Tuesday, May 27, 2008

World's Most Fascinating Blog Post (I WIN! I WIN!)

I went shopping this weekend. I bought second-hand books and very non-glamorous items such as spices (cumin, dill seed, red pepper flakes), brightly-colored folders (in an attempt to be more organized), and microfiber cloths with which I shall rid the universe of all grime, pollen, and grime and pollen by-products. See? I just dusted you. Be clean! (Pay me.)

Let's just cut to the books, shall we?
Here we have, from left:
"Flowers of the World IN FULL COLOR"--I plan to use this to figure out what the flower is in Jayne's picture.
"The Shy Little Kitten"--a golden book, of which only the spine is faintly visible here
"The Complete Book of Garden Magic"--the magic involved is when I remember to water the plants...I think this is the third copy of this book that I've purchased...I always get swept away by the "Magic" part and the little fairy on the spine
Two volumes of "The Mother's Encyclopedia"--there are very old, very scary photos of Hitler Youth in here
"Happy the Land"--clearly, the land's gotten some of dat ol' garden magic
"Robinson Crusoe"--y'know, I don't think I've ever read this and I believe it's time
"The Mystery of The Fire Dragon"--I'd investigate the garden fairy
"Help! I'm A Prisoner in a Chinese Bakery"--now this one is just a classic

Pardon me. I must now go and cut more grass with my Lawn HogTM. It doesn't even really need cutting.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Born to be Wild

Me: "I need a weed whacker."
Friend: "It's called a string trimmer."
Me: "I don't wish to trim strings. I wish to whack weeds. Very much."
Friend: "String trimmer."
Me: "WHY?
Friend: "Dunno."
Me: "Huh."

Me: "Hi, I was wondering if you have the Black & Decker 18V cordless GelMax String Trimmer in stock?"
Home Depot Clerk: "A WHAT?"
Me: "A Black & Decker 18V weed whacker."
Home Depot Clerk: "Oh sure."
Me: "What's a string trimmer?"
Home Depot Clerk: "No idea.
Me: "Huh."

Whoever you are, I think this is the start of a beautiful friendship...

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Three Conversations

Conversation #1:
Me: "Th-th-there's an ORIOLE on the hummingbird feeder!"
Friend: "Yeah, they've been doing that at my house, too."
Me: "No! You don't understand. There's more. It's like a Disney movie. There's a black and white woodpecker climbing up and down the tree next to the oriole. And then there are two bright green hummingbirds dive-bombing the oriole."
Friend: "Why don't you take a picture?"
Me: "It'll never work."
Friend: "Well, why don't you--"
Me: Click.

Moral: When you think a picture will never work it will, in fact, never work.

Conversation #2:Me: "Big news from the doctor."
Friend: "What?"
Me: "REALLY big news. You'll never guess!"
Friend: "WHAT?"
Me: "I am TWO INCHES TALLER than you always say I am. TWO INCHES!"
Friend: "Huh? I never say that. You always just say you're my height."
Me: "I say that when I'm joking, but you have always refused to give me those inches. I am that tall! I have those inches!"
Friend: "Huh. Okay."
Me: "You don't REMEMBER this?!"
Friend: "So, what else did the doctor say?"
Me: "AUUUUUUUUUGGGGGH! I have those inches!"
Friend: "Sure you do."

Moral: Victory is hollow when the opposition is wily.
Alternative Moral: In the words of a nurse who once measured my height, "Never you mind how tall you are. You just gonna SHRINK anyway."

Conversation #3:
Friend: "G'night, sport."
Me: "G'night, cochise."
Friend: "G'night, boss."
Me: "G'night, uh, gipper."
Friend: "G'night, chief."
Me: "DAMN! I'm stuck."
Friend: Click.
Ring ring.
Friend: "Hello?"
Me: "G'night, slim."
Friend: "Huh?"
Me: "Remember we were doing that a second ago and I ran dry? Well, I thought about it, and I'm coming back at you with 'Slim.'"
Friend: "Eh."
Me: "No good?"
Friend: "Eh."
Me: "Crap."
Pause.
Friend: "Gotta go."
Me: "G'night, CAP'N!"
Friend: "G'night, commodore."
Me: "No! Stop!"
Friend: Click.

Moral: I'm not even sure what that contest is, but I always lose it.

Bonus Conversation (I had lunch with my sister today, which made it a very, very good day indeed)
Sister: "I read the poison ivy one. Who's this Sparkle Plenty supposed to be?"
Me: "It's just a silly name, it's from the funnies*, remember?"
Sister: "But, why is it you? And, who are these Redbeard people? Who are all of these witty pirates?"
Me: "It's all silliness."
Sister: "I'm all shy of this Sparkle Plenty."
Me: "WHAT?"
Sister: "I'm all shy of this Sparkle Plenty. Who is she? Hang on. THERE I AM!"
Me: "Yeah. People really liked the Easter picture."
Sister: "AUGH!"

*This is what we called the comics section of the paper when we were growing up.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

The Rise and Fall of the Herb of the Year

In 2007, the Herb Society of America declared that lemon balm was the Herb of the Year!*
Caption: Lemon Balm Receives the Happy News and Rejoices, Yet Feels Guilty and Undeserving Because It Figures It Is Really Just Lemony Mint With A Different Name (see how some of the leaves are kind of sadly looking off into the distance, as other leaves shrug?)

I know, I know. I don't need to recap this for you. You were there, eyes glued to your television sets, when Walter Cronkite announced the 2007 Herb of the Year. In fact, where were you when it happened? Many of us found ourselves pausing while ironing our ironing board covers and gathering our little ones around us to hear the news. If we didn't have little ones, we went next door and kidnapped our neighbor's children, and boy, block parties are awkward now, huh? But, it was a moment in our country's history that needed to be shared: LEMON BALM! HERB OF THE YEAR! GET OUTTA HERE! I mean, we were all happy for it, but LEMON BALM? It's a WEED! Who even knew that it had a name?

Unfortunately, Lemon Balm, also known as Melissa Officinalis in the courts, felt much the same way. The pressure! Oh, the pressure! And, the harsh, glaring beam of the spotlight of public adoration! All of a sudden, Lemon Balm was thrust into high-end Garden Center showcases--the kind of Garden Centers that look shabby but have million dollar irrigation systems concealed beneath the adorably rusted $500 tricycles (the seats of which have been removed and where orchids now grow) and the $750 Radio Flyer wagons brimming with pedigreed roses that won't even let you sniff them on the first date. The kind of Garden Centers that give away DOUGHNUTS and let you drive away without making a purchase because they're so well-off (not that I, personally, have ever done that...okay, yes, yes I have done that).

Every day, Lemon Balm sat there, flanked by two giant, pitying Buddha garden statues ($950 each), while its leaves were pinched and sniffed, and customers asked, "But, what can I DO with this stuff? Isn't it just mint?" and the Garden Center staff would cry, "SMELL it! It's so relaxing and balmy and lemony and soothing!" "But, isn't it a WEED?" the customers would say, and "It's Herb of the YEAR!" the Garden Center staff would croon. So, customers felt guilty about eating the free doughnuts and bought a lot of Lemon Balm because, while expensive, it was the cheapest thing in the Garden Center. Nobody was fooled. Lemon Balm felt like a fraud.

As the year wore on, Lemon Balm began to run with a rough crowd. In sketchy public parks everywhere, when the hoarse cry of "Weeeeed! Weeeeed!" came out of the shadows, Lemon Balm found itself stuffed in little plastic baggies and rapidly pocketed by people who were really, genuinely happy to get it. Even though Lemon Balm was a weed, the people seemed thrilled with this. Finally, to be accepted as is! Yet, the joy was short-lived and Lemon Balm soon became known as neither Herb or Weed, but: "This vile crap, he screwed us, man."

It was with a great sense of relief that Lemon Balm greeted 2008 and the coronation of a new Herb of the Year. Before Lemon Balm slunk off to grow wild and fragrant along the banks of country creeks, as was its preference, it hung around to see what poor sucker would be next.

"CALENDULA! Calendula is Herb of the Year for 2008!" the Herb Society of America declared, while reporters dutifully scribbled the news down, muttering among themselves, "What the hell is calendula?" One bold, pugnacious scoop pushed his pork-pie hat back at a jaunty angle, cigar waggling in the corner of his mouth and bellowed the question out loud, "Now see here, ya mugs, what the hell is calendula?" Nervously, the Herb Society of America representatives consulted with each other, and held the party line: "Calendula is calendula."

As Calendula preened before the flashbulbs, nudging a few puny pots of spindly Lemon Balm out of the way, there was a very soft noise. Was it the wind? We'll never know for sure. What we do know is that as Calendula spread its leaves and strutted beneath the klieg lights, it and only it heard a soft whisper as Lemon Balm prepared to crawl off silently and spread across the land.

"Psst...Calendula? You're really Pot Marigold or Poor Man's Saffron." And although Calendula swiftly whipped its heads around, it could only see a sea of adoring--if slightly confused--new fans.
*Actually, it really was Herb of the Year and it is a pretty cool herb described as "This refreshingly humble member of the Mint family, often considered to be a weed, plods along as a hardy faithful, and yet it is a surprisingly hip and helpful herb." Humble, hardy, hip, and helpful. Yo, what could be better. Plus, I understand that you can use it for pesto and tabbouleh. You can also use it to make something called "Carmelite Miracle Water," and here is the recipe for "Carmelite Miracle Water." Lemme tell ya, I'm pretty sure the "miracle" part is the vodka and not the Lemon Balm, but whatevah. (Oh, wait. I see. You're not supposed to DRINK the Miracle Water, you're supposed to dab it daintily upon yourself. Huh. Still and all, perhaps more miracles would be found through the internal application of the vodka sans herbs.)

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Hey, Movie Dude! Get A Cat!


Lily hasn't had very much experience with television. Actually, I don't think she has had ANY experience with television. In the old country, it was enough to sit and stare at a blade of grass. So now, she has a very emotional experience if a dog comes on the television and starts barking. She swivels her head around sharply as if saying, "WTF! How the heck did he get in here and why is he stuck in the shiny box?" Then, she advances toward the television giving hoarse cries of sympathy. If she just happens to looks up and SEE a dog on the television--barking or not--she advances toward the television, pops up on her hind legs, puts her front paws on the television stand, and stares at the screen. This is pretty cute and fascinating, but sometimes I'm watching a movie and I just want to watch the movie without Lily having an emotional reaction.

Here's the problem: Everything I have been watching lately has a dog in it. Often, a barking dog is in some kind of dire peril which makes Lily very, very emotional. As it turns out, dogs are key players in many kind of films and, distressingly, they're often leading humans into great danger. Such danger-magnets are dogs that I've decided that many plots would collapse without a dog and, on a human level, the characters in the movie or television show would be far, far better off if they had a cat.

1) "The Brave One": Jodie Foster and Guy from Lost do not need to go to the park to walk the dog because they have a cat. They stay in, eat Chinese food, watch a movie featuring a dog (that the cat is not at all phased by), get married, and live happily ever after. Title must, therefore, be changed to "The Contented One." All because there is no dog.
2) "I Am Legend": Will Smith happily lives out his life in his super-reinforced house. Sure, he doesn't find a cure for the dread mutant zombie plague, but his cat shows no desire to venture outside--definitely not to run willy-nilly into a stronghold of mutant zombies--and he and his cat spend endless enjoyable hours playing with a piece of yarn. Title must, therefore, be changed to "I Am Cozy." All because there is no dog.

Then, of course, we have more jolly fare--comedies and Disney snuff films.
1) "Best in Show": Sorry, we have to get rid of this whole movie which is unfortunate because I love it.
2) "Old Yeller": Sorry, we have to get rid of this whole movie which I don't regret that much and which Lily is just never gonna see.

Oh, my what a world: http://www.themoviefordogs.com/ I just found this as I was sniffing around the Internet. You're supposed to show this movie to your dog so it doesn't get lonely. Hoo boy. The second I opened the link (what--I was curious, I'm not gonna buy it), a tiny little "Woof!" came out of my laptop speakers directly into Lily's ear. She awoke instantly and trotted to the back door to see who was outside. She's still not sure what happened and is restlessly conducting a room-by-room search.

And now, for something completely different.
I was looking at Web sites to help a friend find an apartment, and I came across this text. It's kind of like someone ate the real estate ads of a newspaper and threw them up. Or something:
"This is a foxy and magnificent neighborhood with fine, symmetrical, classy, and bewitching houseboat, apartment, hacienda, and houseboats. Co-workers, denizens, and better halves inspect and frisk and determine mountain chalet, log houseboat, resort chalet, and oceanfront houseboat. Our site does accommodate various locality beachfront, private, lakefront, and beachfront bungalow, cottage, and villas. We made and composed our webpage to be fair and sightly. The beachfront listings, log listed properties, log indexes, and studio advertisements for these can be mapped.

"Householders and companions who are studying houses for rent and are trying to conceive homes for rent OR VRBO rental homes, and condos for rent can rake our website and our ski in/out classified ads, resort classified ads, loft listings, and beach advertisements. Usually, collaborate and bail out your roomers, buddies, and roommates to a spinach, well-known, extensive, and winning sector. Our online website consist ofs vicinity, domain, and block poop sheet, customarily. Using our website, real estate agents numerate vacation home, hacienda, vacation home, and villa listings."

If a Web site can partake in hallucinogens, this one has done so.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

John Nolan Appreciation Day

I have my favorite reporters and news sources.My mom had a favorite reporter, too. She told me about this reporter in the following phone conversation:
Me: "Hello?"
Mother (choking with laughter): "I can't believe he's doing this!"
Me: "Mom?"
Mother (sobbing with laughter): "He's GREAT! I wonder if anybody else reads this thing?"
Me: "Mom?"
Mother: haaaaaaaaaaaaaaa (drops the phone, hangs up).

Me: "Hello?"
Mother (sniffling, struggling to regain control): "Sorry, honey. This is just really funny."
Me: "What's really funny?"
Mother: "This guy who writes the Police Log in the paper. He's hilarious!"
Me: "Huh?"
Mother: "I know. Look, I'll have to show you the paper the next time you come up."
Me: "Okaaaaaaaaaaaay. Little wine tonight, mom?"
Mother: "You'll see."

And, I did see. For many years, John Nolan--reporter, author of the Police Log that made my mother laugh, former policeman in Scotland, journalist, gentleman scholar, wit, and tireless chronicler of the small town of Farmington, New Hampshire--stealthily slid humorous little tidbits into the normally very boring Police Log.

It's hard to recapture the magic of the moment my mother first discovered John Nolan as, bleary-eyed, she sipped her morning coffee and idly pawed through the paper. There, amidst all the little columns that are part of small town life--the Senior Center Quilting Bee, the School Lunches for the Week ("Sloppy Joes, potato crispies, carrot coins, canned apricots, oatmeal cookies, milk"), she snotted her coffee when she stumbled upon some of Mr. Nolan's Police Log work. For that reason--I can't provide you with the same moment of discovery--the following excerpt probably won't translate well. Still, I'm including it as a tribute to Mr. Nolan and to my mother. Although the original paper my mother enjoyed reading Nolan's work in went belly-up the year that she got sick, Nolan is still walking the Police Beat online, as well as writing articles. He kept her laughing almost to the end of her life.

Here is an excerpt from one of his police logs:
1:22 p.m. — A dog has been barking for almost three hours in the Logan Street area, but intuitively shuts up when a cruiser arrives.
1:57 p.m. — A Twombly Street resident reports he has a wild animal stuck under his fence. It is not a cat and neither is it a dog. Rochester police refer him to Fish and Game. Fish and Game says it is not their responsibility and refer him back to Rochester. At 6:03 p.m. the resident calls the station to say he has removed the animal himself and it is dead. Nice going, authorities.
4:40 p.m. — In the Old Dover Road area, an elderly lady wanders off from her husband and is found by the surprised resident of another house. In this case, a wife swap makes everybody happy.

6:56 p.m. — A Bridge Street resident complains of loud music and wants them "to keep it sown." Peas and quiet wanted?

Please go here to read: Farmington Corner: A Surrealistic Compendium of Life in the American Boonies by John Nolan and to buy "The Collected Poems and Songs of Farmington Corner." Then, go here to see the artwork of his wife, the very talented Stephanie Piro.

This is an excerpt from Farmington Corner: A Continuing Tale of Life in the Boonies, No. 285. Poets who Matter: #1. Omar KhayyamBy John Nolan, All Rights Reserved.PLEASE GO READ THE WHOLE THING AND BUY HIS BOOK.
"In Glasgow, I was a police officer, and for several years was assigned the Blackhill beat in the northeast of the city, where a substation had just been opened in the housing project of 5,000 people in the vain hope of subjugating it. The station was small – it had previously been a candy store - and its conversion had presented several architectural challenges including how to fit five toilets into a confined space – one for the public, one for prisoners, one for policewomen, one for policemen and one for sergeants and upper ranks. The prisoners’ toilet was in a holding cell whose door opened into a narrow passage leading to a kitchen and other urinary facilities in the rear of the building. The cell’s reinforced observation window looked out onto the office where a desk sergeant typed or, when there was opportunity, dozed. This arrangement could be particularly irritating to typing or dozing sergeants if the prisoner within the cell elected to flatten their face against the glass and stare into the office. Often there would be a cry of "Curtains" from the sergeant and a constable would dutifully tear out the stock market pages of a newspaper and tape them, upside down, onto the glass, to frustrate the prisoner’s gaze whilst substituting nothing interesting to read. A Blackhill prisoner tended not to take this treatment lying down, and might then stand with his back to the wooden door, and thump it over and over with his heel. In a well-rehearsed maneuver two constables and a sergeant would subsequently rush into the cell and deprive the prisoner of his boots. Sometimes this quieted things, but not always, for persistent types would resume the thumping in their stocking feet. At this stage, a constable would look expectantly at the sergeant and, given the nod, would retreat back up the corridor to the kitchen, fill up a white porcelain mug with cold water, sneak back down and whisk the icy liquid under the cell door. An anguished cry would result, as water swirled round sock, and a barrage of curses would follow. 'There must be a mellower way,' I thought to myself, after witnessing this ritual yet again, and turned to Omar Khayyam for guidance."
This was an excerpt from Farmington Corner: A Continuing Tale of Life in the Boonies, No. 285. Poets who Matter: #1. Omar KhayyamBY JOHN NOLAN, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.PLEASE GO READ THE WHOLE THING AND BUY HIS BOOK.

Happy Wednesday! I suppose I should go do my real work now, huh?