have an idea! What if I run with it? No one ever has to see it but me! Yahooooooo!

Thanks to Alex and her Piker Press, I kept writing afterwards, regularly, and when NaNo 2002 rolled around, I was ready with the confidence, a premise, filler, and an ending. (It wasn't the right ending, but it was an ending.) I completed the requisite 50,000 words by the 21st of November, feeling like I had been beaten by sticks at the river side and wrung out to dry at the whimsy of the sun.

Again, I kept writing almost every day, for the Press, and when NaNo 2003 rolled around, I was ready for the sprint with a faint outline, and it was easy -- and tons of fun -- to complete my novel.

I spent many mornings the next summer (and yes, I was still writing regularly) chatting with Wendy Robards about character development for NaNo 2004, which made the book a breeze to write.

Then 2005 appeared on the calendar, and I didn't have an idea, and my writing habit had become sporadic. FAIL. 2006 and 2007 I just wrote junk for NaNoWriMo, stuff that needs so much editing to pull out even a couple short stories that it's hardly worth revisiting. 2008, I had a great idea, and by the time I reached 30,000 words, I knew that it was a story that could be really good. 2008 -- BAIL. Not going to ruin this story by rushing it. (Note: this novel is still in progress, still not done, still my favorite of all the stuff I've written so far.)

2009 and 2010 I had a story, but my writing habit had become so non-existent that I hated sitting down in the evenings trying to churn out 2000 words a day.

Why am I even considering NaNoWriMo again this year?

Can it be that I know I need to discover a new writing habit, a new time to turn my mind to creation? With Bernie being out of work -- retired, can we shout Hoorah -- I don't want to spend every evening writing. What if I did it in the morning? Would that work?

Should I give that time a try? Should I give this NaNo 2011 a try?

Great Feeling!

Very short post, very cool update.

I lost a pants size after having to buy "fat pants" over a year ago.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Autumn Evenings

Autumn evenings 
the temperature drops 
from warm to put-on-your-jacket 
perfect for watching the sky
for sitting outside 
around a little fire
as the fire in the sky dims

Roast some marshmallows
over the firepit
remember the day 
whose light has faded
and will never come again
and the sparks fly into the black
becoming invisible

The daylight hours are gone
never to be touched again
memory only imperfectly
preserves it
and like the colored clouds
the taste of sweet char and sight of glowing embers
slips away into the night

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Confession, and The River

One Spring, before temperatures had warmed enough to be snake-worthy, I set off on a quest: to find the Juniata River.

I would have been 10 years old, I think. Surely I wasn't so bold as to try such a stunt at 9, and I know I'd accomplished the feat by the time I was  12. That puts me at 10 or 11.

There was a creek that ran through my parents' property, paralleling the Cedar Spring Road. There were many access points to the creek, but I began my journey at the bottom of Mr. Neff's land, where the creek was narrow enough to jump over if one was lucky, or athletic. (Sometimes I was, sometimes I wasn't.)

Following the little stream along the bank was fine while I traipsed along the edges of peoples' yards, but then the creek widened out, the underbrush got nasty, and I had to wade in the shallow edges, often holding myself steady by the saplings that grew on the immediate bank.

It got interesting as I drew closer to the downtown bridge over the creek; the banks were steep and had functioned for many decades as a kind of landfill. Stepping carefully on bits of cement blocks and bricks, avoiding pipes that stunk of sewage seeping into the creek, (seriously, this was 45 years ago in a rural area -- they were still getting rid of shit by dumping it into the waterways), I edged my way along, now hearing the traffic on the road above and ahead of me.

The creek widened again, over large pebbles, as it went under the bridge, and I was able to wade along the edge, barely able to acknowledge the stonework over my head. I was too far to turn back, but terrified that I would be discovered.

What I was doing had been expressly forbidden by my parents. There was a limited area that I was allowed to roam, and most of the distance I had traversed was not included. And I was never, ever, ever to go to the river on my own. Not only was I just a skinny little girl, but I also could not swim. It was a crazy stunt, sure to get me a beating, sure to get my access to the creek revoked for years.

And yet I felt I had to do it. There was a biological imperative that I could not resist; I was drawn not by disobedience but by the need to see the undiscovered land and the culmination of my speculation. The creek had to end up in the river, but where? What did it look like, and where did it go? My creek, and The River. The intersection would help define my place in the world.

Continued steep banks followed the creek after the bridge, but there was a tiny ledge along the creek, with winter-browned grass overhanging the water. And then trees, and then, the river, murky and dark under the cloudy skies. The creek spread out even more, flattening as it entered the river.

The River. The "blue" Juniata River. I had reached my goal. After nodding in satisfaction, I began to retrace my steps, doubly cautious not to fall into the creek or wade too deep for my rubber boots. More time had passed than I could account for if I had wet sneakers, and I knew I had barely enough time to get back before Mom came looking for me. I went straight home after reaching my starting point, and never told my parents that I succeeded in my crazy stunt until I was in my 40s.

And I never offered to guide friends down the creek to repeat the feat. Through the adventure, I understood that it was dangerous, with unacceptable risks, that my parents had been right to forbid it. Digusted by the sewage being dumped into the creek didn't thrill me, either; as a teen not so many years later, I was delighted to hear that the local government had mandated connection to the city sewer line for all residences.

I would have planted a flag if I had one, and if it wasn't so important to keep the event secret.

Saturday, October 08, 2011


Many houses on this street have only a small tree in their front yards (the original landscaping included ornamental pear trees) and so the strong sunlight of the afternoons makes the people who live in them close their blinds and curtains, cutting themselves off from the outdoors.

We planted a dwarf bush blue gum in place of the ornamental pear, and instead of hot sun, we get dappled shadows on the interior walls, and our windows are all uncovered.

Each evening, unless there are clouds, a new work of art is displayed, and when the wind blows, the shadows dance gracefully.

I like it here.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Sleepy Boy

After an unusual prolonged downpour this morning, we took the dogs for a walk.

All went well, until ...

The field we were walking beside just got irrigated a couple days ago, and with the additional water from the sky, well, it was a vast stewpot of mud, which we hadn't realized until Howie leaped into it and sunk six inches deep. He got a rapturous expression on his face and began bounding across the muck.

Sebastian joined him, and the two of them went nuts, plunging into still deeper mud, racing shoulder to shoulder.

And of course, Howie the Boss knew just which part of the field still held standing water, so he waded right in.

Sebastian at least had the decency not to lie down in the soupy mud and wallow himself in like a pig.

Doggie baths later, Howie is more than willing to sleep off what had to be tremendous effort galloping through that stuff. And you know, not two minutes before the mud games began, I said to Bernie, "Poor Howie is finally starting to slow down a little."

Guess not.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Tasted So Good!

Breakfast of taters and eggs.

We buy our eggs from a poultry farm out the road, usually five dozen at a time, not only because they are less expensive than in the stores, but also because they are so fresh and delicious.

They've just switched over to a batch of young hens, and the young ladies are not producing "large" eggs. They're producing lots of "mediums" just yet, but the demand is for "Large." Large gets shipped to the stores first, and then what is left is being snapped up by local customers before noon.

Now the big fat old hens are still laying plenty of eggs ... but they're the wrong size, too. They're laying "jumbo" and "super-jumbo." In fact, they're laying so many Super Jumbos that the poultry farm was selling the Super Jumbos at half-price.

Super Jumbos are too big to go through the scrubbing and candling machine, so they're a bit dirty, and they're not guaranteed to be perfectly pretty inside. Still, getting two flats of Super Jumbos meant I got three dozen eggs for $2.50, and I don't mind washing them. Indeed, it's kind of fun to do the candling, holding the clean egg next to a bright flashlight to view the yolk within.

These eggs are HUGE. And every single one of them is a double-yolker. That's ... six dozen eggs for that price, how's that for a bargain?

Tuesday, October 04, 2011


Unbelievable, that our tomato harvest starts at the end of September and early October.

Freakish chilly weather in May halted tomato plant development, then a tragically hot week cooked most of the tender unripe fruit on the stems. My primary producers, Better Girl and Shady Lady, went into shock and produced little to nothing this summer.

However, I did have a seedling or two sprout from some old Marglobe seeds. That would be the tomato on the left, keeping company with a Roma on the right.

Marglobe -- it's a name from my distant past, when I might have been four or five years old, and Mom was just starting her greenhouse business. I remember her talking about starting Big Boy tomatoes instead of Marglobes, even though most people in the neighborhood preferred the Marglobes. She ever after only grew Big Boy tomatoes, or Burpee varieties with the "Big Boy taste."

But knowing my mother's penchant for being contrary to what everyone else in the world considered the norm, I wondered about the choice. Did she really find Big Boy tomatoes to be superior to Marglobes, or did she veer from Marglobes just to be following her own solitary journey? I bought a packet of Marglobe seed and this year had a couple of late seedlings survive ... and finally produce a ripe fruit this week.

With great ceremony, I tasted the first vine-ripened Marglobe.

The skin was tender, the flesh delicate, the flavor ... very delicate. As in ... am I eating a tomato at all?

Just to reassure myself that I wasn't imagining things, I had a wild tomato, fresh off the volunteer vines, small thing that it was. The flavor about blasted me off the porch.

Mom was right.