Jump to Recipe↓

Spending 8 hours organizing a 4×5 pantry seems excessive. But I did, and more really nice plastic containers and dark wicker baskets came out than you’d imagine. Also out were dozens of small cookbooks, some never used. Most never used, really. At the time of acquisition, there were high hopes if not solid plans.

I did keep three. First, Joy of Cooking. My first copy came from my former band leader, Homer Anderson. He was a larger-than-life figure well known throughout Texas. For context, he was directing at the high school when my mother was there. As time went by, the cookbook became, well, what’s the best word? Oily? I finally bought the 1997 version. There were a couple dozen earlier ones. The history includes contentious episodes between the writer(s) and the publisher(s). The original version was chatty in that process was necessary for product. Irma Bombauer began the book to cope with her husband’s death; her daughter and then son continued the legacy. Occasionally, a favorite recipe will have the designation “Cockaigne.” It’s an odd word, the name of her country home (ah, to have that) that means a mythical land of luxury and laziness. (The German word is even better—Schlarafferland: Land of Lazy Monkeys.) Joy is officially America’s most popular cookbook. And Julia Child’s.

The next was a favorite of my husband’s family. Helen Corbitt moved to Texas from New York. She ran tea rooms at the University of Texas and then various clubs before arriving at Neiman-Marcus in Dallas. Her food was quite the rage, excellent food made from fresh ingredients, but luscious. Her universally famous poppy seed dressing can’t be matched; the recipe makes a lot. My husband made her Lemon Velvet Ice Cream for many years, at great expense, to take to work. It has no parallel. After he died, one of his work mates sent condolences then asked if by any chance I would share the recipe. Of course.

Lemon Velvet Ice Cream

1 qt. plus 1 1/3 c. whipping cream

1 qt. plus 1 1/3 c. milk

Juice of 8 lemons

4 c. sugar

2 t. lemon extract

1 T. grated lemon rind

Mix thoroughly and freeze according to directions for ice cream maker. Makes 1 gallon.

Her cornbread recipe is the only one I make. No sugar, which is the correct way. But mostly used for dressing/stuffing a turkey.

Finally, an obscure selection now out of print is The Flavor-Principle Cookbook. Its premise is simple: each cuisine has its own set of spices and cooking techniques (principles) which make it identifiable. So, it’s not that Mexican food is tacos and enchiladas. Instead, the principle of tomato-cumin-chili is the basis for flavoring them. There are only 12 given that can yield dozens of recipes. The first they discuss is Soy+. If to soy sauce you add garlic, brown sugar, and sesame seed, the result is the basis for much Korean food. With 7 +s, you would have the principles for most of Asia. It’s fascinating the diversity that results. I once made a delicious curried turkey. Not with the aforementioned dressing, but a tender and delicious result all the same.

How often do I use these 3 beloved cookbooks? Pretty much never. The cornbread recipe is on a particularly oily page and opens right to it. That happens once a year. The others? Nope.

What is everyone doing? Googling the top recipe for…anything. After comparing several, I’m ready to go. Sometimes a recipe catches my eye like the infamous self-rising flour and ice cream bread. Inedible. Disappointing loss of ice cream

Most sites have long, uninteresting commentary but allow readers to “Jump to Recipe.” There’s even a discontinued podcast with that title.

“Jump” is a word that we use. We’re always jumping into something—the shower, a project, conclusions. The middle of something we shouldn’t be in at all. A tutorial here. A memory from childhood here (Teddy bear, Teddy bear..)

Mostly I have no jumping other than to the recipe. That’s okay, I guess. If we have lots of time during the post-apocalypse evenings, cooking with words will probably come back into fashion. That would involve learning how to cook with an actual fire. I predict lots of salads.

Teacakes

Juneteenth is next week, and I’ve written about it several times, usually mentioning Opal Lee. Her traditional walk is in Dallas this year, and if you want to participate, I can get you a sponsorship. The church partnership continues Saturday, and since every time is different, what happens this year will be interesting, too. Here is an article about last year. As I say regularly, I’m very proud of the Dallas Morning News article from 2021. You have to be a subscriber to open it, but if you’d like a PDF, I can supply one.

Saturday, five of us met to do half the baking—another group will bake on Friday. Here is an article about our time. What struck me this time was how much information can be shared in a few hours. Stories ranged from the births of two babies the day before (a niece and nephew) to a courtship, the plight of Ukrainians to a delicious zucchini relish.

There was a lot of science first, though. If you notice, the recipe doesn’t have instructions except for baking temperature and time. The other variables were many. The theory of creaming the sugar into the butter as it emulsifies, yielding a deeper flavor, seemed right. There was beauty too—a particularly beautiful teacake enticed one baker to eat it right away rather than risk losing that beauty to another next week.

So, yes, it’s not stepping in the same river twice. It’s a new day every day. (“Tomorrow” is an iconic song from the musical Annie. Love it or hate the original, this version is remarkable. Her name is Sydnie Christmas on Britain’s Got Talent; her “My Way” is spectacular, and that’s a song I don’t love. As long as we’re at it—her winning “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”) You’re welcome.

Hymn Search

On April 9, the day after the eclipse, the family gathered to play Eye Know, the trivia game with the cool box. The resulting blogpost was “Everyone (Doesn’t) Know.” The scenario I now approach is one that I didn’t attend. On May 2, the National Day of Prayer, I attended the one hosted by Thanks-Giving Square with David Brooks. Other friends chose the local one in Duncanville instead, with a different format. Downtown we did open with three long prayers by leaders from Jewish, Muslim, and Christian leaders. The closing, less than a minute, was by Rev. Peter Johnson, an important figure in the civil rights movement. (He is quite impressive; here is a brief interview in which he discusses forgiveness.) In the middle we had David Brooks, the Dallas poet laureate Mag Gabbert, and President Biden’s Proclamation.

The Duncanville event did not have the presidential proclamation, but they did have Governor Abbott’s proclamation read. No luncheon or speaker, but multiple prayers on topics important to the citizens. And singing, which Dallas did not have. A friend in attendance knew only one of the hymns, hence my project to enlighten him. I thought it would be easy. It’s not. Here’s why.

There are indeed a few songs that everyone knows. That list is very short: “Amazing Grace”  by Andrea Bocelli at the national event this year or Pentatonix or Judy Collins; “How Great Thou Art” by Elvis in 1977 (not sure what adjective—dramatic seems too mild) or George Beverly Shea, in 1957, all different interpretations; and “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” by the Tabernacle Choir or a music video that will make you weep.

The 10 hymns in most Protestant hymn books reduces to 8 with the first two above left out.

Are there only 10 we all need to know? No. Take a breath and consider these.

  • “Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty” here at an Anglo-Catholic church in Philadelphia.
  • “The Old Rugged Cross” by the Redeemed Quartet in a country arrangement (/steel).
  • “Blessed Assurance” by CeCe Winans.
  • “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” by Mahalia Jackson, whom you need to know.
  • “Crown Him with Many Crowns” with a congregation at Grace Community Church, Sun Valley, California.
  • “Hymn of Promise” is a modern hymn by Natalie Sleeth, a prolific hymn composer of our day who was a member of Highland Park United Methodist Church in Dallas. Here is a solo version with Debra Nesgoda. It was the final hymn sung at the recent funeral, so pay close attention to the lyrics based on Ecclesiastes 3:3—To everything there is a season.
  • “In the Garden” with Anne Murray and yes, more steel guitar.
  • “This Little Light of Mine” by a gospel choir auditioning for America’s Got Talent.
  • “Jesus Loves Me” with a little boy and others signing in ASL. Perhaps you can after watching.
  • “Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow” or the Doxology, the shortest of the short.

Only 20? Again, no. I’ve even left out some of my favorites in the interest of bedtime. (Slipping in one, “Standing on the Promises” which I’d never heard and was told that, yes, everyone knows it.” This site has 100!

Technically, this is just a list. Checking out the links will take a while if you do that. What I’m most interested is your reply. What isn’t here that absolutely should be? Simple enough. A favor for my friend…!

 

Transfixed

“Transfix” is not a word one gets to use often. Last Thursday, three times, I found myself in a place and a condition that matches the definition: “make motionless or helpless, as with amazement.”  The word origins are more graphic. Think of the unfortunate butterfly or beetle mounted with a pin through its thorax. Here is an Etsy page with dozens of specimens. Instructions abound for doing this yourself, and unlike those 50 insects we were to capture, kill, and mount for 9th grade biology, the killing is now discouraged.

The occasion was the Arts Commission mixer, this iteration dedicated to poetry. The key to its success: A spoken word performer called Black Ceasar. Here’s a magazine article about him. This is his Instagram post about our event. Here he performs “Champagne Poetry” on YouTube. He does commercials for the Texas Rangers, available here from March 2023 in the Dallas Observer. An important sentence: “They’re also a leap in the right direction toward making fans of all cultural backgrounds feel welcomed and connected to an organization that has endured its share of diversity missteps.” In a similar but more pointed example, here he performs “For Change” sponsored by the Dallas Cowboys. For these he has been nominated for two Emmys.

His name is Kristoddie K. Woods. Originally from Mississippi, he performs and mentors, teaches and coordinates. Publishes. All those things are great, but on some level the most important are that he answers emails, makes it on time to Zooms, both with beauty and grace. Not everyone does that. “Nice” is not a very strong word, but having worked with him for a month on the mixer, I can assure you I am his fan first because he is legitimately, actively nice.

From an established, well-known figure, let’s move to a high school student, “a real find,” her “finder” Anne Perry said. Aryianah is a high school student who has won awards for her spoken word poetry. She’s in the National Honor Society and serves on her city’s Youth Action Council. She also teaches and mentors others in her craft. Her transfixing performance involved the story of a girl who doesn’t feel loved until she does. As with Black Ceasar, she takes you places. You have to be there.

In her own words, Empress Axa “wants to impress on the hearts and minds the good news of empowering encouragement”…and “is a poet of passion who delivers strong punchlines about loss, love, and life.” Empress has been named top 25 WOWPS Slam Champion (2021); ExtraOrdinary Women in the Arts (2022); and Denton Black Film Festival Slam Champion (2023). Here is her feature: Shoutout DFW in January 2024. A Duncanville native, she has a day job that requires clarity and strength, to which she brings charity and kindness. I met her the night of the event after exchanges of information in preparation (or, texts and calls. Why be wordy?) Somehow, I was elsewhere when she performed. We were outside when I was apologizing, and she said, “You didn’t miss anything.” She took a breath and gave me her performance. In its entirety. Just for me. Her eyes on mine for minute after minute of transfixed journe-making. Her work was about her mother, given with such depth and detail that I can only repeat—you had to be there.

A brief distinction between reading poetry and performing poetry: I can do the former. I cannot do the latter. As I have said before on these pages, I sometimes come across a poem I don’t’ remember writing. And I could no more quote you a single poem of mine than the man in the moon. No, I don’t perform, although I believe I can read my work better than anyone else. Not necessarily a good sign. I want to commend to you a poet who is better than I, Chris Mikesell. He read one of my favorites on Thursday, “Baptism by Night.” His work is not just clever; it can be funny, allusive, insightful. He takes us to places of the heart and of the mind. His presentation was not less than the others. It was different.

To conclude on being transfixed: Most people have heard the phrase “Water water everywhere and not a drop to drink.” It’s a slight misquote from “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” whose poet uses “Nor any drop to drink.” You can hear it here read by Ian McKellan. Long, but well done. A much shorter interpretation by Iron Maiden is here. AI images, too. I’ve heard of them, believe it or not. That’s about it. Genre-making apparently. The music for the Mariner is compelling. A galloping rhythm, guitarist/composer grandson explains. (“You’re not going to go to the drive-up window with that playing are you?”)

The phrase from the poem that our mixer’s performance poets made me think of is “He holds him with his glittering eye—” because now I know what that feels like, literarily speaking. Coming away from an event richer than you went in makes all the difference. Support the arts. Experience can’t be shared. Kim Campbell, co-founder and Executive Director of the Dallas Winds, ends his introduction of the group with “Be amazed!” It’s true. You’ll be glad you did. And transfixed, at least occasionally.

Netsuke

In February 2020, I wrote about kintsugi, the Japanese art of repairing damaged pottery with gold. The month before the nightmare. But I recently learned about another art form called netsuke, tiny carvings originally made as button closures. Before ivory from living animals was banned, it was the usual material. I am thrilled to report that there are, in fact, huge quantities of mammoth ivory available these days. I didn’t know.

Last week, I toured a wonderful art collection with a few pieces of pottery that were used to hold these miniature works of art. And, of course, there was a story. During World War II, a Jewish family in Vienna lost their home to Nazis who also plundered their art collection. The father had amassed a large set of netsuke which were lined up on narrow shelves. Although they were in plain sight, the looters didn’t recognize their value and ignored them. The family’s housekeeper had been commandeered as well, and she took one or two out in her pockets.

The story is similar to Woman in Gold (2015) but on a smaller less gilded or personal scale. The film is well done, with Helen Mirren starring as Maria Altman. The woman in the Klimt painting is her aunt, the painting stolen from the family in the same way. The plot uses flashbacks to show the validity of her claim on the Austrian government to restore the masterpiece to its rightful owner. Ryan Reynolds plays the young attorney who helps her. There is more depth to the resolution so watch it if you can.

My parallel for today is size. Netsuke can be valuable. On eBay, the most expensive one today is $107,000. The record at a Bonham’s auction is $441,300. It’s not that element–-worth or value—for now, however. Nor is it ignorance. The family housekeeper knew what they had. The Nazis didn’t. Rather, I’d like to think about small gestures for a moment.

Recently, someone was asking if I had a conducting class in college. Yes. Her assumption was mistaken, though. She thought a conductor’s job is to give musicians cues when to come in. That may be what it looks like. But musicians know where they are and when to play. (Although once I was playing second flute in the San Angelo Symphony when the first flute learned over and asked where we were. I knew but was so startled that I didn’t know what to say and just pointed. Apparently, everyone was lost because soon the conductor bellowed out “KEY CHANGE” and we were back on track. Important fact: The SAS was actually the Dallas Symphony second stand players with some local talent thrown in. It was memorable, and a piano concerto to boot. This short video explains using examples of some “historically important” conductors. The small gestures often offer interpretation. The purpose can also be to “exalt” the orchestra. It’s not always pretty. Here are five conductors and the same piece of music (just 10+minutes).

It’s odd how a single second or two of time will hold a memory. Decades ago, the kids and I were at the mall in San Angelo. There was a large fountain in the center. The boys were bored and started putting their hands in the water and splashing it out. A security guard walked by, didn’t say anything, just moved his hand with a flick of his wrist that meant “get your hands out.” It was subtle and relevant. Graceful, even. The style was, also, memorable.

Tonight, at my music fraternity, one member noticed the sun was in someone’s eyes. She held a book up to block it. A small act, perhaps, but one that lasted until the shade was lowered. Most thoughtful gesture today.

David Brooks

It is 7:54 on Monday. Evening. Oh, wait. A friend called and needed help getting a message to someone because her internet isn’t working. We discussed a pending trip. Nothing else, I promise. It is now 8:17. Oh—a pleasant call back, 8:52. I really wanted to do this well. It’s an essence only.

My topic for the week is David Brooks’ new book, How to Know People. Last week, I attended a luncheon where he spoke and an evening conversation with him. Before the latter, he was signing books at the Interabang table (small independent bookstore). No one else was there. I’d brought my Amazon-purchased one, and with no shame said, “Will you sell my book?” Yep. There it is. The three people looked at me oddly, and I had to ask why. So, there was that.

The book is worth reading. Beyond that, I found it transformational in some ways. There are a zillion anecdotes and quotations, glimpses into his heart and mind, jokes and quips and allusions. While it could be summarized as “Be a good person, thoughtful and attentive, he offers two paradigms for How to Be and How Not to Be.

One is called Diminisher. This is one explanation: “Diminishers are so into themselves, they make others feel insignificant… If they learn one thing about you, they proceed to make a series of assumptions about who you must be.” Friends once took us to The Mansion, a legendary Dallas restaurant. It has its own Wikipedia page, for goodness’ sake. These people recounted hearing the story of two other couples arriving, looking at the crowd, and remarking, “Oh, nobody’s here.” Using people, not caring about their needs, and not seeing them as anything other than other—these are the marks of a Diminisher.

An Illuminator, on the other hand, has light within and can shine that light on another. That seems like a metaphor within itself, so think of it as having curiosity about people not just for what they’ve done or what they have but for who they are. Brooks has found two words to elucidate: nunchi, a Korean term for the ability to be sensitive to other people’s thoughts and moods. The Germans have herzensbildung, training one’s heart to see the full humanity in another.

There is a bit of a sting to realize sometimes I’ve been the former, not the latter. Listening—really hearing and not waiting to say something myself—needs attention. So does being what he calls a topper, someone who takes the speaker’s story but rather than acknowledge it and learn more adds her own story that is just above it in scope or seriousness or drama. That’s not hearing or seeing at all.

This is an important book, too. I wish there were a workbook. The concepts are important, but perhaps not completely original. If any of us truly lived The Golden Rule, the world would be different. I am humbled enough that you’d think I would catch on better. (At The Mansion, an entire, juicy, purple blackberry rolled down the front of my dress, mocking me all the way.) Brooks includes this which will serve as my conclusion as well: “If our country is going to come back from the inhumanity, and if our families are going to come back from the breakdown, and if our workplaces are going to thrive, we just have to be really good at this skill of seeing others, making them feel valid, respected, heard and understood.” Easier said than done, so let’s do it anyway.

(A link to a lecture from his book on character here.)

On Value£

A Mexican man was scrolling through the Cartier online catalog on Instagram, as one does. He came across earrings priced at MX237. This happened in England, so they show it as £11, which is USD13.81. Being no fool, he purchased two pairs. Cartier immediately corrected the price, but in England they are apparently strict about selling for the advertised price (with a “z” pronounced “zed” in British English). He won his claim and Rogelio Villareal has two pairs of earrings described as “encrusted” valued at (or worth) £11,046 each or USD27,742. Perhaps he’ll share, but the photo shows him sporting two on one ear. The follow-up may be interesting. I don’t care for them personally, so not a gift idea.

Value is one of those words with many and varied meanings—from what something is worth to a moral (usually plural) to the length of a musical note or the intensity of light or dark in a painting. The one referred to here, of course, has to do with what the dictionary calls “intrinsic” worth. It is a concept I don’t believe in, financially. If you remember, I do have that bag of diamonds and emeralds still missing. Strictly speaking, they have no value to me because I have nothing invested in them. Hurray if they turn up, no loss if they don’t. (Yes, I look for them now and again.)

In Stephenie Meyer’s sci-fi, post-apocalyptic romance novel The Host (2008), the aliens take over human bodies to learn what it’s like to live on Earth. Reviewers dub them “parasitic,” which is accurate if harsh, but their actual name, Souls, is much more relevant to the storyline. They don’t think much of the human race, however, and most humans have been taken over by a Soul. The culture changes dramatically. They do not understand the concept of worth, for example, and everything immediately becomes free. It’s a stretch, but memorable. How different life would be if we had neither capitalism nor socialism, neither fascism nor communism. Here’s a handy chart from the Navy that puts it all in a short PDF. Accuracy not guaranteed.

In our family, among my many mottoes is this: If money will fix it, it’s not a problem. And there are many things money won’t. I’ll let you make a tailored list of those things. Conversely, there are many things we value that have nothing to do with money. You know those, too. Having come to this point, I can end by speculating most of us value values. As for the money, I have been known to take a photo of a receipt on which I saved $57.06 at Kroger’s and sent it to kids.

Everybody (Doesn’t) Know That

Cash Cab was a game show that first aired in 2005 and is now back on Bravo with its original host (in the US) Ben Bailey. Contestants enter what they assume is a regular taxi only to suddenly be sitting in the middle of flashing lights and music. They answer trivia questions for mney in ascending amounts until they arrive at their destination. If they get three wrong, they must get out. Two shout-outs are available—one to a random stranger on the New York City street and another to a person of their choice.

On one episode of Cash Cab, two youngish—maybe mid-30s—professional types were asked this question: “What Algonquin word means essentially a baby backpack?” The couple didn’t know. Rather than take a strike, they did a mobile shoutout to an equally professional guy in a nice camel-hair coat, repeated the question, and got this response: “Everyone knows that—papoose.”

He was wrong—not about the word but about everyone knowing the word. Obviously, since he was being asked. Probably he didn’t intend to be rude, though the woman mumbled something under her breath. And the couple didn’t win anything because they got three strikes, having only answered a couple of questions correctly.

Recently, my visiting family and my local family were introduced to a trivia board game called Eye Know, purchased at a thrift because of the packaging. (The box looks like an eye, complete with a lenticular iris and 2-inch long eyelashes. Irresistible.) Players ranged in age from 26 to older by a lot. Play uses two-sided cards. Twelve are placed face up with an image showing. Players roll a die to choose which category they must pick (colors suspiciously like Trivial Pursuit). Correct identification leads to a question about the image. Knowing both results in a won card, six to win.

It was fun and funny. One interesting phenomenon came to light: Different generations knew different things. Obviously, you might say. It’s more complicated than that: The older ones were surprised by what we would have considered “common knowledge” absent from the younger ones’ sphere.

The example: First, the image was a grasshopper. Easy enough. The question on the back was this: “What other insect is associated with the grasshopper in the familiar fable?” Our 20-something was clueless. “You know—from Aesop…The Ant and the Grasshopper.” No help. Never had heard of the fellow.

The ideas flowed naturally, at least from the older folks’ gallery. Wouldn’t it be great to share with the under-30s what they need to know but don’t know they don’t know? These are what we worked out:

  • Aesop’s Fables are used all the time, in that they are part of our vocabulary. People say “sour grapes” and have a general understanding of the meaning. “If you describe someone’s attitude as sour grapes, you mean that they say something is worthless or undesirable because they want it themselves but cannot have it.” The source is Aesop’s “The Fox and the Grapes.” Another common reference one hears regularly is “crying wolf,” based on
    The Shepherd and the Wolf.” In fact, the site is from the Library of Congress, and all the illustrations are lovely. That said, guess what? There are hundreds of fables! I don’t know them all, obviously.
  • Stories that are just stories, not fables. That doesn’t make a lot of sense perhaps. Aesop is ancient, but these are modern. The Little Red Hen in this version is from 1918. The earliest appearance of Donald Duck, in fact, is in this version called The Wise Little Hen from 1934 in which he and a pig refuse to help the hen because they have a tummy ache. She is planting corn and when her cornbread is ready, she gives them a bottle of castor oil instead. Even then Disney was changing details, but the premise is the same: If you help, you eat. If you don’t, you don’t.

Another is The Little Engine That Could with a written version in 1930. That the often-repeated refrain of “I think I can, I think I can” gets to “I thought I could, I thought I could” sounds onomatopoeia-cally like a steam engine is probably lost to the modern generation, but that can’t be helped. These stories are obvious lessons on work and attitude.

More obvious, however, are phrases like “down a rabbit hole,” heard commonly. It comes from Alice in Wonderland, in the first chapter which you can listen to and read in the link. Again, there are hundreds of such things, and I’ve chosen only three.

  • Mother Goose rhymes, fairy tales, the Greek and Roman myths, the Norse ones—the list is very much a short beginning which soon gets too long. Sometimes we hear just a part, like with Alice: “Birds of a feather flock together,/And so will pigs and swine./Rats and mice have their choice,/And so will I have mine.” How could anyone not know their fairy tales, with Disney princesses everywhere? It’s the unnamed adaptations that are relevant. Would the youngers recognize Working Girl (1983)or Pretty Woman (1990) as Cinderella stories? What about the relevance of the phrase “If the shoe fits…”? Myths are explanations, often, but the names of characters are everywhere. All the planets except Earth (which pretty much means just “ground”) are named for Greek and Roman gods unless you call Earth by its Greek name, Gaia.
  • Your mother’s phone number. Just kidding. I know people who don’t know their own without looking. The general message is that you might be lost if somethings aren’t written down.
  • Just to list a few others suggested: Shakespeare, the Bible, the Lord’s Prayer, the Bill of Rights, dates and dates every American should know (thought these are technical opinions), causes of wars from the American Revolution onward), basic life skills like writing checks (maybe) or filing taxes (definitely), age-appropriate expectations. A friend in her late 60s recounted a nephew asking her to pick wild mustang grapes—standing up in a kayak holding a bucket. Not realistic. I once testified in court that a 12-month-old can’t be expected to potty train.

Time Out: Almost 1000 words on the youngers.

PART 2:

In the midst of our enthusiasm, it came to me how one-sided it was. And overwhelming. I asked our 20-something for a favor—what do you want us to know? Harder, but here’s a start.

The remote(s). Everything has them. Mostly the tv, but also the sound system, the ceiling fan, and so on.

The telephone. Everyone (almost) has one. Few of us know many of its features. I am just handed a new one occasionally, with everything transferred over thank you very much. I have no idea how to do any of that.

Google. Ah, you say, I know how to do that. Maybe. But there is more to it than most of us realize. Listen to what the young ones might say. They can get better answers quicker.

Etiquette. Oh no, you say. I definitely know that. The question is what kind of etiquette. The word itself just means how to behave. Once I was given someone’s phone with the photos up and started scrolling through others. The thought makes me quiver with embarrassment now. That younger schooled me in proper etiquette. “Don’t,” more or less. Applies lots of times.

So, part 2 is harder. I know there are songs and artists I should know. Taylor Swift’s new album The Tortured Poets Department has these lines: “You left your typewriter at my apartment/Straight from the tortured poets department/I think some things I never say/Like, who uses typewriters anyway?” As I look through the lyrics, I recognize Dylan Thomas but not Patti Smith or the Chelsea Hotel. What am I missing?

This blog is a beginning. It needs to be a book, I suppose. Of more interest in what you need to know is what I need to know. As someone put it recently, “The thing is, we old fogies can pick up things that weren’t addressed when we were in school if we so want, but the kids don’t even realize that there is something missing in their knowledge, Their entire cohort is missing it, so there are no casual references that would clue them into the gap and make them go searching for the knowledge.” True, but I think it goes both ways.

And for both, it’s the curiosity to figure out what I don’t even know I should know. Something like that. Contributions welcome…

Moon blots out Sun; Mary Ann learns Pickleball.

What an amazing few minutes were 1:40-1:45—give or take a few seconds—on Monday, April 8, 2024. By now you may have seen many photos or videos. At our location we had a rooster named Steve; he has a bad reputation for being a jerk.

Although it wasn’t nearly as amazing, I did learn how to play pickleball. We worked at it for an hour. I can barely move. Turns out, I’m pretty good. it didn’t hurt at the time. In the past, I did play ping pong, racquetball, and tennis. Must have helped.

Sometimes you do something because you said you would. Today’s blog is one of those.

photo credit: David Sprague

As Did Esther

I have lots of unfinished projects. Only the novel is likely to make money, and it’s not very likely. Below is the beginning of a short story, and I do know the ending. I’m interested in what people will think of the other “voices” here. Who are they? Good question. Dueling impulses in a writer’s brain or a technique for adding another layer of…?

Why now? We just passed the Jewish holiday of Purim, March 23-24, the remembrance of Esther’s bravery in approaching (uninvited—a no-no) the king (incidentally, also her husband) and saving her people. It’s a story with, well, lots of layers of meaning and, incidentally, the only book in the Bible in which God isn’t mentioned. Purim is a plural of pur, and means “lots” as in dice except the bad guy (Haman) was choosing the day the Jews would be killed. That story gets pretty brutal.

Also, there’s a line about refunds. One assumes for taxes, and today is April. If I were clever, I’d write an April Fool’s prank. Too bad.

“So, when you going to finish this, Mary Ann?”

Nice weather we’re having. I need to plant one more Japanese maple and clean the house from top to bottom. Later…

As Did Esther

She thought of all the people who had died for no reason and were buried with tears. Not that anyone dies without reason, of course, but the ones who died suddenly, unexpectedly, sadly. Phil had been dying so long, she’d had him dead and buried for years. Seemed like the rest of the world had too. If she heard anyone say “what a blessing” once more, she’d decided to slap that unwitting face.

The air was biting cold, and the old people were getting restless. They didn’t want to be coming back too soon but did want to get home to some nice hot chocolate. The funeral director had whispered to her that they needed to start right on time so these people could get inside. She smiled and said the required “Of course.”

Such a good customer/employee/patient she was. Not like Jack. The real one had been gone a long time anyway. This new thing that looked like him was crabby and asked “What’s for dinner?” every half hour. It was good she didn’t…, well, she stopped herself it was just good she didn’t. She smiled at the director again in what she knew must look brave and said “Please, go ahead.”

The preacher man Jack had wanted began with the 23rd Psalm. Such a short, sweet thing it was, she thought, read at every funeral in her family for the three generations she’d been hearing funerals. And then the passage from 1st Corinthians. She closed her eyes hoping to hear the angels speaking, but it was not to be. Instead, there was “the creaking of a rusty gate” instead of “angelic ecstasy” and love was “putting up with anything” and we were “squinting in a fog.”

It was the wrong one. She’d told him carefully, repeated it—King James, please, if you will. Nothing else sounds so regular, so measured, so beautiful. If it was the wrong one, all was lost. But he didn’t read it choosing instead to torture her. So much for caring clergy. “No,” she corrected herself. “It doesn’t matter. I can do the words in my mind. The real ones.”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Wait a minute, wait one minute. I thought you said this was going to be funny. This woman is sick. All these deep dark thoughts. Are we going to find out she killed him? No The Little Foxes ending, OK?

                              She is giving me a lot of trouble. She can’t stop thinking about the past when I want her to get on with it. Sorry. Maybe there should be a reversal about now. What do you think?

                              Dude, what would work?

                              Well, I don’t know. A hawk almost landed in my backyard just now. I hope he’s okay. It’s hard to believe how big he was. Looked like he was falling almost. I mean, they stoop and maybe he didn’t stop. You just sit around and things drop out of the sky. Weird.

                              Maybe.I don’t know my predators very well. So we have this grieving widow whose grief is questionable anyway, and this bird settles in her yard? What about that? Sort of Poe-ish. Dude, can you imagine what people would read into that? Is it going to be a rescue effort?

                              Hey, you asked. It’s early. Want to go for breakfast?

                              Sure, why not. I need to check the bank once more to see how much the refund check is for sure.

                              It’s breakfast.

                              I know.