Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Ohio Christmas- Christmas Eve

From Ohio Christmas

Christmas eve was a beautiful evening. The Ohio gray that had characterized the last three weeks lifted and the sky shown! Sam's hat blew out of their car and when we went out to hunt for it (it was a very windy evening) a red tail hawk flew close over our heads.

From Ohio Christmas

In traditional fashion we had some Christmas beast and, then, to shake things up opened the crackers my mother had purchased. Eight crackers. Each one contained a whistle with a different note and a matching numbered sticker to wear. A genuine chopstick was included to use as a baton as well as sheet music of Christmas carols. Marianna, Sam, and I played two whistles each. My mother conducted. The notes were weak, the tunes imperfect, but we had fun. I'll spare you the audio version of this.

From Ohio Christmas

After watching much of "A Christmas Story" we retired, listening for the sounds of eight tiny reindeer.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Ohio Christmas: Sunday/Monday 21/22

From Ohio Christmas

There is only one word that can be applied to these two days.


We watched the temperature drop on Sunday until it reached zero. Zero degrees Farenheit. Add on sustained winds and the wind chill Sunday evening was estimated at 25 below.

A good day to stay home and inside.

And, shoot a couple of short videos with my mother.


Ohio Christmas : Saturday 20th: RAIN!

Each year my mother and my cousin Elaine get season tickets to the theater in Dayton. The first production of this year was the Beatles tribute band, Rain. My mother decided she wasn't too fussed about going, so she gave me her ticket and I went with Elaine.

The production was held in the Victoria Theater. The band, Rain, played live music - dressed ala Johnpaulgeorgeringo with costume changes corresponding to musical eras while 3 projector screens displayed images. These images varied between footage of Beatles crowds going crazy, live images from the audiance or band, news images from the 60s, psychodelic colors/swirls during the latter albums and remakes of Beatles photos and album covers featuring the musicians from Rain.

The juxtaposition of the early crowd videos - teenages screaming, fainting, and climbing barricades with the Saturday matinee crowd was stark. Maybe it was ALL the white hair - and not from any bottle of hydrogen peroxide. The audiance was relatively game and would stand the clap and some dance or sway, but they (we) never matched the fervor of those Beatles fans. And, I wondered how "Rain" felt about that. My mother thinks they'd be thrilled to be earning money, but I've had enough experience with musicians to suspect that they'd always like to see young women throwing themselves at them. (Maybe that happened on Friday evening's performance.)

The concert was fun and I was moved to tears (discreet tears - why was I crying?) by the second song of the show "All My Loving". Maybe I had just been too long away. And, while Marianna had proclaimed that it was "LOUD", I must disagree and state that I thought they could have used some greater energy on their crescendos. These peaks never reached the level of intensity that I thought was needed.

Afterwards, Elaine and I ducked into the Schuster to escape the cold as we traveled to our parking garage. There, they had set up the old Christmas windows from Rikes downtown store...and "Tikes" store. We didn't do any shopping.

Ohio Chirstmas: Friday 19th: Bear's Mill

From Ohio Christmas

Made a trip out to Bear's Mill (between Versailles and Arcanum) to finish my Christmas shopping. I had originally intended to send Versailles wine to my friends in NJ, but when I went to the winery I was told they couldn't ship to NJ ?? and that I couldn't mail wine. I was dubious, but I didn't want a hassle, so I reconsidered and decided to send some of Bear's Mill's products, instead. (I don't know. Maybe it is illegal to ship cornmeal to NJ, too, but no one has told me this. Yet.)

If you haven't been to Bear's Mill it is worth the trip to see the beautiful pottery, pick up some ground grains or pancake mix, and appreciate the Stillwater River. I love to go and it isn't all about my love for eating cornbread. Over the years I've taken some of my favorite photographs around the mill and river. If I have time on New Year's Day, I'll see if I can find the swing. I suspect it is around here somewhere.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

My Christmas video for you

I've missed posting some YouTube favorites for the holidays. This one I picked out before I left Australia. (I really can't do it here as I have no sound on this computer!) In honor of "Born Standing Up" (Steve Martin).

I just haven't been able to keep up here. My failure is the result of a combination of really slow (dial up) internet connection here in Versailles which frustrates me, particularly when it comes to uploading photographs (which I cannot edit here, either) and the absolutely frigid condition of the last few days. This seems to be worse upstairs at the computer. Maybe it is the west window I face. Maybe it is holding my hands out away from my heart. Anyway, I hope to catch up in a few days when I've returned to Brisbane.... though I should acknowledge there I will be plagued by jet lag and WORK.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Ohio Christmas - and today is Thursday (18th)

From Ohio Christmas

Another grey Ohio day. The ice hasn't melted from our driveway and it is still impossible to drive all the way up and into the garage. That's because you have to stop about 6 feet from the door and wait for it to rise. Then, you don't have enough traction to get started again... unless you back up onto the road and start over.

Today we put up the tree.

And, I mailed off 2 more packages of Christmas presents to friends I will not be visiting while I am in the US. I still have two to go.

Ohio Christmas - Wednesday at the food pantry

A quick check on the UPS tracking page revealed that my Shutterfly calendars (Christmas gifts) left Piqua at 9:28 AM. They would/did arrive today!

On Wednesday I helped my mother and the Council of Churches pack and distribute boxes of food for the holidays. After 3 hours I was promoted from standing in the way to sitting and doing nothing. I moved into the church office where I had the important job of answering the phone - it rang once - and calling people who had not shown up to collect their food and gifts. I made two calls. (Lets see, that is 3 short phone events in 2 hours. No wonder I fell asleep on the couch after we got home.)

On a more positive note, though decidedly less altruistic, while waiting for the phone to ring I did take time to pilfer a sheet of paper and scribble an outline of what became my Christmas newsletter.

Ohio Christmas - I can't remember Tuesday

From Ohio Christmas

Tuesday (the 16th) was a very icy day. Fortunately, we didn't need to go anywhere.

Presents were wrapped.

Ohio Christmas - The saga continues


Once again Kevin, Zelda, and I have our souls boosted by the prayers of first graders and on Monday I had the pleasure of spending an hour with them. I really should have been more prepared. Instead I opted to answer questions which somehow - after everybody told me what kind of pet they had and which ones had been killed by cars - evolved into me telling them how you test an animal for rabies. (You cut off the head and send the head to the state laboratory.) We don't have rabies in Australia so my skill in rabies testing is unused. One little boy - the same one who clamped his koala pencil hugger onto his ear - waited at the door when we were leaving the classroom to ask if I had ever had to cut off a head.


But, only once.

Postscript. I do recognize that you CAN only cut the head off any single animal only one time. What I meant was that, well, you know.

Oh, and I have a very cute photo of all of us, but, alas, it is not digital.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Ohio Christmas - Week at a glance

From Ohio Christmas
Day 5 - Tuesday DEC 9
Christmas shopping. Fairfield Commons.

Day 6 - Wednesday DEC 10
Decking the Halls #1. Unpacking snowmen, Santas, and trees. Put up tree in Foyer and decorate the banister.

Day 7 - Thursday DEC 11
Christmas shopping. Troy. Find super gift for Kev-o at Kohls. Hope batteries are included. Buy tree.

Day 8 - Friday DEC 12
Decking the Halls #2. Complete mantle. Start putting boxes away.
Finish gifts for MEH, Dixie, and Linda. Shhhhh.

From Ohio Christmas
Day 9 - Saturday DEC 13
Finish shopping. Piqua. Find gift Kevin doesn't know he needs. Hope air holes will be sufficient for flight. Pleased to be finished with shopping as now we are beginning to look like elves.

Day 10 - Sunday DEC 14
Dinner with MEH. My mother says something about showing her the photos I brought back from Brisbane on the computer.
"The ones of Zelda on the computer."
"No photos." It was at this point I thought I might have to kick my dear mother under the table. I didn't want to ruin any of the surprise of the photos in the calendar I had just finished making for her.
She caught on before any blood was shed, but I suspect that Auntie now is onto me.

Candle light service. I'm a non-discriminatory candle lighter for religious holidays having practiced with the Buddha's birthday. I'm probably a bit more comfortable with those ceremonies held in Chinese where I cannot understand the celebrant. (Though I do enjoy the Christmas music more - and in this case it was a fine harpist. Unfortunately, Christmas pageants aren't usually accompanied by kung fu boys flying across the stage.)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Ohio Christmas Day 4 - Monday Dec 8

From Ohio Christmas

It is on Monday that three notable things occur.

I do not take a nap.

I make my first visit to the library to re-establish internet connectivity.

I get a Christmas massage.

One of my gifts from my mother this year was a massage. There is a new massage therapist in town working out of the Sports Medicine Clinic. I arrived early and was led back through the facility- through doors and corridors and more doors into a little white painted room with prominent beams and studs. The environment is minimally decorated with a photograph of the moon and a primitive painting of a church. And, white paint. And, a small portable heater.

"I'm sorry it is so chilly. Take off all your clothes and get under the sheet."

This apology is repeated often. But, neither the apology nor the heater does much to warm the room.

So, in goose bumps I lay under the sheet studying the room and wonder, "Was this the old meat locker?"

"How did you get to be here?" I asked.

He described his job hunt which ended here in Versailles. "Funny story," he said. "This used to be the meat locker. See the holes in the beams. I think that is wear they put the hooks from which they hung the carcases."

I don't know. Maybe I've been away from home too long. This just isn't the environment that I associate with massage. Frigid. Stark. Bright. Meaty.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Ohio Christmas Day 3- Sunday Dec 7

From Ohio Christmas

Jingle. Jingle. Jingle. Ho. Ho. Ho.

Pancake breakfast to benefit the Versailles Council of Churches (with Santa).


And, in the evening we drive Santa Dixie to visit her grandchildren.

Dixie bought her Santa costume years ago for the first baby. At that time her husband, Mike, wore it. Now, the baby is a senior in high school and Mike has had enough of Santa. The youngest grandchild is in junior high and all the grandchildren stand back aghast when Santa Grandma comes knocking on the door - telling stories - singing songs - dancing dances.

"Grandma. You were drunk." Zach said later.

It wasn't true, Zach. Your Grandma is all that.

I had a great time as official photographer - missing the critical shots as the digital camera (Dixie's this time) says "You pushed the button? You want a photo? Well, OK." Meanwhile, 2 seconds and THE shot has passed. Still, I must have shot 50 or so. The odds are that something has to be worthy. I've yet to see them.

Ohio Christmas Day 2- Dec 6

From Ohio Christmas

Williamsburg Christmas Dinner. Ft. Loramie. Land of the lit up crucifixes.

Renee, Sam, my mom, Elaine and I met my Auntie, Michael, Uncle Carroll, and Karen. It was a cold!! and blustery and snowy evening. Dinner was fine - turkey - accompanied by carolers.

I come from a difficult family. My mother sings along. Michael and Marianna make faces and debate whether the men are sharp or the soprano is flat. Karen smuggles in martinis with a baggie of olives. And, I run around trying to take a photograph where everyone is properly exposed. (It never really happened.)

After, Sam does doughnuts on Route 66. Three-sixty to the right then to the left...but kept us out of the chasm that is the ditch. Fortunately, we neither met anyone - which was good since we were on both sides of the road - nor did anyone catch us from behind. There were a lot of vocalizations- and they weren't all "wheeeeee".

On the first day of Ohio (Dec 5)

Written on the 7th day. I think this isn't going to go very well!

I boarded the plane in Brisbane - no- wait - the story begins earlier.

At 8:30 PM I called Yellow Taxi to arrange for my pick up for the airport. My flight was scheduled to leave about noon, so I figured (reckoned, in Australian) if I left at 9:15 for a 20 to 30 min drive, I should be right. "No," says the agent on the phone. "That is right at the end of rush hour. We cannot guarantee that our driver will arrive on time and get you to the airport for your flight. 9:00."

"OK," I agree. "Nine o'clock."

"No. Not nine. Eight-thirty."

Reluctantly, I agreed. So much for having "lots" of time in the morning.

As I was washing up the breakfast dishes the next morning I heard this loud engine. Naturally, I thought, "The garbage truck is late. It is 8:10 already."

I should have been thinking, "It is ONLY 8:10." It was my taxi.

"So, the traffic isn't bad," I said to my driver midway. "Is this unusual?"

"No. Not for a Friday morning. There really isn't much of a rush on Friday mornings - people taking 'sickees', long weekends."

It took us 20 minutes to get to the airport. So, I had 3 1/2 hours to spend and Kevin had the dishes to finish.

I got to check in right away (yay) and got an aisle seat (yay, again! I don't have to ask anyone to move to use the toilet.) I was able to complete some of my Christmas shopping at the airport and look at the prices of cameras at the duty free shop. Of course, I haven't done any research to know what I want. But, I scribbled prices down on one of the "dockets" from one of my earlier purchases. Reduce, reuse, recycle.

I had just found my seat when the steward stopped me from getting comfortable telling me that they might need to move me - move the entire row. That was OK. What difference did it make to me if I was in row 41 or 50? Then, the man in the aisle seat leans over and tells me it is his fault. That he needs to be near an electric outlet.

"I need to be hooked up to a breathing machine. I stop breathing when I sleep."

"I don't want to see that!" As Kevin will confirm, it is always about me.

And, so we were moved and it was no big deal. At least not until his machine required additional water in the middle of the "night" and for some reason the way that filling needed to occur was over my sleeping body. Unfortunately, the water didn't all fall into the cup. Some of it fell down my neck.

I screamed.

They gave me a set of QANTAS PJ's.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

I'm Back!

I arrived in Ohio Friday evening. Exhausted.

In less than 3 short days I've slept about 28 hours and spun out on the highway - narrowly avoiding the deep ditch that we in rural Ohio call "the shoulder".

More later. I've been monopolizing the library's computer long enough.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Born Standing Up

From singles 2

In a sense, this book is not an autobiography but a biography, because I am writing about someone I used to know. Yes, these events are true, yet sometimes they seemed to have happened to someone else, and I often felt like a curious onlooker or someone trying to remember a dream. I ignored my stand-up career for twenty-five years, but now, having finished this memoir, I view this time with surprising warmth. One can have, it turns out, an affection for the war years.

I finished "Born Standing Up" just before leaving Brisbane. It was an interesting read and I was humbled by seeing someone else's determination, ambition, and work.

Through the years, I have learned there is no harm in charging oneself up with delusions between moments of valid inspiration.

In "Born" Steve Martin describes his origin- the family he was born to, the amusement parks where he got his first taste of "show biz", and life on the road. It obviously is not easy getting or being famous. Fame was never an ambition of mine and perhaps that is why Kevin liked the book more than I did.

I had a long routine (for me) in which I confessed to weird sexual fetish, "I like to wear men's underwear."

My favorite bits, I must admit, were when he tossed in a line from his act. I'd feel a bit shallow or guilty except that this is my nostalgia. As you can see from the photo up top, we were products of the Steve Marin phenomenon.

I'm so mad at my mother, she's a hundred and two years old, and she called me the other day. She wanted to borrow ten dollars for some food! I said, 'Hey, I work for a living'"

The book did, however, provide an excellent closer for any entry.
And my closer, "Well, we've had a good time tonight, considering we're all going to die someday."

Sunday, November 30, 2008


"This is the story of two sisters: Jessica Tate and Mary Campbell."

Last night we finished the final episode of "Soap". And, this deserves a few comments.

First- the DVDs that are available for "Soap" are pretty cruddy. We were pleased to be able to review this series that was so important to our youth - but the picture quality is very shoddy. I do not believe it is just our aging eyes. And, I don't believe that everything was so fuzzy back in 1979, 80, 81.

Second- the DVDs - at least the latter seasons - have no extras. We aren't really "extra" sort of people. But, we would have liked to see the episodes that ran before the onset of seasons 3 and 4. The episodes where the past is recapped before embarking on the new season- particularly the episode where Bea Arthur is God and Jessica is in heaven. Plus, we'd love to have heard an interview with Susan Harris about where she saw the Tates and Campbells going had they not been cancelled. If you don't know, the final episode of the series leaves Jodie trapped in a past life, Burt ambushed by bad guys, Jessica in front of a firing squad who is just pulling their triggers, and Chester pointing a pistol at Danny and Chester's new wife, Annie (no relation). (Sorry about the spoiler. You weren't going to watch it anyway because you've read my third comment below). We've looked for the synopsis episodes and for the Benson (season 5, I believe) episode where Jessica appears and tells Benson what has happened. But, we can't find anything. This led to Kevin saying something like "You know what this means when we get back to the US?". To which I could only come up with, "We find a time machine"? (He actually meant we had to scour the TV listings for reruns of Benson.)

Third. Season Four. Skip it. "Soap" is brilliant- particularly for its time - in Season's 1 through 3. Season 4 retreads old ideas- Jessica threatened with death, a odd/mystical/possessed/alien baby. In addition: Danny is more stupid. Chester is uninteresting. Dutch is simply annoying and Burt's character has been lost. (Not to mention there IS no Corrine or Benson.)

What next on the TV revision highway???

The X Files.

All Zelda, All the Time

I'm working on my Annual Zelda Calendar which means I'm reviewing and shooting new photos of our bad dog. I imagine she is getting a bit tired of this- especially since I had a couple of poses that I really wanted. And, she didn't. I don't know why she objects to wearing things on her head.... She's won on that one - so far - but here are a few of my favorites because I think they are good or very bad (that have not yet appeared in blog form).

The beginning of the Christmas season

From singles 2

In Australia, we learned today, the Christmas season begins on December 1st. Until this day arrives it is considered "bad luck" to decorate - though one would hope not to shop. We're good. Today, Nov 30 we only just celebrated Thanksgiving. I had to work this weekend, so our turkey day was devoid of actual turkey. We had homemade (per moi) chicken and noodles with mashed potatoes and cholesterol laden green beans with onions and bacon. And, pumpkin pie. We got to share our dinner with friends who bravely tried the bizarre American dessert and discovered pumpkin could be eaten sweet.

So, tomorrow will be both the day after Thanksgiving AND the first of December and we shall be ready to begin our "ho ho ho" in both cultures. I'm not sure how far along I'll get- though it appears on my list. My countdown to Ohio is in hyperdrive and I've yet to get serious about packing or finishing my photo gift projects.
From singles 2

Before I leave I want to accomplish the following:
1. See some of my favorite Brisbane Christmas lights - I hope to get into the city. I have never seen the lights there. This could be a difficult plan to fulfill.
2. Send out Christmas cards to our friends in Australia. These cards - well - they don't really exist yet and I'm not sure I have the technology to complete them. Fortunately, since these are the people we spend the most time with, they won't suffer from not getting a "holiday letter". They may even be pleased to dodge that bullet.
3. Pack. And, not forget any of the gifts I've purchased for friends and family back at home. I'm slowed down in completing this goal because I have this problem with all our suitcases. They are all falling apart in one way or another. I think I'll take the wheelie suitcase that still wheelies to the clinic and see if I can find a screw that will make the errant wheel stay ON. I'll only be left with the problem then of the corner opening up. Alternately, I can forgo all wheels. Then, it is just a matter of trading off size of suitcase with size of rip in the lid. And, weight.
4. Run the battery all the way down in my camera so I can recharge it before I leave.

Sorry- just talking to myself here. (Pretty interesting cross between a palm tree and a Christmas tree in the shot from K-Mart above. Do you have those in the US?? Guess I'll find out soon enough.)

Thursday, November 27, 2008

In the Electric Mist with Confederate Dead

From singles 2

"When people make a contract with the devil and give him an air-conditionied office to work in, he doesn't go back home easily."

Wow. By the time I finished the first chapter, page 5, I was hooked. Dave Robicheaux, New Iberia sheriff's detective, sees dead people. This isn't really the first time. Dave was communing with Annie and his dad in "Black Cherry Blues" - though I might not have told you that. This time he's getting a hand from General Hook - who you've already figured out might be "Confederate Dead".

"I need some help, general."

"You belong to the quick, you wake in the morning to the smell of flowers, a woman responds to the touch of your fingers, and you ask help of the dead, suh?"

No Clete this time (sigh). Rather, Dave is assisted by an FBI agent - Rosie Gomez. The sheriff has called in the FBI (Fart, Barf, and Incest... no, I think that is wrong) to assist in solving the case of a brutally murdered young woman. As in the best of Burke, this story is intertwined with a host of others - all interesting and, ultimately, all one. There's a movie being made in New Iberia. Julie 'Baby Feet' Balboni, old home boy, now a made man with his entourage is back in town. A body of a man Dave witnessed being killed in 1957 surfaces. Hmmm. And, everybody's seeing ghosts.

Like the rest of Burke's novels this one is peppered with fabulously evocative descriptions "his breath slid across my face like an unwashed hand", pithy prescriptions "You can't ever tell what'll fly out of a tree until you throw a rock into it", and some very funny moments.
"Oh, oh, he trying to get out on the dock, Dave. I ain't goin' out there to pull him out of the bayou this time, me. Somebody ought to give that man swimmin' lessons or a big rock, one, give people some relief"

"In the Electric Mist..." will soon be released as a film. Dave is played by Tommy Lee Jones - who might feel a bit old, skinny and craggy to me - but he ought to have a great smooth Cajun accent. Baby Feet is played by John Goodman- who isn't going to be the athlete that he is in the book- but I suspect will be oily and menacing enough. I looked at IMDB yesterday and was very pleased that everybody looked right. There is no release date yet - but I'm psyched. I'm hoping to have some moments of quiet with Dave's voice over saying something beautiful.
When I woke from my dream, the gray skies were filled with a dozen silken hot-air balloons, painted in the outrageous colors of circus wagons, houses, general stores, clumps of cows, winding bayous, until the balloons themselves were only distant specks above the summer-green horizon outside Lafayette.

One last word: denouement.

Sunday, November 23, 2008


From singles 2

Saturday was a beautiful day. Kevin and I threw all our responsibilities to the wind and boarded the 1:30 train to the city. Off to GOMA.

We went for two reasons.

Two things.

First, the Australian Contemporary Exhibition "Optimism" opened last weekend. "Optimism". It sounds like something everyone needs to see.

Second, Kevin didn't get to see the fabulous exhibits on the third floor that I saw on my last weekend off (and out). He hadn't gazed along the length of the box rainbow. He hadn't contemplated the expression of and skin detail contained within the giant lady in bed. He hadn't watched the Michael Jackson singers!
From singles 2

Optimism was, as you'd expect, fun and colorful. You also might have expected that photography was not permitted. (I haven't worked that out yet. They're happy to have me shoot photos of some pieces but not others.) Some of our favorites: The pairs of vesper scooter/animal hybrids, the BIG lacquer "paintings", the dark hallway to the "water fall", the paintings in the Salon, and, most of all, the furry white forest. We want one of these- we've got the perfect place to put it! (Note: I did not include the tapes playing of "Kath and Kim" highlights.)

From singles 2

While the exhibit itself was great fun, the children's activities downstairs were superb. Coloring fold together houses- including a fold together Winnebago, a walk through car soundscape, the opportunity to make and plant wheat grass in recycled paper pots. Black lights! The aphorism maker. (There was one upstairs, too.)

From singles 2

Kevin thought he could see what remained of the museum in the 45 minutes we had left. We almost made it through one room! It takes time to pull yourself away from the fabulous movie collages (I guess that is what you'd call them- clips of films strung together all dealing with the same theme.) and the Michael Jackson singers. Kevin spent time in front of each screen and so got to hear each individual voice. That's cool. I've only sat on the bench in the back in awe.

I don't think I'll make it back before I leave next week, but come January look for Kevin I to once again be GOMA bound.

Friday, November 21, 2008

"Strangers" by Dean Koontz

From singles 2

"The moon."

Listening to this unabridged on CD is a monumental project. Twenty-three CDs. Twenty-three. And, wouldn't you know that beginning at track 82 on CD 22, there is a significant scratch that won't allow my car or portable CD player to play.


It was 4 PM Friday. I knew the library would be closed but I had time, I hoped to find a copy in Border's Bookstore at the mall and read what would amount to the last 18 tracks on CD 22 (and then hope that CD 23 played.) I checked Fiction. I checked Science Fiction/Fantasy. Then, I used the computer locator.

It is available

by special order.


Fortunately, the CD played on my computer so I WAS able to finish the story that I've already invested 3 weeks in.

Review- it was just OK. Don't rush out to make that special order. (Though you can buy it used from Amazon for $0.01 USD.)


From singles 2

This week has been, shall we say, rainy. Monday I got to work and saw that the tree in front of the doctor's office next door was toppled over. Thursday morning I woke to find the trellis out front leaning on the sun screen in front of the window. Then, later, I heard that the inner city bypass was closed because there was an estimated 11 million liters of water in the tunnel. And, last night, we had another big, big storm! I'm not sure I've ever seen rain come down heavier - though the duration was pretty short. We lost power for about two hours. I spent a portion of that time outside watching the clouds. The cloud banks would glow in succession with silent internal lightning. I thought I made a movie of it, but, alas, I did not. Afterward, Zelda and I cuddled in our chair while I moved a votive candle over the pages of my book.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Love Story

Because Oxen and Rabbits are on the same wavelength, this can be a rewarding relationship. The Rabbit's calm relaxes you. And, since Bunnies avoid confrontation, there's little chance of temper flare-ups. When it comes to passion, your sensuality warms any cool Rabbit. You are both motivated to move upward and establish a secure environment for each other. This is a sweet union if either has experienced too many dramatic "gimme, with nothing in return" relationships.

Monday, November 17, 2008

A Stained White Radiance

From singles 2

I had never been able to understand the women who hung with outlaw bikers, because with some regularity they were gang-raped, chain-whipped, and had their hands nailed to trees, but they came back for more, obedient, anesthetized, and bored, like spectators at their own dismemberment.

I must say, I really liked that title. Equally true, the story did not thrill me. Maybe I read it in too many small bites. (Burke helped here (?) by shortening the length of his chapters.) Perhaps the story suffers by following so closely to my reading of "Black Cherry Blues" and "Morning for Flamingos"- two very strong efforts.

In "Radiance", Dave Robicheaux is investigating a shooting. Someone has shot through the window of the home of one of his childhood friends- though friend is too strong a word - Weldon Sonnier of the Sonnier family. Weldon doesn't seem to care and his sister, Drew, similarly provides no help. Dave spends at least half the book going between these two looking for insight into this escalating problem while the third sibling, Lyle, the local evangelical, faith-healer keeps looking Dave up to provide history and insist that the culprit is their father who was believed to have been killed in a work accident 30 years earlier. Add in a dash of New Orleans mob boss, Weldon's drug-addled wife's Ku Klux Klan affiliated politician brother, a trio of hired "button men", Clete, Dave's friend/employee Batist, and Bootsie who is struggling with her Lupus.

Both Clete and Batist are unfailingly heroic and Clete remains charmingly cavalier - but the "bad guys" are not distinguished. And, the reluctance of Weldon and Drew to communicate frustrated me as much as Dave. Like other Robicheaux novels, Dave gets an idea in his head about who is bad and pursues that... but often his/our ideas of good and evil don't mesh with the reality of the situation at hand. I apologize for the spoiler - in "Radiance" Dave and Clete are looking for the tie-in between the Aryan Brotherhood, the politician, and the mob- but in this case it is not the secondary mystery, it is just a ruse...and I think that is why I found it so unsatisfying. Maybe I wanted too badly for the bigoted politician to be corrupt - to match my own (like Dave's) prejudice. Maybe this disappointment was just too much reality for me.

I had determined once again to stop keeping score in my ongoing contention with the world, time, and mortality, and to simply thank providence for all the good things that had come to me through no plan of my own.

Oh, and lest you forget this is an Orion Publication:
I could see two trusties from the jail washing petrol cars in the parking lot.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Feast of San Martino

15 November

Kevin and I celebrated our anniversary (5 years!)Saturday evening by participating in The Sicilian Association of Queensland's "Festa di San Martino": hors dourves, four courses, and dancing to the music of "Dominic and the Latin Maffia". (I'm copying this from the ticket. I thought Mafia had one "f". Maybe that is an Americanism. Maybe Maffia, with 2 f's, means "drummer with a big smile".)

Like our "Faulty Towers" dinner, we were seated at a big round table - alone - with 8 empty chairs. Pleasantly, those other seats were soon taken- by 5 Australians, 1 Italian, and 3 Portuguese. (Hmmm... that would make 9 extra seats. Never mind.) Everyone was friendly. And, unlike virtually every other table, none of us were over 60 or members of "The Association". The question passing most commonly around the table... "How did you hear about this?" The answer was uniformly somewhere you'd buy food...deli, produce store.

The food was good and plentiful: anti pasta, ravioli, sausages with potato salad, and fancy 3 layered ice-cream: coconut, chocolate, banana. The music was great fun- accordion and drum set- the musicians were cool in their black suits with black fedoras - and EVERYBODY danced. Well, almost.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Christmas arrives in Brisbane

From singles 2


Santa arrived in Brisbane today. November 8. Both the Catholic Church and the Baptist Church, big believers in massive light displays, started erecting their stars and crosses and camels. At the clinic we have started to dig out our decorations and discussing hanging up the enormous Happy Holiday sign.

Maybe it is because Santa has so far to come from the North Pole, but I think it is because Australians don't have a Thanksgiving Holiday at the end of November. There is no obvious, widely recognized day on which the Christmas season should begin.

Even though it is too early, I must enjoy the Brisbane Christmas now because in only four short weeks, I will be cooling my toes in Ohio! Time to get those Australian cards sorted out and to complete my gift buying! This year it is very important that everyone receive Australian gifts - we cannot afford to spend those expensive US dollars!

15 November.

This is what happens while I wait to get a photo for the entry. Christmas moves in with a bang! Santa's now at Chermside shopping center. Christmas markets are rife. Won't be long until the big light show buses start moving out.

It is also, today, Steve Irwin Day at the Australia Zoo.

All this and I'm working.

Anyway, Happy Birthday! Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

This one's for Cathi

From singles 2

It has taken me until November to make my way back to South Bank. As you can see, the wheel is finished...with nary a little wedgy board in site. Still, I did not cough up the $15 to take in the view on this cloudy Brisbane evening.

Saturday, November 08, 2008


From singles 2

It was another long weekend for me and I didn't have anything special planned. Saturday was hot and humid. Kevin had work to do and was planning on going into the city. So, I hitched a ride and spent the afternoon at the GOMA.

Now, I know what you are thinking. "Been there. Done that." But, with the exception of the fabulous red ringed infinity sculpture, I think everything was new. (New with still 25% of the gallery to be filled and opened- next week. "Contemporary Australia: Optimism" begins November 15.) And, it was pretty great. I was sorry I didn't have someone with me to knock an elbow in his side and say, "Cool."

The exhibition on the third floor- architecture of Brisbane - didn't do much for me. I walked through it and glanced at the photographs of glassy boxes that looked like they'd been stepped on so that the walls were askew and the lid slid off over the side. Very contemporary - which I might like in person or in smaller doses - but an entire room was to me "much of the same". I am impressed with the little models that architects make of their buildings.

From singles 2
From singles 2

In the gallery opposite, however, was FABULOUS. The gallery is bookended (??) with a giant woman in bed and a cardboard box arch. A significant proportion of the 2-D images were a bit macabre and I was really sorry Kevin wasn't there to see them: a graphic-novelesque series where Guatemalan "worry dolls" were fleeing from a murder scene- on the lam- and captured. A series of ghoulish beings combined with and pictured in situations more apropos to children's literature.

From singles 2

My favorite, however, was in the center of this gallery: a video installation of a dozen people- all equipped with a ear-phone listening to, dancing to, and singing along with Michael Jackson songs. Each person was projected as a life-sized image and the soundtrack of the piece was NOT Michael Jackson - but all their own singing and mumbling. I assume that everyone knew what he/she was going to be asked to do since several were dressed in M.J. appropriate attire... but there was also a belly dancer?? and two women who stood there expressionless with only the slightest movement to suggest they were experiencing anything rhythmic. You couldn't make out any single voice let alone match it to an image. And, as a group they were truly awful. It was mesmerizing and it really, really, really gave me a better appreciation for singers.

The third gallery had video images and while I found some of them interesting, my brain was probably too full to either remember or describe them well. But, as Arnold says,

"I'll be back."

Petition to Barak O'Bama Re. First Dog

From singles 2

I can be ready at a moment's notice.

I have a history of political activism.

I have a history of inclusiveness. I will sleep in every bed with every family member on each night. I will share your chair with you - unless it is too warm. Then, I'll move.

You need not worry who will walk me in inclement weather. I don't like it. I have perfected the 15 second pee.

I understand that Malia has allergies. So do I. We can share my antihistamines.

I understand HOPE. I practice HOPE each day, all day long. I HOPE someone will throw the ball. I HOPE someone will chase me when I have the ball. I HOPE that each trip outside will include me. I HOPE (a lot) that someone will drop food on the floor.

I can help you house break your children. They will learn to keep their clothes off the floor and put their toys away when they are done playing.

For no extra kibble, I will keep your floors licked clean of crumbs and tidbits.

I can help you screen visitors. Every guest will get a thorough sniff and a good bark.

If you make better decisions than these liberal yahoos I live with, I will entertain your dinner guests by jumping up and down repeatedly for bites from the table.

I have experience with living in foreign lands and meeting both non-Americans (Australians, Swiss, Germans) and un-Americans (Cleveland Heights residents and gay and lesbian people).

"Psst- Zelda. McCain did not win. George W. is leaving the White House."

Lamington National Forest

From singles 2

Funny. It isn't covered with chocolate and coconut.

Two weeks ago in a fit of ambition I told Kevin we were checking out the car and driving down to Lamington National Forest for the Tree Top Walk. I printed out the directions, set the alarm to wake Kevin, and off we went.

Now, there's a reason I think that Kevin is the usual planner. My research says it will be a bit more than an hour drive. But, that is the amount of time it takes to get to the town from which you take this narrow, winding road for an additional 30 km. Narrow - like one lane - Winding - like hairpin curves. Oooboy. Up a mountain. So, that would end up being a two and one-half hour drive.

Still, we made it before noon. Checked out the bird feeding. Ate lunch. Took a 3km hike. Walked the tree top walk - which is a series of bridges about 15 meters in the canopy of the Lamington National Forest. The walk itself takes less than 10 minutes. And, while it is not the best tree top walk in Australia (that would be in Western Australia), it was a very nice forest with beautiful birds. (Just listen to this whipbird- which sounded even more cool in person.) And, it was cool. Cool. Cool. Cool. Cool. Cool. Cool. Cool. No sweating here. AMEN.

We are not going to jail!

It is official!

Kevin says we never were. He didn't think they were going to rescind our citizenship, either, and strand us here in the land of heat, humidity, and spiders. And, he says, we were NOT going to pay taxes to Versailles just to make them quiet.

For the last 3 days (since the election) I have been corresponding with the tax administrator of Versailles who has questioned our ability to vote with an address in Darke County. How was it possible that we could live in another country and vote? To make decisions about things, like taxes, that would affect people in the United States?

Anyway, it is OFFICIAL. From the Board of Elections:
You and Kevin can vote because you are U.S. citizens living abroad.

So, despite the fact that our little blue votes fit better up in Cleveland Heights, we are registered and LEGAL voters in rural Ohio. Word to the wise: this would be the WRONG time to bring up a proposal against gay marriage in Versailles.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Last call for Halloween

I came home today and took down the last of the Halloween decorations. Everything looks sad and empty. Bare. No more bats. No more ghosts. No more pumpkins or skeletons or spiders.


Plenty of spiders.

November 5th

Kevin and I would like to congratulate Barak Obama and Joe Biden. Glad we could help - now we just have to convince the village of Versailles that we don't actually live there and so do not need to pay income tax. The price of democracy! And, Sarah, I'll miss the laughs.


Continuation of Melbourne Cup Results

One of my horses came in last (Honolulu) and so I won an additional prize. We are really rolling in the money now!

Words of wisdom from "Morning for Flamingos"

This didn't seem to fit into my review neatly, so I'm giving it space of its own.

Two gems about life and a fun fact:

1. "You're too serious. It's all comedy, man. The bottom line is we all get to be dead for a real long time. It's a cluster fuck no matter how you cut it." Tony Cardo

2. "Save yourself a lot of grief and don't make a mystery out of morons." Minos Dautrieve

3. "Did you know a half-million dollars in hundred dollar bills weighs exactly eleven pounds?" Minos Dautrieve


They've hatched. That is the only explanation we can come up with.

Last night- while watching "The Daily Show" - we glanced away from the TV and at the wall then ceiling.

"What's that?" I asked as Kevin paused the show, walked over and peered at the moving spots and I left the room.

From singles 2

Spiders. Baby spiders. Baby spiders who look to us like they'll grow into those large, menacing, webless, fling your arms and legs out, big-ass, ugly, god-awful huntsman spiders. ARGH.

And, it's not just one. Or, two. We must have killed at least 50 last night.



The vacuum is now armed and ready in Kevin's office. I had to wait until after his alarm went off to start up the battle, again. Ten more.

Just a preview of the zombie apocalypse.

A Morning for Flamingos

From singles 2

"You're one all-together, copacetic motherfucker, Robicheaux."

Book 4.

I'm enjoying reading these in order because I appreciate the continuity between stories. I feel like I'm living with Dave. As "Morning" opens Dave is working for the sheriff's department again. He is in debt from the legal fees incurred in "Black Cherry Blues". The reader doesn't need to know what has transpired in any prior novel, however. The stories stand alone nicely. When some past event is referred to, Burke provides a couple of lines of necessary background. Sometimes it feels repetitive (to me on this journey)- yes, Dave is an alcoholic. Sometimes, it amuses me. Each time he re-introduces Clete, for example, he has to review Clete's list of past bad behavior- and as the books in the series progress, this list becomes longer. Kevin will tell you- I love Clete.

'Wouldn't that be something, me and you working together again? You remember when we blew up Julio Sagura's shit in the back of his Caddy?'

I looked out at the sunlight under the colonnade.

'Hey, I don't feel bad about smoking a pimp and drug dealer,' he said. 'I think it's a mainline perk of the business. There's nothing like the smell of cordite to clear up your sinuses.'

'You almost go us killed.'

'Who's perfect? But let's be serious a minute, mon.'

In this novel Dave's gone undercover to assist the DEA in a sting. He's playing himself- a cop with a checkered past who's out of law enforcement and is looking to enter into the drug business. The target is the top dog in New Orleans - Tony Cardo.

In stories like "The Sopranos" or "Underbelly" - we are presented with a somewhat sympathetic picture of some really bad people. Burke does this with Tony Cardo. But it isn't just the reader/watcher who is moved - so is Dave. And, that's the rub.

I went inside the confessional. The priest slid back the small wooden door behind the screen, and I could see the gray outline of his head. His voice was that of an elderly man, and I also discovered that he was hard of hearing. I tried to explain to him the nature of my problem, but he only became more confused.

'I'm an undercover police officer, Father. My work requires that I betray some people. These are bad people, I suppose, or what they do is bad, but I don't feel good about it.'

'I don't understand.'

'I'm lying to people. I pretend to be something I'm not. I feel I'm making an enormous deception out of my life.'

'Because you want to arrest these people?'

'I'm a drunk. I belong to AA. Honesty is supposed to be everything in our program.'

'You're drunk? Now?'

I tried again.

'I've become romantically involved with a woman. She's an old friend from my hometown. I hurt her many years ago. I think I'm going to hurt her again.'

He was quiet. Had had a cold and he sniffed into a handkerchief.

'I don't understand what you're telling me,' he said.

'I was shot last summer, Father. I almost died. As a result I developed great fears about myself. To overcome them I became involved in an undercover sting. Now I think maybe other people might have to pay the price for my problem - the woman from my hometown, a man with a cripple child, a young woman I was with today, one I feel an attraction to when I shouldn't.'

His head was bent forward. His handkerchief was crumpled in his hand.

'Can you just tell me the number of the commandments you've broken and the number of times?' he asked. 'That's all we really need to do right now.'

Add in a super bad hit man, a falsely accused young black man, an evil New Orleans detective (who I knew from "Neon Rain" - I feel so "in the know"), Dave's first true love, Bootsie, and Clete. So, we've got true evil as true evil. A "good guy" who is bad and a "bad guy" who is also good. Clete who's done some really bad things but in this book is 100% and Dave who is confused.

An excellent, excellent read. Great characters, page turning action. Ideas about life and love that make me pause to reflect and in another person - see myself. Finally, Burke ends with one of those pictures of South Louisiana that has me ready to pack my bag and move to yet another hot and humid clime.

It's still winter, but we treat winter in South Louisiana as a transitory accident. Even when the skies are black with ducks, the oak and cypress limbs along the bayou teeming with robins, the eye focuses on the tightly wrapped pink buds inside the dark green leaves of the camellia bush, the azaleas and the flaming hibiscus that have bloomed right through the season. South Louisiana is a party, and I've grown old enough to put away vain and foolish concerns about mortality, and to stop imposing the false features of calendars and clocks upon my life, or, for that matter, upon eternity.

P.S. This book is also published by The Orion Publishing Group, London. And, therefore, I was prepared (though confused) when Dave went to Bootsie's and found:
I had to ring it twice before she answered, a tower in her hand, her neck spotted with water

I spoke with a librarian when I returned "Black Cherry Blues". She was not surprised that there were a lot of typos in the book. She sees it "all the time. There are no editors anymore." WTF???!!! What is she reading?? Please, let me know if this is common in your reading. I am obviously not a really big reader- but I read enough (my opinion, of course) and I have not had this experience before. I think it has to vary by publisher and I wonder if it might vary by country. I left the library asking if I could donate a new copy of "Black Cherry Blues" - to which I was informed that they would all have those typos. Do I look like an idiot??? I was going to buy a copy from a different publisher.



Yesterday was the Melbourne Cup - THE horse race in Australia if not the universe. Everywhere people swap money, stop mid-day to watch the race, and women slap funny feathered, flowered facinators on their heads. Not quite a National Holiday - though I did see a web site where I could have expressed my opinion about whether it SHOULD be.

Di passed the description of the field to me and told me we were going across the street to the TAB to place our bets. "EVERYONE makes a bet today." So, I found one of the favorites, Septimus, was trained by A. O'Brien and thought that seemed good enough.

But, that horse didn't win. He didn't place or show, either. I never saw that $10 again.

Fortunately, however, we had an in-clinic pool of $2 bets. For another $8 I got four random picks - which I must say is the better way to go. One of my horses, Viewed, won! Payout $20.

Meanwhile, Kevin missed the cup because he was addressing a student question. Geesh. He did, however, "buy" three horses in his company's pool. It was not until they had given the entire pool of money to the guy who had lucked into picking the first and second place horses (Viewed and Bauer) - that he figured out that one of his horses (C'est le Guerre) was horse number 4 (who came in 3rd) and not horse number 5- which was his starting position. He whipped $8 out of the pot!

So.... we were both $2 ahead! We're contemplating chucking the ole 9 to 5 to be full time punters

Friday, October 31, 2008

On the Thirteenth day of Halloween!

Happy Halloween to All our Ghouly Friends and Family!

Unfortunately, we didn't get our act together to get a party planned- though we did actually make our costumes last week. Sigh. A rather pathetic end to the holiday. We have made the effort for a little holiday horror - watching the Italian film "Rec" this week. ("Night of the Living Dead" meets "Blair Witch Project". Let me be clear.... I cannot recommend it.) and the British series "Dead Set" (zombies meet Big Brother. I CAN recommend it. Well, it is better than "Rec".)

So, as the season winds down to the ultimate night and ghosties and ghoulies and long leggety beasties roam the earth, I hope you are all safe and snug at home with your loved ones- with a little jack o'lantern to warm the night and keep you safe.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

On the Eleventh day of Halloween

From Savannah Cemetary

I thought it was time for a little creepy. This photo was taken in Savannah's Bonaventure Cemetery featured in "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil". Savannah is one of my favorite places to visit. When Kevin and I visited we took a Savannah Ghost Tour. More spooky fun!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

On the Tenth Day of Halloween

I DID find some of those family Halloween photographs. They were hiding on Kevin's computer! I don't know why I didn't scan any of the earlier photographs. (They were taken with a Polaroid Camera.) So, here you have

1. Mutant Millennium Bugs for 2000
2. Over 40 Synchronized Rhythmic Gymnastic Team 2002
3. Sheep 2003
4. S'Mores (not yet assembled) 2005

Obviously, we really enjoyed the head gear for the bugs!

Monday, October 27, 2008

On the Ninth day of Halloween

I think we may be starting to jump a bit chronologically. Zelda and I went to a Halloween Dog Walk - in costume. We didn't win. We were obviously robbed. Zelda took her bee life very seriously as you can see. She was keen on pollination but couldn't figure out how to make honey.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Saturday, October 25, 2008

On the Seventh day of Halloween: AKA I married a Zombie

Kevin's zombie obsession dates back to the final quarter of the last century. When I first met Kevin he had already watched "Night of the Living Dead" something like 47 million times. His goal was to be a part of the next Romero zombie flick, "Day of the Dead". Because I do things like this, I decided to help him.

Kevin and I created a zombie portfolio complete with resume, references, and photographs. Included here are some of the photographs. We had some very cool zombie ideas: the priest zombie, the punk zombie (dead with oozing ketchup blood), and even the "wild and crazy guy" zombie. (That dates us!) My roommate, Robin, helped out as zombie fodder.

And, both Kevin and I did get to be extra zombies in "Day". Kevin even scored a couple of frames of screen time!

For any other zombie-loving boy the story might have ended here. But no. Recently, my zombie-loving man found an opportunity to once again become a zombie. This time in the comic book "Walking Dead". Once again, I took zombie photos for Kevin. They weren't very good. We didn't invest in blue face make-up or tearing of real flesh. But, then, all the artist needed was something from which to draw Kevin into the story: the glasses and the "I'd rather be playing Cosmic Encounter" t-shirt do that very nicely.

And, in keeping with the title, it must be said that Kevin and I did try to get married on Halloween in 2003 - but my father had a medical appointment and since he was 1/7th of the guest list, we decided to schedule it later in the year.

For the record- Kevin is not the first in our family to find himself in the pages of a comic. A hybrid Ann can be found in Harvey Pekar's "American Splendor: Our Movie Year".

A Song for Sarah

Another spider tale

I'm not sure if you've seen this story where you are, but I sat up and listened on Thursday when it was on the radio as I was driving to the pet store to vaccinate puppies. Oooooooooo. This, the largest orb spider in Queensland (maybe the world- let's hope) was photographed in Cairns- which is way north of Brisbane. The arachnologist (I just learned that "spider expert" is an insult! You probably already knew this.) who was interviewed carefully explained that the spider is probably NOT eating the bird. It DID kill it, but now it just wants it out of the web so it can get back to the business of catching insects and Americans.

He also threw in the decidedly unappealing tidbit that these GIANT spiders sometimes can be found in the Northern suburbs of Brisbane! Nooooooooooooooo.

(Obviously, I did not take these photographs. I found these here.)

Friday, October 24, 2008

On the Sixth Day of Halloween

From halloween blog

This isn't actually from Halloween - but Kevin thought it was. So, I included it. I was actually on my way to a "Pimp and Prostitute Party". More wholesome college fun. Kevin then wanted to know about my boyfriend's costume. No. That was just him. I doubt seriously that he went to the party. Actually, I doubt that we were even dating at this time. But, how could I resist such a spiffy dresser? And, he coordinated with my rose!

In the mail!

From singles 2

We are balloted!!! Keeping both our ballots pushed back on the table top to avoid Ms. Z having her way with them. In an underhanded trick, I have removed her "bite-not" collar and she is now focused with licking the underside of her tail. Why did they trust me with a medical license?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

On the Fifth day of Halloween

From halloween blog

1980. Not totally sure what the plan is here. I am the family dog, however. Not a very impressive looking tail. But, my desk looks relatively neat.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

On the Fourth day of Halloween

From halloween blog

1979. We were freshmen at OSU. These are 2 of my roommates and our "not in our room" friend. We were going to a party at our dorm. I'm still pretty impressed by these costumes - except for mine. What I can't figure out is where we got that beer sign that is behind us. My only guess is it had to belong to roommate #4. Hmmmm. Or, maybe this wasn't taken in our room. There's no view of the floor or my or Diane's desk - which would give it away. See photo below.

From halloween blog

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

On the Third day of Halloween

From halloween blog

1978. Probably. I don't remember much about this night, except we got dressed up and went trick-or-treating at our social studies teacher's house. She took the photo. We were there for quite a while. There are other photos of us playing some sort of game. I suspect hers was the only house we went trick-or-treating at. And, of course, it probably was not beggar's night. Obviously, I ran with a very cool crowd.

Finish this phrase.... BUY ONE GET ONE

From singles 2

Buy one get one _ree. See, I gave you a hint.

Recently, Kevin and I went grocery shopping. It was a big deal. It was the first time we'd been shopping since the red dragon returnethed. It could be a "more than you can carry" experience. I was in need of a couple supplement essentials and was pleased to see them with special stickers on their tops.

Fast forward to standing outside the store. Kevin says something like "The Pentagon spends less for groceries" and starts reading over the receipt. "What's this? 700billion dollars for vitamins?"

So, I rip the page out of his hand to show him my big savings. (It could have been $1.4 trillion.) But, no. I was charged for EVERY BOTTLE.

Furiously, I dig through the bags. (We're still standing with our cart right at the exit of the store.) Pull out a bottle explaining, "I had to look through the bottles on the shelf to find the ones that were marked with the special stickers on the top. We've been overcharged."

And, then my mouth dropped.

Kevin and I are now the proud sponsors of trees in Tumut, NSW.

You're welcome.

(I'm looking at the post labels and thinking I really need another one that says something like "my march to senility".

Sunday, October 19, 2008

On the Second day of Halloween

From halloween blog

This is my friend Shorty. I'm not sure but I imagine the year is around 1977. She's dressed up for a Halloween parade. Her rank dressed as members of KISS - I'm sure you've figured that out on your own. What I like about this photo is how menacing she looks- is that a weapon in her hand???

No. I think it is a sucker in combination with a clarinet.


On the first day of Halloween

From halloween blog

I thought I'd make use of some of my old Halloween photos by staging a countdown here. Unfortunately, I don't have access to all my photographs. So, you won't get to see my family's great crayon - or hula girl - or sheep - or synchronized rhythmic gymnastic team costumes. (We have a big family Halloween party each year at my cousin Elaine's house. Everyone, well almost, creates a costume. We cook hot dogs on a bonfire. Eat really yummy, fully adulterated, American baked beans. Drink apple cider. The party is actually today. I'm not calling my mother this morning because she's dressed as Hurricane Ike and everyone knows that you can't hear the phone ring with all that wind.)

I'm hoping you'll enjoy the photos I have (I decided to present them chronologically) and- for all you Australians out there - it will serve as a countdown to the big day. Halloween is always on the 31st of October. Really.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Unabashedly courting the Z - vote

I read an article from The Huffington Post (from whom I borrowed these photos- thank you) this week that Sarah Palin is pulling out all the stops and "letting her hair down".


Trying to look more like Zelda. It just might work...but I need to remind you (and her) that despite her fervent interest in American politics, she really isn't allowed to vote.

Black Cherry Blues

From singles 2

Then a breeze springs up and dries the sweat on your face and neck, you wipe your eyes clear on your sleeve, scrub the ball against your thigh, fork your fingers tightly into the stitches, and realize that the score is irrelevant now, that your failure is complete, that it wasn't so bad after all because now you're free and alone in a peculiar way that has put you beyond the obligations of victory and defeat.

This is the first book I'm re-reading or, rather, re-read. (Not ever. But in the context of reading Robicheaux.) I listened to it on tape less than 2 years ago. I remember carrying my "boom box" down to our bedroom in the house on Maundrell Terrace and listening to Dave, Clete, and Dixie Lee. I wondered if I maybe should have just checked it off...

but I'm glad I didn't.

Wow. This is Burke at his best - as I might have guessed seeing that it was for "Black Cherry Blues" that he won the Edgar Award and CWA Macallan Gold Dagger (whatever that last award is. I assume it is British. The copy I have was published by Phoenix Paperback (an imprint of Orion Books of London). I'm going into this detail because - before discussing the novel - I want to discuss the BOOK.

Wow. Obviously Phoenix Paperbacks has a spell check. There were no mis-spelled words. There were interesting phrases, however, like:

... the way billows of fig rolled out of the swamp in the morning...
... we fished for white trout out on the salt, when to crab boils and fish fries...
... it looked as though spring had never touched the land here, as thought this place had been predestined as moonscape...
... I pulled to the side of the road, seat boiling off my face, my windows thick with steam.

That's just a sampling. I've never encountered anything like this before. The book is thick with typos. I've decided to purchase a US copy from Amazon and make a gift of it to the Brisbane Library System. I'm debating about sending a letter to James Burke and Phoenix Paperbacks. (Kevin laughs.)

Now, back to the NOVEL.

I enjoyed reading this even though I already knew the story (sort of. My memory is fast slipping down an ugly slope toward total amnesia.) While listening to the beautiful southern voice of Will Patton reading is magical, I don't appreciate Burke's prose and descriptive passages as thoroughly on tape. I read sitting in a chair. Maybe I'm drinking tea. I listen while driving, while doing dishes, while sorting papers. A lot gets lost in the process.

My "hit list".
- Beautifully written, poetic passages.
I'll never forget that summer, though. Its' the cathedral I sometimes visit when everything else fails, when the heart seems poisoned, the earth stricken, and dead leaves blow across the soul's windows like bits of dried parchment.

- The re-introduction of Clete Purcel who is monumentally contrite and who sincerely loves his friend, Dave.
"Why is it you always make me feel like anthrax, Streak?"

...I walked off toward a group of children with whom Alafair was playing tag. Then Clete called after me, in a voice that made people turn and stare. "I love you anyway, motherfucker."

- Folksy descriptions of people and events. Statements like "the best part of that guy ran down his daddy's leg" and "he's just on of those guys who'll always have his elevator stuck between floors" may seem written to you, but I've known people who talk like this.

- An interesting idea about time and God, if you're inclined to believe in such things.

I made a peculiar prayer. It's a prayer that sometimes I say, one that is perhaps self-serving, but because I believe that God is not limited by time and space as we are, I believe perhaps that He can influence the past even though it has already happened. So sometimes when I'm alone, especially at night, in the dark, and I begin to dwell on the unbearable suffering that people probably experienced before their deaths, I ask God to retroactively relieve their pain, to be with them in mind and body, to numb their senses, to cool whatever flame licked at their eyes in their final moments.
It will probably stick with me in the way that the science fiction story I read years ago about a race who would remove people from planes that were about to crash and replace them with assorted body parts. (I'll have to ask Kevin if he remembers the title of this story.)

- Nutria. Since we've been collecting words at work, I make a point to write down things I encounter that I don't know. In Burke's books I always find several- including lots of fish and other things he's eating. Like nutria. Which also make some characteristic sound in the bayou - though I haven't been able to find this on line.

- Great bad guys who've done really awful things. (A big hello to Sally Dio! But, sorry man. You are WAY over shadowed by Harry Mapes and Charlie Dodds.)

My criticism.
- Come on, Dave. How is it that you are 50 years old and you've only had 3 significant relationships with women: your mother, your first wife, and Annie (wife #2) and now you're adding to this list Darlene- who you've known for a week at most, been in the company of 3 times, and slept with once??? At, at the end of the book (and of your time in Missoula) you're in love with Tess and think you should have married her? You didn't even kiss her!

But sometimes at dusk, when the farmers burn the sugarcane stubble off their fields and the cinders and smoke lift in the wind and settle on the bayou, when red leaves float in piles past my dock and the air is cold and bittersweet with the smell of burnt sugar, I think of Indians and water people, of voices that can speak through the rain and tease us into yesterday, and in that moment I scoop Alafair up on my shoulders and we gallop down the road through the oaks like horse and rider toward my house, where Batist is barbecuing gaspagoo on the gallery and paper jack-o-lanterns are taped to the lighted windows, and the dragons become as stuffed toys, abandoned and ignored, like the shadows of the heart that one fine morning have gone with the season.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Spiders, Floats, and Lemonade

I finally got it.

It really started two weeks ago when I was left alone (with my able bodied nurses) in the clinic for a super-long weekend. And, there was a big-ass spider in the women's toilet. "It was one of 'these,'" I said as I jumped into a broad based stance and spread my arms out menacingly. "I shall be using the men's room."

They laughed. Then, equipped with a can of Aussie "Raid", we inspected the restroom. And, of course, it was not there.

This isn't a story of how I ruptured my bladder. This is a story of how my spider rendition persisted. And, grew. Then, morphed.

Repeatedly, for the next week, I was asked "what kind of spider did you see?" And, while I believed it was a "huntsman"- though this one was most likely a "huntswoman" and would, no doubt, be voting for Sarah Palin if only Australian Spiders could vote in the US election - I mimed the answer and threw myself into the spread-eagle-spider-on-the wall pose. Eventually everybody had seen my show and the conversation became more philisophical. Not, how could a spider of that size vanish into thin air? but, what is a spider?

To which Kayla responded "ice cream and lemonade".


Which brings me back full circle to Sunday's revelation as we were tooling down Gympie on the way home from the grocery. It was then I remembered: Australians don't mean lemonade when they say lemonade. They're asking for something like Sprite or 7-up: a lemon soda. They want the "un-cola".

So - as with all great questions - one answer leads to more questions.
- What do Australians call lemonade? (lemon juice + water + sugar)??
- Why do they call those ice cream drinks "spiders"?
- If they combined coke with ice cream, is that a spider? a tick? a centipede?
- Where did I see Barq's root beer for sale?

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

The Red Dragon Returns

From singles 2

Last week Kevin located a distributor in Brisbane!! We decided that a used or reconditioned distributor would be sufficient for our needs. The Red Dragon only had to chug about for a couple of years more and for the cost of a new (and long awaited) distributor we could buy two or three less than new distributors.

Anyway, Kevin found it and on my day off last week (Thursday) I took the train to Windsor and learned that a distributor fits nicely into a green shopping bag.

Yesterday (Tues.) was our appointment to get this new distributor (which it was, in fact. New, but "generic".) installed. Kevin's plan was to begin the journey to the garage on Monday. He wanted to see if he could make it...or at least get out of the driveway before calling for a tow.

1.5 KM.

So, now we have a new cam (timing) belt and a new distributor and a new radiator and four shiny tires. (The tires are not new- though one is newly patched. It is just that every time Honda looks at our car, they shine or re-shine or re-re-shine the tires.)

And, the car runs!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Big Foot Sighting!

From singles 2

Notice to Barack

Kevin and I have been notified that we are now registered to vote. Just waiting for our absentee ballots to arrive. Not knowing exactly what to expect, we've been practicing making x's and filling in squares and pushing out chads. "Go Chad! Out! There shall be no hanging!!"

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Heaven's Prisoners

From singles 2

I was just off Southwest Pass, between Pecan and Marsh islands, with the green, whitecapping water of the Gulf Stream to the south and the long, flat expanse of the Louisiana coast line behind me - which is really not a coastline at all but instead a huge wetlands area of sawgrass, dead cypress strung with wisps of moss, and a maze of canals and bayous, that are choked with Japanese water lilies whose purple flowers audibly pop in the morning and whose root systems can wind around your propeller shaft like cable wire. It was May and the breeze was warm and smelled of salt spray and schools of feeding white trout, and high above me pelicans floated on the warm air currents, their extended wings gilded in the sunlight, until suddenly one would drop from the sky like a bomb from its rack, its wings cocked back against its sides, and explode against the water's surface and then rise dripping with a menhaden or a mullet flapping from its pouched beak.
But the sky had been streaked with red at dawn, and I knew that by afternoon thunderheads would roll out of the south, the temperature would suddenly drop twenty degrees, as though all the air had suddenly been sucked out from under an enormous dark bowl, and the blacked sky would tremble with trees of lightning.

I was looking forward to reading this after having so recently seen and been disappointed by the movie. (Sometimes I don't even understand myself.) Would I enjoy the book since I knew the story? Would my negative impression color over to the novel?

Above you have the first two paragraphs of the novel. Very quickly it was looking like I was going to be pleased, for in this book unlike either the movie or "The Neon Rain" the tree and bayous, the water moccasins and alligators, the sky and the weather were sharing focus with the action. And, it isn't just that I like a pretty picture. I really like a well crafted turn of phrase: "tremble with trees of lightning."

The movie had been faithful to the storyline of the book (with a few exceptions: number of gunners, Dave's relationship with the sheriff and the stripper, who's dead at the end). And, let me point out here- Clete Purcel is NOT a party in the book. (And, I'm guessing he isn't in "Electric Mist of the Confederate Dead", either. All this means 1. I was wrong to complain and 2. it must take quite some time before Dave is ready to forgive Clete (and Clete is ready to make his way back to Louisiana having fled the country at the end of "Neon Rain".)

OK. So the plot is pretty much the same. Its just that the book is so much richer thanks to Burke's descriptive passages. For example, early in the story Dave is "visited" by two goons who beat the crap out of him. The attack is ugly and painful in both the book and the movie. In the book, however, we end with:

I lay in an embryonic ball on my side, blood stringing from my mouth, and saw them walk off through the trees like two friends whose sunny day had been only temporarily interrupted by an insignificant task.

I love that image and how much it conveys about the attitude and character of his attackers. Violence is just part of their day - like kicking a can or picking a flower. They are neither agitated by it nor rushing off in fear of being caught.

Obviously, Dave falls off the wagon in the book as well as the movie. His drunken behavior was hard to watch in the film. It is pointless and self destructive- you know - alcoholism. It is no more impressive in the book, but because we're watching from inside Dave it is painted heavily with remorse. And, it comes and goes much more quickly. (And, maybe it helped to be reading it alone rather than watching it with Kevin. It is embarrassing to watch one of your hero's fall so low in front of someone to whom you are only just introducing him.)

Like the Atchafalaya Basin, the Cajun people - particularly Batist and Dave's (memories of his dead) father - color the novel in a way they don't the movie. Sure, we have to have Batist and Bubba Roque (Bubba happens to be the best thing in the movie)- but the dialect feels stilted and foreign. The odd manner of throwing in pronouns sounds awkward - like a child reading poetry. I want to hear this spoken by someone who knows. And, like other Southern American peoples, I love the stories they tell.

I didn't have an answer for her. But my father, who had been a fisherman, trapper, and derrickman all his life, and who couldn't read or write and spoke Cajun French and a form of English that was hardly a language, had an axiom for almost every situation. One of these would translate as 'When in doubt, do nothing.' In actuality he would say something like (in this case to a wealthy sugar planter who owned property next to us), 'You didn't told me about your hog in my cane, no, so I didn't mean to hurt it when I pass the tractor on its head and had to eat it, me.'

So, I'm back on my Robicheaux horse and riding off to the "Black Cherry Blues".