Wednesday, October 29, 2008

I ignore idiots

Well, I try to anyway. I am rarely successful. I find stranger-idiots harder to ignore than idiots-I-know.

The first stranger-idiot that really stuck with me was about 25/30 years ago. It was actually a pair of idiotic moments, juxtaposed idiocy if you will. I was in the medium sized NE town in which I grew up & I was stopped at a light (on Jerome Avenue near Dr. Merkelson's office, if you want specifics). There were two blacks boys (i.e. african-american youths) slouching their way across the street & a little-old-lady going bat-sh*t on the horn of her car. You think you know who the idiot here is but I bet you are wrong: the boys were in a cross-walk & she was trying to make a right run on red. Flash forward, a car full of teenagers honking their brains out at an old man with a walker jay-walking through the same busy intersection. In the second one they are all idiots. Even the passengers on the back seat of the car.

What sticks with me is my conviction that every participant in these little vignettes each left the scene absolutely sure that they were not idiots & the other guy should probably just die. Except for the first two boys; I do not think they had the vaguest idea she was beeping at them. They were so right they could not see that she thought they were wrong.

Even if I did know where the people were & could ask them, I doubt even one of them would remember the moments I remember. I am fairly certain that at least two of them are no longer above ground, but that is the extent of my knowledge. I am equally certain that the unremembered fed their own absolute version of reality.

This brings me to a very recent idiot, also in traffic (yes, I file my idiots: idiots in vehicles, idiots by the side of the road, idiots who think their bicycle helmets will protect their entire body, etc.). She was walking back & forth across University Avenue, in the crosswalk, so I guess that makes it better, having a very involved, emotional conversation with someone on her cell-phone. Oblivious to the traffic around her, she talked & gestured & paced.

I obviously do not ignore idiots; I cannot even forget them. Apparently I archive idiots. I need something else for 'I'. Lets go back to "H'. I will pretend I am Eliza Doolittle & say: h'I h'am 'aunted by h'idiots. No, that is just stoopid.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Ginger binge & the big bamboo

I have made veiled (& not so veiled) references to "edible ornamentals". The first of these I ever grew was ginger & it is not a pretty story, but here it is: Once upon a time a good sized root of ginger, purchased at the grocery store fell behind the crisper drawer in our fridge. A long time later, I mean a really long time later, I noticed a funny green shadow & pulled the drawer all the way out & there, in the deep dark cool of the fridge I had grown a healthy crop of ginger.

I have an undeserved reputation for having a green thumb & it is stories like this one that feed it. The reality is, I throw a little bit of everything all around & what takes, takes over. When planting new things (as opposed to relocating volunteers) I do try for plants-that-will-not-kill-a-mammal. As a general reference I use this book, but recently picked up a few more at the Friends of the Library Book Sale.

Besides ginger (& we have a lot of ginger: blue ginger, pine cone ginger, butterfly ginger, peacock ginger), I have also planted some bamboo. I put in Arrow about not-quite three years ago & it seems to be following the pattern I was told: the first year it sleeps, the second it creeps & the third it leaps.

When I first ordered the bamboo, bamboo-loving friends of mine warned me about the invasiveness of arrow bamboo. The director of the local botanical garden tried to talk me out of it until I assured him I understood just how invasive it was. I felt comfortable, though because my local expert told me it was an excellent winter fodder for horses & he was right. It is also a favorite for emus, although he probably did not know that at that time. & he agreed it would be a good food source for when I got my elephant. C**** has known for years that I have been wanting an elephant.

This year I am thinking of expanding my bamboo collection. Something to screen us from our ever-encroaching neighbors perhaps. Or something really big & weird. I am leaning towards Alphonse Karr because I like the stripey-ness but I still have not made up my mind.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Sarah Palin is not Hilary Clinton in drag OR I have not voted Republican since Lowell Weicker moved to the Green Party & I moved to New Jersey

I was stuck in the waiting room of the small animal vet clinic that gets so much of my disposable income, when I came across the Time Magazine article with the reference to Palin's behavior towards banning books. Not being a regular net surfer (seriously) I missed the firestorm surrounding the faux list of books to be banned etc.

I was never going to vote McCain/Palin even before Palin came on board. What respect I had for John McCain is long gone & I DID once respect him. I even felt bad about the Stephen Colbert interview on his campaign bus in 2000, although I already knew I would vote for Gore. Just because I respected him did not mean I agreed with his positions. Remember positions? & voting records? the idea that we might choose a candidate the reflects what we think ought to be the priorities & solutions & not necessarily the candidate endorsed by Keanu Reeves or Chuck Norris or Van Halen (& let me assure you that last endorsement made me scratch my head; at least it was reluctantly given).

But all that aside, by the time this posts I will have already voted because we live in one of those early voting states; it is much fun to tell that to the phone banks that call in the final two days, as in "wow I did not know that about your candidate. I wish I had before I voted for the other guy last week". I love early voting. I can cast my vote a full two weeks before everyone else & renew my library books at the same time.

But back to Sarah Palin. The next time I saw her smiling face was on a newsletter from three (3), yes three different animal welfare/rescue/whatever e-mail lists I subscribe to. & this was the gist of their message:
Our 501(c)3 status does not permit us to endorse any particular political candidate or party. This is a picture of Sarah Palin. She is wearing fur. It might be from an animal she shot herself. Maybe even in the face. This is a picture of the Palin family with an animal they shot in the face. //they included the pictures, of course but I wanted to give you the option of whether or not you threw up while reading my blog.

It is absolutely true that I was living in New Jersey when Weicker was elected Governor of Connecticut. It is also true I voted for Lieberman AGAINST Weicker in the election that lost him his Senate seat (but freed him up to be governor, right?). It was one of those decisions actually made in the voting booth, which I just do not do anymore. I was sorry almost immediately. I am still sorry. At night when I cannot sleep I worry that my mother is still mad about it & well, she has a right. After all I voted for the new guy & then moved out of state, sticking her with himself for far too long. I also voted for Michael Dukakis, but I know that just barely makes it better as far as she is concerned. My mother remembers Prescott Bush & well, we don't need to go there.

In New Jersey, we had Christine Todd Whitman. Now SHE just might be Hilary Clinton in drag. I wonder that the McCain campaign did not wander up to her, if the point was indeed to hook those disgruntled Clintonites. Also, she also has that maverick brand, what with falling out with Cheney (Cheney! I ask you, how can that not balance out her pro-choice stance?).

And then Houston, Texas (I blame A for this tour of places-you-do-not-want-to-live-in-the-US), we had Kay Bailey Hutchison. I do not remember who I voted for/against her except that even at the time I knew he did not have a chance. Ann Richards (who I did vote for) lost the Governor's race to George H. W. Bush & we all know how that turned out. I guess I can see how the McCain campaign passed her by: Sarah Palin is way-more photogenic & I think that might be part of the strategy. I would have said her indictment on misconduct etc. might have been the deterrent but we all can see that could not be the case. Besides, she has won two elections since then.

Or maybe it is the whole Maverick thing. I admit I do not quite get that. A political party, a dominating political party is convincing people that they are against the standard party line? I had a room mate that used to mock the college students that shopped at the army surplus sales on campus: "Dress unique, wear a uniform."

Joseph Leiberman could have been Hilary Clinton in drag (notice how I am avoiding references to lipsticked pigs right here where it would do double duty). That would have been a Maverick-move! Sure all the anti-semites would not vote for him, but they would hardly vote Obama either (it has been my experience that most racists are equal opportunity racists).

If the McCain campaign had even an ounce of sense, they could have sewed it up right there. & then my mother would REALLY be mad at me. But they didn't & I don't know why. According to this same Time Magazine article, McCain was being pressured to choose Mitt Romney. I can only imagine this is the same think-tank that choose Dan Quayle.

So who am I voting for, you ask? You must be kidding. Even if I would tell you, you should not listen. Make up your own damn mind & vote early if you can.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Way down 'pon da Swanee Ribber

I had lived here for several years before it finally registered that the Swanee Ribber in Old Folks at Home was the Suwannee River. What can I say, I had only ever seen Suwannee on a map & I did not know it was pronounced Swanee.

This weekend is the weekend of the annual quilt show at the Stephen Foster State Park & as this posts, I hope to be on my way. I am told, in the way of all things Southern, that it is not nearly the show it used to be; Faulkner was not kidding when he said the past is not dead it is not even past. I don't care that they never managed to secede, the American South is another country

Whatever: as the quilt show exists today, it is one of my favorites. There is nothing high-falutin' about it. They take anything & they get everything & it is all hung together in the buildings that house Stephen Fosters piano collection (yes, you read that right) & the oh-so-vintage diaramas of his songs (really, they are a favorite thing of mine).

A funny thing about the park & the pianos & the (current) Florida State song, Stephen Foster never spent any time here. I am always fascinated by the 'historical' or 'cultural' sites that are manufactured (have you ever been to Plymouth Rock? It is a rock. It is probably not even the right rock, for those of you who remain convinced there was a rock at all).

It is not as though there is not plenty of true history here that is interesting. I realize that it would be hard to build a major tourist attraction out of Rosewood, which I did not know it was just a few towns over until I was drove through on the way to Cedar Key & then I was happy to be distracted from the brain tumor I almost certainly do not have but I was kind of hoping I did (a diversion for another post). But the Zora Neale Hurston Festival should be getting more attention than those old pianos.

I suppose what we venerate says more about who we are at that moment than who anybody was (or was not) that we are building the monuments (or cultural centers) around. & I while am enjoying the quilts at the Stephen Foster Cultural Center, I will always be within a few yards of someone who is enjoying how much better the show used to be more.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

I am thinking honey bees

When we first moved into this house, the cedar trees in the backyard had only just begun to suffer the twin assault of drought & blight. In those days, they looked like green furry fat people dancing whenever the air moved. By late September, they looked like green furry fat people with pink hairdos. This is the time of coral vine.

Each Winter I collect multiple recycled yogurt containers of seeds. In the Spring I dig out every plant I find in the yard & they all to good homes. The cedar trees are all but gone. In the meager limbs they have left, many hives worth of bees are gorging themselves on the abundant coral vine.

I am very allergic to bee stings. & wasp stings. & hornet stings. & fire ant bites. & these are just the insects I know for sure. The appeal of honeybees is strong, though. & this year, the coral vine has covered the gate I use several times a day, I pass right by bees so heavy with pollen they pull the blossoms over. Not one of them has ever paid me the least attention. I used to do all the things I was told to avoid their attention: no bright colored clothing, no perfume, no shampoo that smells floral, no fragrant fabric softener. The list goes on. & I need not have bothered. A honey bee would no more mistake me for a flower than I would mistake a honey bee for a ... well I cannot think of anything. Trust me, a honeybee knows what is & is not a flower.

I was given this advice while I still worked in downtown Hartford. Perhaps in the confusion that was Bushnell Park in the early '90s a honey bee could think I was a flower, but honestly none ever did. In fact, I never saw them go for the carousel horses either & they look (& smell once they've had a few candy-coated kids pass by) way more flowery than anyone I ever met.

I am not sure, but I suspect these horses have been out up for the winter. Here, we are still in the throes of summer: the yard still needs to be mowed (I have not, of course, Sunday we put Becca in the yard for a peaceful graze & will again later in the week), the cotton plants (yes, I planted cotton) have only just bloomed & only one has formed the familiar cotton-head, it is late afternoon & 89F as I type this. But I am itching to reread the bee book & I just might have to get the getting started with honeybees pamphlet from IFAS.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Saint Denis & companions

Today is the day of Saint Denis & Companions. I admit it was the companions that piqued my interest. I was of course immediately diverted by the legend of Saint Denis carrying his own head back into a village north of Paris following his martyrdom. The idea of a of headless body roaming the countryside had such a 'chicken' quality I needed to know more.

In the usual way of these things, the stories of several men have morphed together, been well-seasoned with fiction & mixed in a great big bowl of time. The general gist seems to be Denis founded a church, converted many with the zeal of his preaching, his success made others jealous & so he was martyred in a manner that removed his head from his body.

I admit, under ordinary circumstances I would have lost interest, but I remained intrigued by the Companions. While named right there in the day, the index does not discuss the companions at all. My mind wandered to other companions.

The first famous companion I thought of was salt-sucking creature in the original Star Trek. I discarded this as unlikely; everyone knows the salt vampyre inhabits another galaxy & besides it probably could have convinced the jealous priests/whomever to keep it around. Also, it is companions, plural. How many salt vampyres are we supposed to accept?

& so my mind wandered to other companions. Maybe they were not human & that is why they were not named. But then Saint Francis of Assisi's day (last week-end as it happens) would doubtless have included animals, too.

Or maybe they were somehow expunged. Something was undesirable about these companions. Maybe they included his wife & children. The cult of Denis dates back to before the period that the church had acquired considerable wealth. Part of how the church hung on to property was preventing priests from marrying & entailing land & goods to their descendants.

A more undesirable companion to the 21st century church might be a homosexual lover, but they have not been very thorough about removing same-sex references to other saints. Saint Aelred has been out of the closet since before closets were invented. The more widely known Saint Sebastian is considered the patron of homosexuals & has been for a very long time, whether the church put this on his letterhead or not.

Besides, the church's behavior has always been more lenient toward the homosexual priest than the priest who wants to marry a woman & raise a famiy, so it is very hard to imagine that this is the reason for the Companions anonymity.

It took a bit of digging (!) but I eventually found that the Companions are the two other men martyred with him & buried in the same grave. It was so passive, I wondered that they were included in the day at all. It seemed so small, in the grand scheme of things & so ordinary, like the ridiculous three-on-a-match superstition.

Then I remembered Henry Hector Munro & his famous last words. Just before being killed by a WWI sniper, he said "Put that damned cigarette out". & then another mind, another voice was gone.

Monday, October 6, 2008

The chicken is dead, long live the chicken

Recently Snowbird, a fluffy white ameraucana hen, disappeared from the yard. She arrived as a peep Memorial Day week 2007. She looked quite a bit like a previous ameraucana we called Lemon Chicken (LC was very yellow as a youngster, but bleached to white as she aged), but nothing like in temperament (LC chased dogs, to the bitter end as it happens).

Snowbird was much too large to be bothered by the small hawk that likes to lurk near the barn, but all together defenseless in every other way.

I felt bad, of course. She was one of the calmer birds. She was still laying an egg or so a day. She was not prone to picking fights with the others & mostly peacefully wandered the yard, scratching & pecking & being a chicken.

Had she gone to an egg factory, seventeen months would have been her best-case life-expectancy. After being pumped full of hormones to maximize egg production, packed into very tight spaces (debeaking is often necessary so they will not injure each other), denied adequate rest periods (the lights are turned on roughly 2/3 to 3/4 longer than they are off, tricking the birds into laying more eggs), at seventeen months she would have been packed off to a processing plant to be made into tv dinners or dog food or whatever.

This factory chicken will never see grass, almost certainly not spend any amount of her life in sunlight & the bugs she will encounter will not be of the cricket or worm variety; they will be bacteria. Healthy, abundant bacteria because the conditions she lives in are too unsanitary not to breed germs with vigor.

Snowbird's life was roughly the same duration, but could not be more different. Her days were spent in either a very airy henhouse (which they all consider a punishment) or roaming the yard & pastures. She was particularly fond of a nest she made in the feed room from bits of last year's hay & spent the hottest of the summer days in that shady, cool place.

It is foolish to make a pet of a chicken. The free-range life they enjoy makes them vulnerable to every sort of predator & it is unusual for us to have any given bird more than three or so years. The exceptions here are Spotter & Big Buff.

Spotter is the ancona I have written of previously, Big Buff another amauracana. I learned this summer why they are so long lived. A fox was hovering outside the emu yard, clearly wishing he had the nerve to steal one of the hens roosting in the oak tree above the emus themselves, but he did not.

I heard the rackets, ran the fox off & herded the girls to their henhouse. & there on the rafter at the top of henhouse I found these two old girls. When they knew there was trouble, they took themselves immediately & without too much panic to the safest place on the farm: high in the henhouse in the middle of the pasture supervised by a donkey. Donkeys are the only equines that naturally look for trouble. Big, elegant stallions will run from a small barking dog, but a mangey old donkey will run toward a dog large enough to reach his throat & throw it ass-over-teakettle if he can get a good enough grip.

I do not know why everyone does not keep chickens. There is nothing so easy as a small yard & a wooden hut insulated in winter with hay bales ($6.50 will buy you enough hay to keep five birds well-warmed for more than a month). This idea that they are mean or dirty or difficult is one of the many scams played on us by Big Food & I do not know how we fell for it.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Hapless husbands hurry home

A has a favorite joke: a doctor, a lawyer & a physicist are having an argument which is better a wife or a mistress. The Doctor says: a wife, she can keep your life organized & remember all your patients when you see them & generally be a helpmate. The lawyer says: no a mistress is better. She is around only for what you want, you don't have to spend every free minute with her & when you separate, you don't have to worry she will take half of everything. The physicist says: you really need both. Then you can tell your mistress you are with your wife, your wife you are with your mistress & go to the lab & get some work done.

That was the whole post, but I thought I should make a bit of an effort. So I will add this: my bookclub has observed that I lean towards entrees that can be made in one pot. The other quality they share is being able to sit, in a warm oven for 'a bit' if someone is running late. Or has no idea what time it is. After all, are you really running late if you don't know you are late?

I think that really is it for this post.