Purpose of This Blog

I've created this blog to inspire myself to continue to draw and write. Unlike Nora Ephron, I'm not writing about my neck getting old. I'd rather write about being alive.

Friday, December 24, 2010

nun's foot massage

Oh well, I said I wouldn't blog again until I got home from Georgia, but I'm back in Chick-fil-A with my grandkids.  Truett, the guy who started these chain restaurants, is a Depression era guy who has somehow managed to get franchise owners and employees to treat people as well as possible.  I asked for a refill for my lemonade this morning, and the young teenager waiting on me said "my pleasure" when I thanked him.  I was really taken aback.  Call is southern hospitality...I guess they've taken service to a new height.    But anyway, what's that got to do with Christmas, huh?  We're here so that my grandson Garrett can play while my daughter Renee madly goes through all her presents for him and figures out if she's ready for tonight.  Alex and I get the easy job, sitting in here while people eat their chicken sandwiches and drink sweet tea. 

The drawing of the nun's foot massage was one I made in Spain while standing in my hotel window.  There was a nunnery right across from me, and this was what I saw. 

Monday, December 20, 2010

christmas in GA

I'm in Georgia, sitting with my gorgeous (and she really is) granddaughter, Alex, who is a junior in high school and planning on going to the U of GA in a few years.  We're in Chick-fil-A and my grandson, Garrett, is playing in the kids' section while we use the laptop.  Garrett periodically comes by to stuff a few more chicken pieces into his mouth.  Oddly, there is a giant cow walking around, giving candy canes to the kids.  Apparently the cow is the symbol for Chick-fil-A.  I've pointed out to Alex that this is not honoring chickens in any way for dying for us.

Alex is playing "Greensleeves" on her harp Christmas Eve.  She is good at that and everything else she touches, including school.  She wants to be an English teacher.  Yippee!! Garrett is a typical third grader, unwilling to answer any of my relentless questions about school, the basketball team he plays on, or the chickens he keeps in his yard.  Garrett just wants to run around and have fun.

Madison,GA is a gorgeous town in which to celebrate Christmas.  It's the town that Sherman refused to burn on his way to the coast because the homes here are too beautiful.  Anyway, I'm probably going to be too busy to keep up the blog this week, so I wish you all a Merry Christmas.  My best to all my friends out there!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Wild West

New England braces for a northeaster tomorrow, and I am flying out to Atlanta from Boston tomorrow, hopefully.
  Now, this is the kind of house that looks wonderful at Christmas time, with simple white candles lit in the windows.  I've been walking along our common and up some of the little roads out of our village to look at the old houses lit up for Christmas. It's very cold here, so I'm all bundled up in wool, and everyone inside these houses that date back to the 1700s is warm and toasty, their simple Christmas trees twinkling at the front windows.  In New England, simplicity is extremely tasteful.
Meanwhile, the teachers in my building and I have done nothing to speak of to prepare for Christmas, except to watch Netflix movies at night and eat junk food.  Marie's mom sent her a wreath, so that's up over the couch in the common room where Marie and Kathryn watch movies on a computer and eat Cheese-Its for dinner. I suppose I should be the mom of the house and bake Christmas cookies to everyone's delight, but I'm really lazy.  Yesterday afternoon, with school out for vacation, I  got hit with those Christmas blues that come on you all of a sudden.  I can't explain that sadness that comes over me, except to guess that I realize more and more how futile our efforts can be in life in regard to making things come out right.  I can't really protect my grown children and grandchildren, except in small ways, and I can't prevent bad things from happening in the world. 

What precipitated this feeling was a phone call with my son, who is a border patrol agent.  He told me that an agent he knew was murdered, shot in the back, this week.  He was shot by bandits, the men who rob and hurt Mexicans coming over our border.  Apparently he and some other agents had been tracking these bandits for a while.  My son's friend was the only one killed, and my son was very upset.  They were about the same age.  I feel so sad for the family of this agent.  I feel worried for my son, who "protects" me by saying he's careful and nothing will happen to him.   People say we are bad neighbors to Mexico.  I have to say, after having spent some time in Southern Mexico, that they are held hostage by their own corrupt government.  I have no solutions to that problem; it's Mexico's problem.   

Friday, December 17, 2010

Living in the Past

I worked at the Fitch House at Old Sturbridge Village for a year or so as a part-time job in summers and on weekends.  This was at the same time I started teaching 10 years ago. If you don't know about Sturbridge Village, it's a replica of a village from the 1840s, and all the houses, stores, the church, and even the covered bridge came from old New England towns. The village is about 20 miles from Worcester, and we used to go there on class trips from Northboro during elementary school.  The Bake Shop is my favorite and only memory from those times--it was full of the smell of ginger and molasses, and butter and sugar browning in the oven.

  Lots of people make fun of you when you choose jobs like being an interpreter in a place like that. They say you want to live in the past.  There's a certain truth to that.  I was part of a group of women who cooked over the fireplace all morning, baking cakes and pies, and  even roasting coffee beans which we ground up for coffee break.  The museum visitors traipsed through, watching us sweat over the fire to finally unearth a cake from the tin baker that we placed  in the fireplace. Little kids, and even some adults, thought we slept and lived there year-round.  We dressed in 1840s style, in woolen cloaks and flannel dresses in the winter and light cotton dresses in the summer.  The dresses were a real handicap when it came to the fireplace cooking.  You had to be careful that you didn't catch on fire and create a real treat for the museum patrons.  Sometimes the minister would come to dinner on Sunday, and we had to cook our asses off all morning, roasting lamb or beef.  The interpreters with acting ability would stage the meal in the dining room, Mr. and Mrs. Fitch playing host while the minister droned on, the men all twitching their mustaches and fondling their beards while the women hustled the food to the table.

But it was sort of romantic to work there. I loved it on late November days when the near freezing rain would pour down, no visitors would come, and we'd just build a big fire in the fireplace, as usual, and sit and gab while baking something delicious for ourselves. The men would come in, looking for food after a morning of splitting wood or herding the oxen around.  It was a slowed down kind of job in general.  Even on the busiest days in the summer, when the visitors constantly passed through, we'd sit in the family room at the front of the house and sew.  I was trying to learn to do buttonholes by hand and several stitches that were necessary if I wanted to become an official "mender" for the costume department.  After having spent nearly 10 years at IBM, working my way up the ladder, this was now my only goal.  What a relief.

More than anything, it was the clothes that slowed me down and made me a little more dreamy.  Wearing a little white cap under my bonnet, carrying a hand-woven basket, and hearing my feet ripple my hem as I walked across the common made me more present.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Mouth Sore Charts

Barcelona, the same year I walked in Spain...this was a guitarist outside a huge cathedral.  Hey, if Picasso did this drawing, you'd think it's great!  I went through a museum in Barcelona that had all his early work, and you know what?  He wasn't so  talented as a young man.  It made me realize that an artist can be created with a lot of effort.

Yesterday I had to go to the dentist for a cleaning and I've got this lump in my mouth that I was sure was cancerous. The hygienist said she thought it was an abscess from a tooth.  My dentist trotted in eventually, proclaiming me "lucky", because if it weren't for the lump, I'd be through the roof with pain.  Here we go again; yet another root canal.

  Do you sit in those seats at the dentists or doctors and look at the posters on their walls?  Yesterday I was intrigued by the handy dandy chart for common mouth sores.  It reminded me of one of the treats from the Dura Book Binding days, where myl friends and I would flip through medical journals from Harvard during coffee breaks.  You've never seen such horror in your life.  Elephantiasis, hideous groin diseases with genitals twisted and engorged with pus, faces blown up with hundreds of tiny tumors.  We had no compassion at 15, of course, and we laughed our asses off.  My punishment for those days is that I now teach teenagers, and I know what sociopaths they are.

My experience with my dentist since I've arrived back home is nothing short of heaven, though.  Not the root canals, no...those are  torture.  The heavenly part is that I can trust my American dentist, and I'm grateful that he knows what he's doing. Perhaps our country is falling apart in many ways,  but in terms of dentistry and medical attention, we still have it good. In Kuwait, for example, I had a "cleaning" that latest all of five minutes.  It was the newest technology, according to the Indian man who did the work.  He pretty much encased my entire body with cloth, including my head, made an opening for my mouth, then stood back and shot sand and water from a machine that could have launched a rocket.  Most of his time was spent mopping me up, and I left there with a big glop of sand on my cheek that I didn't notice until I got home.

I went to several dentists overseas, but nobody had an x-ray machine. None of them trained in the states, and I realize that this is important. 

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Rushing Around, Getting Nowhere

This is another picture I drew on the camino, this time in Logrono, Spain.  It was the middle of June, when the storks were nesting.  As charmed as we may be by the idea of storks and their babies, I think the Europeans are less enthralled.  The birds make a terrible chatter, and they take over the tops of public buildings, like the steeple in this picture.

I was already badly slowed down on the trail by the time I drew this.  My feel were killing me, and it was obvious I was not going to keep up with the group I  befriended in Pamplona at the beginning of the walk. Going slowly and being left behind is ego destroying for me. It has always been my habit to rush, to stay on top of things, and to plan every empty minute as well as speed through activities that need more thoughtfulness.  As I result, I often make my life more difficult.  The other day I was trying to log-in to a retirement account my school set up for its employees.   I have a little book where I keep track of all these sign-ins for online accounts like Travelocity, Amazon, and banking sites.  I'm often in a rush, though, and I decide I'll write the new userid and password down in just a few minutes, and it doesn't happen because I forget.

It really sucks to be left out of your own account, unable to hack in.  If you can't hack into your own account, how little do you know yourself?  And, of course, you only get a few chances and then you're banished from admission until you start the process all over again and re-establish an account.

In times like that, I dislike my haste.  I'm a hasty pudding of a person in this regard. My parents taught me to never keep anybody waiting.  Back in high school, when I would babysit, Mom had me waiting out in a snowbank for Mr. Threechildren to come and get me and take me back to his house.  Sometimes I'd be out in a blizzard for 20 minutes while Mom waved from the window and shouted, "He'll be here any minute!" It's all part of being taught not to take up any space, waste anyone else's precious time. 

You know how other people in the line at the grocery store carefully count their change from the clerk, line up all the bills by denomination, and then slowly get their wallet out of their purse to neatly place the money inside?  I hate those people. I'm the dead opposite.  When the cashier gives me change, I stuff it in my coat pocket, along with the sales slip, and sometimes the whole wad in halfway falling out of my coat as I hurry along.  Never want to keep anyone waiting.  It's the same when I open these online accounts; I'm in a mad rush for no reason.  I've meditated for years, learned to do walking meditation with the speed of a caterpillar, but nevertheless, in daily life I seem to think I'm in a race.

Nobody writes checks anymore, but that's another example of being prepared to a ridiculous point.  How people pay is a focus on "In Treatment"--some patients come in and immediately force a check on Alex, or they want to make it out right away.  I'm like that--I would have every field of the check filled in beforehand and just cram it in his hand.  Other people can't even find their checkbook, or don't ask about money and leave it up to Alex to send them the bill.  I remember one time in therapy when I failed to have signed the check which I'd fully prepared hours ahead for time.  My therapist called up and reamed me! He said I was subconsciously resentful of paying him.  Well, duh...it wasn't even subconscious.  That's something Alex might say as well...he turns everything into fodder for discussion.   

I even sit there during "In Treatment", plotting how I can race to the bathroom and floss my teeth as the credits roll during the end of one patient's story and before the main screen of the DVD and  next patient to play arrives.  Don't want to miss a minute.  I guess I think I'm accomplishing something.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Guilty Pleasure

This is a sketch I made from a balcony in Barcelona where I spent a few crippled days with  bandaged feet.  I drew it after walking half of the Camino de Compostela in 2003.  It reminds me that some people don't have to walk 15 or 20 miles a day to have fun.  One of my childhood friends is retiring from Worcester Public Schools in May...I'm jealous. I take fun very seriously and I seem to need projects, such as walking across the top of Spain for a month, to have a good time.  So maybe it's just as well that I continue to work.  I'm at work now, as a matter of fact, working my "duty day", which entails a satisfying 14 hour day at school.  Too bad there's nobody home, except those other teachers, to guilt trip.  I'm manning the library after a day of teaching indirect objects, the Latin root MOV, schwa unaccented syllables, and research papers. I'm a saint. 
I grew up in a workaholic family.  Dad ran the family book bindery where even the most addled or underaged family members could perform some task.  I was in there cleaning the bathrooms at 11.  There was always an angry sign in the women's room demanding that Kotex should be disposed of in the basket, and if that wasn't enough to convince any woman to conform, the glares of the men after reaming out the toilet was enough.  A few years later, I was trained up for most of the jobs that didn't involve guillotines or pressurized machines that could flatten your arm for good.  Every dime I made went into my college education. I worked in the Dura Book Bindery in Marlboro, MA from the ages of 11 to 21, when I was finally released from Dad's clutches when I landed a job as a reporter for the "Worcester Telegram and Gazette." All through the book bindery years, I was pressed into service in my "spare" time, after school and bindery,  to help Dad plow, cultivate, harvest, or sell in his market garden.  When we did take a day off once every five years to attend a family reunion, my mother and I could be seen hidden away in the kitchen, vigorously wiping plates with a clean cloth, or degreasing pots.  This was strategic--we looked like angels, the big helpers, when it was really about avoiding anything social.  Social  fun was tough for the Kimballs, but work was easy. 

The habit of using my work as a hiding place has been successful until now, but as my peers retire, I'm going to have to figure out a different approach, if I ever get to retirement myself.  How can I continue to be virtuous and without reproach?  I've certainly enjoyed laying a guilt trip on others, such as the last man with whom I lived.  He was older, and he had early retirement, so I would come dragging home from work and ask in a slightly haughty voice what he'd done with himself all day.  Worked like a charm!  He'd get all weird, blustering, and rapidly point out all of his projects while I'd cackle in the corner.  I don't want anybody doing that to me,  unless I can figure out a way not to care anymore.                                                         

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Bleak December

It's one of those grey, rainy New England afternoons that belong in November, not two weeks before Christmas.    The bare branches are sodden and black, and the rain blows against the window panes.  We awoke this morning with ice covering cars, driveways and roads in a slick, glassy surface.  Nevertheless, it's relentlessly Christmas out there in the big world, beyond my little world in a town of 2000 people and many cows.  I'm tucked into my snug room that faces the woods by now, but I went through Worcester today and all the craziness of Christmas shoppers speeding around in the driving rain.  Trader Joe's was all I could tolerate, despite my vow to do other shopping on my way home to Hardwick.  Trader's was full of Christmas salamis and blue cheeses studded with cranberries.  There was the inevitable stollen and Italian Christmas breads.  I just bought a chocolate cheesecake for when my daughter, Jen, arrives Christmas night;otherwise, most of the temptations were things I had to put back.  Now that I can't eat gluten, I seem to reach for familiar loves and then have to put them back.  I left with Christmas nuts, cheesecake, chocolate covered cherries and Annie's rice pasta mac and cheese.  Yuk.  We don't cook much or at all here at the house full of teachers.  The others have a steady diet of pizza from Lazy Mary's Pizza two doors down.  I eat hummus from my finger, or with rice crackers, if I have them.  Sometimes I bring salad home from school.  I'm waiting to morph into the person I was in my twenties, who didn't eat.  When I was a reporter, I ate once a day, something like half a tuna sandwich.  OK, I drank a lot of beer.  In college, I was 120 and in love with myself in my modern dance costume.  I didn't eat then because I'd buy an expensive 60s minidress, probably orange, and I'd run out of money and not eat for a couple of weeks.  I think a good substitute for eating is to watch PBS cooking shows, which I did at my sister's house early this morning, before everyone else got up.  Lidia stuffed her face with boiling hot risotto while I eat nary a thing; it made me feel virtuous. There was a new show on from Norway, all about Scandinavian cooking, which seems to mostly feature rhubarb.  Suddenly i wanted to fly to Oslo, which was bargain basement cheap online this week, but I couldn't figure out how to afford a week there once I arrived.  Norway is terribly expensive.  But back to substitutes for eating, I know an anorexic woman who loves to cook for everyone else, and she is a master with butter, cheese, cream, chocolate and homemade pastas.  She watches everyone else devour her food and that's how she stays at 87 pounds.  It's kind of a mean thing to do, though.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Cheapsakes and Generous People

Today's drawing has nothing to do with what I'm writing.  I did a sketch of two kids drawing in the fields of the Land Trust here in Hardwick last summer.   Ididn't draw the Black Angus they were drawing--cows are nosy, and they won't pose but insist, instead, on walking over to check out what you're doing.

I just read an odd little story with my ESL student.  It's called "A Death in the House," and it's about a dirt farmer who finds a dying alien, who is a plant, in his field.  Mose takes the plant in and tries to save it, but it dies in the night.  He buries in and it later grows up as a young plant that wants to return home to the stars in his birdcage spaceship. The theme is generosity.  Mose gives everything to the plant, even his silver dollars (to melt down to fix the broken birdcage).  All Mose has left in his lonely life after giving his fortune in silver to this creature is happiness, something he hasn't felt in years.

I wish I thought that generosity was so simple a way to joy.  In many ways, of course, it is. It feels wonderful if you don't want anything back and the giving is pure.  I find as I get older that this is harder for me to do. When I was younger, raising kids, giving was just habit.  I didn't expect much or anything back because giving was its own reward.  But you can get burned living this way.  Sometimes the people we give to are bottomless pits, and regardless of how much you give, they feel cheated.  Often we're giving out of habit and, instead, need to be given to ourselves. And we always have to give on a budget.

At a certain age, you start adding up the money you have and you try to figure out how many years you'll live and how much money you'll be able to spend each of those years. I hear retired people snarling about how they're on fixed incomes and nobody can expect anything from them anymore. It always sounds so cheap when they say it that way, or so crippled, like nasty people out of Roald Dahl stories who hate children, ice cream, and puppies.  Mr. and Mrs.Twit.

I suppose that my way to be generous has been to give time more than money.  Now that my time is shrinking, I don't want to do that either.  After teaching all day, I have an allotted amount of time that I want to spend coming down from teaching, and that amount is growing into hours of reading, "In Treatment", and eating popcorn.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Hallelujah, I'm Gonna Cry

This is a sketch from an Elm Park jazz concert I attended last summer .I was so happy those free concerts continued, despite the recession.

On the subject of singing once again, check out the Hallelujah Chorus at Macys on YouTube.  There's a foundation called Random Acts of Culture, and they organized about 700 people to show up at Macy's in Philadelphia and sing Handel's masterpiece in an enormous mall, a complete surprise to the Christmas shoppers there. It was so beautiful to see these 700 singers intermingled with mall patrons, seemingly unselfconscious as they belt it out. I almost cried, but since I was sitting with students at school watching the YouTube version, I had to control myself.  Big lump in the throat and all that.

These days, I figure I cry over the stuff that really matters to me. I suppose that if you need to cry, you can cry over Hallmark commercials, and a lot of people do.  I used to. Secretly, of course.  I remember that one time when I was giving a presentation at IBM to a couple of hundred people, I got all choked up and had tears in my voice.  This sudden sense of good will and all's right with the world flowed through me, the fact that we were all there together, that I was part of something bigger.  Scary, right?  I would have made a good Nazi, I'm afraid.  I can be emotionally stirred by some strange things.  Luckily, I'm on a better track these days.  I don't even cry over commercials anymore, but music is stirring.  I personally believe that if we cry over commercials, we don't know how to feel our real sorrow or strong emotions, and all we can do is reach for the sentimental.

Did you know that ardent, conservative Buddhists don't believe in listening to music or singing?  OK, we're talking monks and nuns here, but they believe that the purity of their minds is side-tracked by music, which sways the emotions.  I took that seriously for a while and I rid my life of music in the house and in the car.  There was nothing to pull me from a major funk, and the silence certainly gave more room to examine the funk more carefully.  Talk about fun!

But I'm a pleasure-seeking, greedy type of person, and that lasted only a little while.  Unlike those Buddhists, I believe that music can pull out some of our deepest, truest feelings.  It makes us better people.  I remember that long ago, in our New Paltz, NY days, my daughter Jen accompanied the chorus I sang in with her flute during a performance.  Jen was so utterly beautiful, her music other-worldly, that I didn't get to sing a note that day.  I just stood up in front of all those people with a flood of tears running down my face.  How embarrassing.  But that kind of beauty goes beyond human.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Writing, Singing, and Zen

I did this little sketch last summer at our local farmer's market here on the Hardwick Common.  Every Sunday for four warm months, folks around here brought their maple syrup, vegetables, llamas, chickens, eggs and baked goods to our enormous common area.  During the event, local musicians sang songs, mostly from the 1960s, each week with varying proficiency.  Sometimes, people winced at the off-key Dylan renditions.  Other times, a guy would show up with a banjo and blow us all out of the water with his talent.

It doesn't particularly matter whether you are good or bad; music and singing makes you feel better.  They've done studies to prove it.  I think the same thing is true for writing, although once you start getting over-zealous, imagining fame, desire kicks the writing from a fun place and into a place of ego.  Lately I've been unearthing some of my books by Natalie Goldberg, who wrote "Writing Down the Bones" so long ago.  She's an old hippie, of course, although last time I was in Santa Fe, I discovered that she'd crept down from funky Taos to live in that more touristed city. Oh well...why not, she's getting along in years.

In the past, when I used to get more guidance from my dreams, I would have wonderful, soulful dreams about singing at the top of my lungs after a few hours of writing.  It was affirming.  Listen to Natalie's words about writing as a spiritual path:  "A writer's path includes concentration, slowing down, commitment, awareness, loneliness, faith, a breakdown of ordinary perceptions--the same qualities attributed to monks or Zen masters...Awakening does not feed ego's needs and desires; it pulverizes the self.  Our society couldn't bear such reduction, so we've tricked ourselves into the same path but call it writing.  We are less and less interested in the products and more interested in its process...that there is nothing to hold on to in the end."

 On the heels of writing the 50,000 words for National Novel Writing Month, I have to agree with Natalie.  I loved a lot of that month-long process, even if it was annoying as hell.  For one thing, I set part of the book in Kuwait, and by doing so, I was given a chance to go back there selectively, without still living next door again to a blaring mosque with several speakers on its tower grinding the call to prayer in Arabic into my sinuses.  And since, for once, I wasn't secretly writing about myself in the novel, it was completely freeing to re-experience that gravelly desert through different eyes.  No matter what the results might have been, it felt like singing.  It made me feel alive.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Handicapped by Healthcare

I was grateful to come back to this country's healthcare system last spring.  The only glitch was, I had no insurance!  So the fact that I was having "colitis" again--a recurring event over 10 years--was scary.  The usual treatment, when all else fails, is prednesone.  This is a steroid that leaves you fascinated by the alphabetizing of soup cans and utterly sleepless at night.  It also leeches all the calcium out of your body.  My mother-in-law, Rita, was left with a crumbling spine from the stuff. She never stood straight again.
So, because I was insuranceless, I couldn't get my hands on prednesone without paying a fortune in cash. I  tried to control my diagnosed "colitis" with diet. My sister suffers from colitis too and, ironically, we always joked that at least we could eat crap like cookies, crackers and bread. But that was not helping me.  By summer my illness was out of control.  My niece kept saying that the cracker/cookie diet was actually causing it, but when I finally did get insurance and I went to a doctor, she never mentioned this.  She just said that I needed a colonoscopy. Like an automaton, with nodding head, I agreed, but I knew that wouldn't solve my immediate problem. Meanwhile, my niece persisted; she said I had gluten intolerance.  Finally, desperate enough by July to try anything, I gave up anything with wheat.  I went six weeks with no results--worse results, if anything, and then I woke up one morning and I was free of symptoms.  So, yes, I'm grateful to be back in our medical system, but I do think that we need to address health issues with more logic and fewer pills. Perhaps it's because of the rushed system of HMOs, but doctors really have become pill-pushers and test crazy, and patients want the magic elixir without the time it takes to explore other avenues.  I teach kids each day who have been on ADD meds since they were six.  In order to get rid of the anxiety the meds cause, they take a pill.  They can't sleep at night from those two meds, so they take sleeping pills for that.  They are 14 years old, sitting there pondering the kinds of issues that old people wonder about, such as:  how are these pills going to affect me over time?

Monday, December 6, 2010

December 6, 2010

I live on the Hardwick Common in an old bed and breakfast that is now used for staff housing.  If you go into the attic of the house on a stormy night, it is like being inside an old whaler bound out of New Bedford for Tahiti.  The wind and rain lash against the sides of the building outside, but inside, the high wooden rafters and vast space make you feel protected and invulnerable.

When I leave my second floor room and walk out onto the common, the enormous flag at the top of the creaking pole whips and cracks in the wind.  Across the common is this church, lit up at night like the Roman structures it emulates.  Living on the common elevates your senses; you think you are better than you are.  I needed this, this sense of being part of something noble and grand.  It reminds me of my time working at Old Sturbridge Village, wearing the long dress and apron, poking at the kitchen fire.  I'm part of the historic monuments.  Inside the B&B, I am the old crone in the apron, dragging my broom from room to room, checking on those young teachers and tsking over their glasses left dirty in the sink.  I wash them up in a jiffy. When the parents of said teachers come to visit, I'm sure they look at me with furrowed brow, something like:  there but for the grace of God, look at her living here with my youngster, and at her age, the old bat!  But the truth is, I love it there.  I have no bills.  It's toasty warm.  It's a kind of nursing home in the sense that I can eat at school and then walk back down the mile hill home to my bed.  I love my bed, which is lined up with the TV and VCR where I can fire up my latest Netflic and slurp tea and coffee. 

Those poor young teachers, boy,  I feel for them.  Were you ever new at teaching?  If not, you don't have a clue about what I'm to say.  But, man, all you do is worry, day and night, and overplan, and then throw everything out that you planned, or introduce three plans in one class period, hoping one will work.  I'm the sloe-eyed turtle in their midst, blinking my reptilian eye as they might frantically ask my advice about how to handle a difficult kid or approach to a lesson.  I always laugh and say, "It's fine!  Don't worry so much," and they go off unsatisfied, as they should, because I'm no help at all.  But there is no help for a first year teacher.  You just live through it.

 My stockings aren't wound around my ankles or knees, and I'm usually not in a housecoat, but I'm sure the residents of my house perceive me the way we used to perceive the 64 year olds at IBM.  Those Beamers always looked ready for the grave, covered with dust and cobwebs, limping down the long hallway.  They died on average three months after retirement; it's not surprising.  I have no such plans, if I ever do retire.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

December 5, 2010

I grew up near Worcester, MA.  The sketch opposite is from Salisbury St. in Worcester, where we used to ride around and gawk at the rich peoples' houses from our Hudson Hornet.  We did a lot of gawking from a Hudson when I was young.  After the tornado ripped through Westboro around 1954, not too far from my house, we piled in so we could, hopefully, ride victoriously through the devastation of other people's lives.  We were disappointed when angry cops diverted us from the tragedy we'd missed by a few miles.
The Hudson Hornets that came and went from our ash-filled driveway (we burned coal, no doubt the last people north of Appalachia to do so in 1960, and Dad paved the driveway with the ashes) were numberless.  My dad was a convert to those cars because they were luxurious in his mind.  I did like the radios in the Hornet, which I blasted with the music of The Animals.  But luxury or not, Hudsons never started, or worse, our latest incarnation would start, and it would take me uptown to buy my dad's Winstons, and then it would die for the return trip.  I guess my love of walking long distances began then because I was often trudging the backroads home on a weekend afternoon.  It was so common for the car to die that I stopped considering it to be a problem.  To this day, though, I am left with a phobia about cars breaking down.  I obsess about it, obsess about my children's cars, and I'll obsess about your car if you are in need of my services.  Apparently the "bad boys" from the Lyman School in Westboro liked our Hudsons as much as my father did.  Dad worked over there; he was in charge of the dairy farm.  No doubt the farm was considered to be therapeutic in a Yankee way for restless adolescent thugs.  This was back when the state would house orphans as well as murderers all in the same place; they just needed to be under 18.  My father taught the boys how to run a dairy farm, and it was a dangerous job.  I remember sitting over codfish gravy and mashed potato and having Dad tell us how the night watchmen had been killed by a bunch of escapees who hit him violently over the head.  Anyway, Dad had earned a reputation at Lyman School with those murderers and orphans.  They knew where we lived and they knew he always left the keys in the Hudson Hornet that sat on an ashpile near the road.  They always headed straight for Davis St. and stole our car.  I remember one Easter, the only time we ever really went to church, that we discovered the car was gone.  Luckily those boys would go only as far as there was gas, then abandon the car.  As far as I know, the succession of Hornets never broke down for any of our thieves. They'd typically run out of fuel about an hour away--my mother was a skinflint about gas and she'd only put in $1 worth every four or five days. So we always got the cars back, although they drove funny afterward, the energy of those criminals imbeded in the steering wheel.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

December 4, 2010

I just spent nearly three hours watching episodes of "The Office", interrupted only by racing to the kitchen to make a cup of peach tea, or checking the thermostat because I kept getting hotter and hotter.  That happens when you watch an entire season in one sitting.Anyway, I deserved it, this oblivion, after a rough morning anticipating a call from the Firestone Tire station in Northboro.  They were checking out my Subaru because, for the last month, everytime I backed up and turned the wheel, the car shuttered like it was going to be launched from Houston.   I say it was a rough morning only because I was sure that my transmission was about to bite the dust after listening to entire Bob and Ray Car Talk segment on Subarus and their difficulties with transmission problems...and eventual need for replacement at $2,000. I tend to be a pessimist about these things, so I waited for the call with sweaty palms, only to find that my power steering belt needed tighting.  That's it!  A turn of the wrench and: voila!  $46!  Still, not $2,000!  I'm still a pessimist, though, figure the other shoe will drop, that the turn of the wrench will unturn.  So, what have I learned today, besides the fact that Michael left Dunner Mifflin to start his own paper company with Ryan and Pam?  I learned to never listen to Car Talk again.  Pessimists beware!

Friday, December 3, 2010

December 3, 2010

I spent last week in Arizona, near the Mexican border. The weather was surprisingly cold most of the visit, but my son, grandson and I spent one day at Patagonia State Park, which happened to be full of cows. They were plopping large cowpies all over the paths around the lake. We had many near misses, shoe-wise, especially with my three-year old grandson. Oddly, many snow birds were camping there, sitting outside their hard-sided campers, no doubt dodging cowshit during the cold, dark mornings. I used to think that I'd like to do that whole camper routine, roaming around carefree in the winter months, but after seeing those folks sitting in their red canvas chairs with the beverage container, I changed my mind. I think all they must do is read, or fight, or dread getting back on the highway in one of those beasts, only to face the next site where you have to get the plumbing lined up. Probably good for retired truckers or pilots, people who are used to parking beasts.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

November 13, 2010

Today we're having our high school reunion--only 45 years. God. So I'm distracting myself from the cold wind of death pursuing me and fellow classmates by drawing pictures and doing the damned novel. I plan on having a few drinks as well. Oh rats...I forgot my camera so I guess I won't be showing any pictures from the reunion. Relieved? Me too.

Friday, November 12, 2010

November 12, 2010

This is National Novel Writing Month and I've hit 22,000 words today. I'm blinded by words, so it's nice to put up a cartoon inspired by my trip to Rothenberg, Germany around this time last year, when I was still living in Turkey. It's the second Birham (spell?) at this moment, actually, and the folks still in Turkey or Kuwait are headed out for a week of Italy, Spain, or train rides through Eastern Europe. How sweet it is! Truthfully, though, I'd just as soon be headed to Arizona next week to see my son and grandson. The novel I'm writing takes place, partly, in Kuwait...it is making me nostalgic! Hard to imagine, really, but as I write about walking along the sea there, I actually do have a sense of fondness for the place.