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."