Don’t Harsh My Buzz

We all have things we love. We all have things we hate. Where the trouble comes in is when we love something that others hate and they feel compelled to tell us we’re wrong. I’m not talking here about huge social or religious dilemmas or political differences. I mean the stuff that shouldn’t matter, but people get all exercised about.

Like pineapple on pizza. There are those who love it and those who hate it. But for some reason, the haters attack the lovers as though they’ve committed a mortal sin by allowing fruit to touch their Italian dish, which we all love. (Technically, tomato is a fruit too and nobody minds having tomato sauce on pizza. Don’t ask me what that kiwi’s doing there in the photo. I have no strong opinions about kiwi. But I digress.)

Now I admit to liking Hawaiian-style pizza on occasion, the kind that comes with (for some unknown, peculiar, multicultural reason) Canadian bacon and pineapple. It isn’t my very favorite – that’s pepperoni and extra mushrooms. But once in a while, I order pineapple.

This hurts no one. So don’t harsh my buzz. Be like John. I invited John over once and served him pizza. It had pineapple on it. Without making a fuss, John picked the chunks of pineapple off his slices, ate the pizza, then ate the pineapple separately, as a sort of dessert, I suppose. That is what I call a mature, polite approach to pineapple pizza. That’s how I would approach a pizza with kiwi, if I tried it (I would) and didn’t like it. Hell, I even tried anchovies once, just to see.

I find that some people like to harsh other people’s buzzes over a variety of topics. Once, when I posted something about Star Trek, a new Facebook friend replied, “You do know you’re too old for this.” Well, phooey on that. I loved Star Trek when it first came out and I still do.

Yet it seems that loving Star Trek is not enough for some people. I need to love the right kind of Star Trek. These days, Star Trek: The Next Generation gets beat up a lot for its storytelling, plot lines – everything except Patrick Stewart, who everyone admits is pretty great, except when he says, “Engage!” or “Make it so!”

But damnit, I like NextGen (as it’s called, when it’s not called ST:TNG). In some ways, I like it better than the original series (ST:TOS). Don’t ask me to defend why I like it. I shouldn’t have to.

Or take Cats (the movie). Okay, it wasn’t great cinematic art for the ages and it didn’t have much of a plot – which is understandable if you know that the source material is a series of poems. But it had fine singing, incredible dancing, and amazing costumes. It had cats and T.S. Eliot. Why wouldn’t I love it? Even my husband said it was “astonishing.”

Country music is another area that I love that people are determined to knock. It all sounds the same, or it’s the music of racists, or everyone sings through their nose, or some other objection. Or I should spend my time listening to something good (however that’s defined).

This really harshes my buzz. I grew up with country music and, despite it being my parents’ favorite music, I never disowned it, not even when I was in my teens and the Beatles hit it big. I enjoyed both Willie Nelson and Elton John. I even enjoyed John Denver. (There, I said it!)

I don’t know. Maybe it would have been different if I had lived in Texas, but in suburban Ohio at the time, I met with only scorn among my peers. And, I’m sorry to say, that scorn continues to this day. And I can see how easy it is for that scorn to develop. I never listen to modern country music. I’m still stuck at the Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, and Emmylou Harris stage. (And don’t harsh my buzz about Kris Kristofferson movies, either. I still like them, except the one he made with Sylvester Stallone, whose movies I’ve taken a vow never to see. But if you like him, fine. I won’t hassle you about it.)

I’m hoping that now that Ken Burns has turned his documentary lens on it, country music will regain its status as something that it’s okay to like. In fact, I may listen to Waylon Jennings while eating pineapple pizza, and then relax with a little NextGen.

It’s my choice. Don’t harsh my buzz.

Memories of Things I Didn’t Know Existed

My husband has a terrific memory. Not for where he left his car keys or wallet, of course. But for obscure TV shows, theme songs, and jingles, he’s the best.

Today, for example, he wanted me to look up online “Lincoln Vail of the Everglades.” I did, while he started singing the theme song. It turns out that it was an actual TV show that lasted for one entire season, recounting the adventures of a law enforcement officer who sped around the Everglades on an airboat. Dan also referenced “Sky King,” a similar show about using an airplane to fight crime.

Dan can sing the theme songs to “The Littlest Hobo,” a show about a wandering dog, “Car 54, Where Are You?” and “Davy Crockett” (which actually has more lyrics than just “King of the Wild Frontier”). For cartoon shows, he’s a good reference, too, blithely singing the theme songs to “Chip and Dale” and “Tobor, the Eighth Man,” which was a cartoon about a robot (get it? robot spelled backward).  He can sing “George of the Jungle,” of course (can’t everyone?). But he can also sing the entire theme to “Super Chicken” and part of “Magilla Gorilla.” And he can hum the tunes to the “Crusader Rabbit” and “Clutch Cargo” themes, which have no words.  He also still remembers the cartoons “Tennessee Tuxedo” (and his sidekick Chumley), “Mr. Magoo,” “Top Cat,” and “Beany and Cecil,” one of my personal faves.

But it’s in television commercials where he really shines. He even remembers the Ajax Pixies, who sang the first-ever commercial jingle on television, back in the 50s. He knows all the lyrics to the Good ‘N’ Plenty candy jingle (“Choo Choo Charlie was an engineer…”). He can sing the Texaco tagline (You can trust your car to the man who wears the star!/The big, bright Texaco star!) And he really captured my heart when he sang me the jingle for Kisling Sauerkraut, which he knew from growing up near Philadelphia. (It had a wonderful line in it about the product being sold in transparent plastic bags. That always gets me.  But I digress.)

References to old shows, cartoons, and jingles have made their way into our everyday lives as well. Sometimes when we leave the house, Dan will say, “Here we go, rocketing into fun-filled adventure with Adam Ant and Secret Squirrel!” (Half the time he says “a damn ant,” but never mind that now.)

Admittedly, these are not terribly useful skills, but they use as many brain cells as I do remembering Emily Dickinson’s, William Carlos Williams’s, and e.e. cummings’s poetry, I suppose. And, come to think of it, his knowledge is more likely to come up in bar trivia games than mine is.

Now, if only he could remember how to figure out what the date of Thanksgiving is, or the code to our storage locker, or the lyrics to “Bad Moon Rising” (he still thinks it goes “There’s a bathroom on the right”), then he’d be truly formidable. Until then, I’ll just have to be the repository of useful knowledge such as whether you have to travel north or south on the highway to get to the airport and what his cell phone number is and how to spell and pronounce “foliage.”

It’s a small price to pay for all those quality Saturday morning reminiscences.



My Husband’s Bananas

Now, I’m not saying my husband’s an ape, but he sure seems to have a thing for bananas. At least recipes containing them.

When I married into his family, I didn’t realize I was also acquiring a sacred banana cake recipe, handed down from Dan’s Grammy. It always seemed like banana bread to me, but Dan calls it banana cake, and I’m not sure what the difference would be, anyway.

I love bananas, but only when they’re close to green. It’s a texture thing. I don’t even like the dark, mushy spots on bruised bananas. But I can’t eat a whole bunch of bananas by myself, so Dan gets the leftovers to leave until they’re the proper mushiness for cooking.

Dan insists on making his banana cake in a bundt cake pan, therefore, I guess, reinforcing the cake-ness of it. He claims that the cake cooks properly only in a bundt pan so the inner part gets as brown as the outside. Once, when we made mini-cakes for Christmas gifts, he acquiesced to the use of mini-loaf pans, but I could tell he wasn’t happy about it. (We also made my signature spice cake, which is notable for having to boil the raisins first, making them plump and juicy. But I digress.)

Dan’s other tasty banana creation is a non-patented, no-bake, sugar-free banana cream pie. The concept is fairly simple: graham cracker crust, slices of too-ripe-for-me bananas lining it, sugar-free banana pudding, more banana slices, then sugar-free whipped topping. Low-fat milk for the pudding, of course.

The pie is good, but we’ve improved it over the years. One time we were low on milk, so we substituted part of it for chocolate milk. It worked moderately well, but there wasn’t a lot of chocolate flavor to the finished pie.

So we began to experiment. This pie was open to variation, unlike the sacred banana cake. We tried different combinations of pudding, different amounts of plain and chocolate milk, and other variations.

In the end, what we came up with was a pie with the same graham cracker crust – no way to improve on that, at least not easily. Then we mix two boxes of banana pudding with two boxes of chocolate pudding, but use only half the milk called for on the boxes. This makes the pie much firmer and easier to slice, though I must confess that sometimes we just grab forks and eat it right out of the aluminum pan. Sliced bananas and whipped topping as before.

My family had their banana idiosyncracies, too, I guess. My mother used to eat bananas with peanut butter, long before Elvis invented or at least popularized the fried banana-and-peanut-butter sandwich. She’d just smear a dollop of peanut butter on top of the banana, bite off the end, and repeat.

Maybe I should suggest to Dan that he try to invent a banana-and-peanut-butter pie. I don’t think peanut butter pudding exists. (Someone correct me if I’m wrong.) So I think it would be a matter of mixing the peanut butter into the banana pudding and tinkering with the milk ratio until the consistency is right.

We’re going to have a house-warming party this spring when our house is rebuilt. Maybe I should consider having a desserts-only buffet and serving all three kinds of pie and the banana cake as well. Of course, anyone allergic to bananas, chocolate, or peanut butter would be out of luck. We’ll have to have some plain old pound cake for them.

Or spice cake. Is anyone allergic to raisins?


Loving the Stray Cats

Yes, I love rockabilly and even whatever it is you call the Brian Setzer Orchestra’s music. But that’s not what I’m here to write about today. This time I mean literal stray cats. The kind that show up on street corners and in shelters.

Sometimes you choose a cat. Sometimes a cat chooses you. At least that’s the way it is for us.

Shelters. When we choose a cat, it’s from a shelter. No fancy purebreds for us, with their snooty flat faces or impressive bloodlines or ability to pose for judges. No, we’ll take a cat who’s been abandoned, or whose owner died, or who was the runt of the litter. There are two wonderful no-kill shelters in our town, as well as the standard “Humane Society” one. Between the two shelters, they introduced us to Bijou, Anjou, Matches, Louise, Garcia, and Jasper – three tortoiseshell calicos, two orange tabbies, and a gray tabby.

Mind you, not all of them came with those names. We acquired the gray tabby when I went into a shelter and said I wanted a talker. They looked at each other and pointed.  “This one,” they said. The only problem was that his name was “Precious Bob,” which just wouldn’t do. We renamed him Jasper and listened to the many tales he told us in Jaspernese.

Julia and Laurel, a calico and a tortie respectively, both long-haired, were a bonded pair that could only be adopted together; the shelter, called The Tenth Life, would not separate them. That brought us up to five cats at the time, the most we’ve ever had at once.

Re-Homing. There was another time we adopted a pair of cats who weren’t bonded but came from the same source. Shaker, a tuxedo cat, and Chelsea, a black and white spotted, came from a woman whose daughter was leaving for college. We took them “temporarily,” which I guess you know is code for “forever.” Cat therapist Jackson Galaxy calls this process “re-homing,” but I like to think of it as informal adoption.

Strays. Other cats have found us. Maggie, a gray tabby, found my husband in a parking lot and instantly seduced him. Django, a robust gray and white cat, and lovely calico Dushenka wandered through our property and decided to stay. (I figured if Dan could have a Garcia, I could follow the musical theme and have a Django.  And for those of you wondering, Dushenka is a Russian word that literally means Little Soul but is used as an endearment like sweetheart. But I digress.)

Then we got the most stray cat ever. “How can one cat be more stray than another?” a friend asked. Toby actually arrived at my husband’s workplace on a delivery truck and lived in the stockroom for a few days until Dan brought him home. The truck had come from Michigan, so the little gray tabby was a long way from his original home.

Fosters. Twice we have had “guest cats,” or fosters. One was a black cat named Joliet. She stayed with us until one day she stole an entire steak off the plate just as we were about to eat it. Afterward, we figured out that we shouldn’t have named her Joliet, which is the name of a prison in Illinois.

The other foster was only known as “The Devil Kitten From the Crawlspace of Hell.” He was a tiny, adorable, pinky-orange kitten that we fostered until he was big enough to go to the shelter. He was completely unsocialized, with what in humans would be called an attachment disorder. That is, he was abandoned too young to have learned how to be a proper cat. As such, he reverted to his ancestral drives and attacked any meat he happened to see, which was primarily our ankles. And was he ever pointy! He ruined many a pair of pantyhose before we finally fattened him up enough to go to the shelter.

With two exceptions, Matches and Louise, all our cats have been adult cats or at least “tweens.” Shelters have a hard time finding families for older cats, but I like them. They come already potty-trained and don’t climb the drapes nearly as much. It’s my opinion that they make the best pets.

I know there are people who swear by purebred cats, especially Maine Coons. But our stray cats have given us as much joy, love, and distraction as a purebred ever could. And since we have no interest in entering them in cat shows, we have no need for cats with papers beyond their vaccination certificates.

Anyway, this is a plea for the old, the homeless, the abandoned, the infirm, the lonely, and the lost.

Stray cats may not rock this town, but they rock our world.

As a Muse, Depression Sucks

Pencil tied in a knot on a white backgroundRecently, someone commented that I didn’t write like I was depressed, even though I actually was at the time I wrote whatever-it-was.

This week I am even more depressed, so I thought I’d give you a look inside my head as I try to write while depressed.

::typing:: “Donald Trump Is Not a Monster. He may be a liar, a bully, and a misogynist who is uninformed, egotistical, and thin-skinned, but he is not a monster. Monsters are mythical. They are what we invented to be The Other. To say a person – Timothy McVeigh, Ted Bundy, Donald Trump – is a monster is to say that they are Other: not human beings. In reality, they are all human beings, who may have done monstrous things. But they are motivated by the same things as all humans: greed, fear, hate, sex, fame…”

::thinking:: No. That stinks. Half the people who read my blog will hate me because I said Donald Trump is not a monster and the other half will hate me because I compared him to Timothy McVeigh and Ted Bundy. I’ll offend everyone at once. Maybe I could write “How to Offend Everyone at Once.” No, that’s a terrible idea. My goal is not to offend.

::still thinking:: Why am I so afraid of offending anyone? Is it because when I’m depressed, my self-esteem is super-low and I can’t afford to lose any more friends? Is it because I’m female and was raised to be a people-pleaser? Then why haven’t I pleased more people? Is it because I don’t want to be called a “special snowflake”?

::still thinking:: My knee hurts.

::still thinking:: Maybe I should write something about education. What, though? The education issue everyone is talking about is Betsy DeVos. I only know about her what others have written. Writing about her would be superfluous. Crap. It’s already Friday and I don’t have anything. I’m not going to have a thing to post this week.

::still thinking:: What’s another go-to topic? Books. I just re-read The Handmaid’s Tale and that’s totally relevant.

::typing:: “The Handmaid’s Tale: A Tale for Our Times”

::thinking:: No.

::typing:: “Written Thirty Years Ago and Still Relevant”

::thinking:: No. Hardly anyone reads my book posts anyway. How can I have been doing this for years and not have more followers? Is that why I write? Ego gratification. I’m a sad, sad person who needs external validation instead of interior satisfaction.

::still thinking:: My husband doesn’t even read my posts half the time, even if I mention him. Maybe I could write about depression and sex. No, I’d have to do too much research and I’m running out of time. Besides, with my luck, my husband would read that one and not want our sex life all over the Internet.

::still thinking:: My knee still hurts. How long have I been sitting at this stupid computer?

::typing:: “I Hear Voices” – I’ve been meaning to write that one.

::thinking:: No. I don’t hear voices like psychotics hear voices. All I hear are Pete Seeger singing pizza commercials or a men’s chorus or an NPR broadcast that I can’t quite make out, and that’s when I’m coming out from under anesthesia. That’s boring. My life is boring. Besides, I’d have to do too much research on auditory hallucinations and I’m running out of time.

::still thinking:: I could look up some quotes about depression and say whether I agree with them or not. More research again. Besides, who cares whether I agree with them or not?

::still thinking:: Maybe I could re-post one of my old posts. Wouldn’t that be cheating? If I can’t come up with something by tomorrow, I may have to. But that’s like admitting failure. Like I can’t write. Maybe I can’t write anymore. Maybe I’ve already written everything I know.

::still thinking:: Maybe I could write about not writing. Too boring? Too meta? Don’t people hate stream-of-consciousness? Especially stream-of-depressed-consciousness. It’s so bloody depressing. I’m so bloody depressed.

::typing:: Recently, someone commented that I didn’t write like I was depressed, even though I actually was at the time I wrote…

::thinking:: Now how am I going to illustrate this?

The Stories Behind the Scars

It’s said that chicks dig scars. Well, I don’t, not on guys and especially not on myself.  Still, every scar I have tells a story, of accidents survived or lessons learned.

I think the first scar I ever got was a particularly gnarly one on the inside of my left thigh, acquired when I fell over a metal milk box. (If that sounds strange, let me enlighten you. Back in the day, actual people delivered milk to houses. The custom was to leave empty milk bottles in an aluminum box by the back door, to be exchanged for fresh, full ones. Yes, I’m old. But I digress.)

The sharp edge of the aluminum box ripped a hole several inches long in the tender flesh of my inner thigh. Since this was, after all, back in the day and there wasn’t an emergency room nearby, my parents patched up the injury on their own. It left quite a ragged-looking scar, as opposed to a nice, straight, sutured one that might have faded gracefully. Instead, I have this fat, white, meandering reminder that, fortunately, hardly anyone ever sees, since I don’t tend to go swimming.

I don’t actually remember getting that scar, though I’m sure it was traumatic at the time. The next one I do remember is when I was about seven and I dropped a bottle of Coca Cola on my right foot and it shattered (the bottle, not my foot). (Yes, Coke came in glass bottles back then. Yes, I’m old. We’ve already established that.) The scar that time was a lot less gruesome, being only about 3/4 of an inch and very thin. It healed quickly. I was not left with any great fear of Coca Cola, a beverage I enjoy to this day, now that it comes in aluminum cans.

My next scar came when I was playing with a friend, Lauren, when we bumped heads. My glasses (I’ve worn them since I was four) were pushed back into my eyebrow. I still have one eyebrow that is missing the entire middle section, lengthwise, which makes eyebrow pencil both necessary and problematic. Fortunately, I still wear glasses, which hide my eyebrow and the scar.

Another time, I was playing with some cousins when we accidentally broke a window. I helpfully picked up one of the broken pieces, which I proceeded to rip open my right knee with. No stitches this time, so again the scar is fat and somewhat jagged.

The next scar was a bit more traumatic. Some children were throwing rocks at my feet and I was jumping over them. Call it jump-rock instead of jump-rope. One of them missed rather badly and hit me rather badly, in the forehead near my hairline. The kids scattered and my mother was called. By then stitches were more common and I was hauled away to a doctor’s office, where I found the numbing shot and the repeated puncturing more painful than the actual injury. I joke about this now. I say it was the time I got stoned in third grade.

I suppose I learned some lessons from all these scars:

  1. Watch out for milk boxes (not much of a problem anymore).
  2. Hold onto that Coke bottle. (I recently dropped a full aluminum can of Coke on my toe. No scar.)
  3. Don’t head-butt your friends. (Haven’t had to in years.)
  4. If you break a window, leave the pieces alone. (Call someone to fix it.)
  5. Rocks do not make good sports equipment. (Duh.)

Scars aside, I have had more than my fair share of bumps, bruises, lumps, cuts, and scrapes. And it wasn’t because I led all that adventurous a life. It’s why my childhood nickname was “SuperKlutz,” you know, back before self-esteem was a thing.

My husband has his own collection of scars, which are quite as gnarly as mine. Rest assured, I don’t dig them. He has many other, finer qualities.

Presents for Hubby

There’s always that one person you find it difficult to shop for at the holidays. This may be the grandparent who says she has everything she needs. It may be the idealist who says all he wants is peace on Earth.

For me, it’s my husband.

It’s not that he has everything he needs. And while he certainly would appreciate peace on earth, it’s hard to find that and wrap it in a box. No, it’s that he takes all the joy out of gift-giving. He tells me what he wants. He says, “Buy that. It’ll be my Christmas.” Or he says, “That’s what I want. Buy me that.”

It’s not that I enjoy Christmas shopping. I rather loathed it, until online shopping became a Thing. Now I can shop in my pajamas (and please don’t tell me I could do that at Walmart) and pay with PayPal, so I don’t have to go to noisy, people-y stores and look around for just the right gift. Everything is presented to me, usually on my Facebook feed after I’ve been browsing.

But I have to give him something for the holiday, and I want it to be a surprise. Not the kind of surprise where you rip open a beautifully wrapped gift box and ooh and aah over what’s inside. Just something he’s not expecting.

Wrapping gifts is beyond me and, as far as I can see, a waste of time and money. For one thing, we don’t have a tree to put them under. We have cats. At one time I did wrap gifts. One year I bought Dan underwear but dressed it up by wrapping each t-shirt, each pair of underpants, and even each sock in a different shaped package, with a different wrapping paper for each. It turned out to be anticlimactic. After he opened the first couple of packages, he figured out what I had done. (What? He needed underwear.)

What’s particularly annoying is that he is so damn good at gift-giving. He follows me around when we’re shopping, then sneaks back and buys anything I’ve expressed an interest in. He buys presents all year long and hides them. (Sometimes he can’t even find them himself.) He even knows what size clothing I wear and what colors I favor.

Some of the things he likes best are widgets and gadgets, but I never seem to find the right kind. (I’ve bought him a number of things he never used, like a yogurt maker and a GPS, which he desperately needed. He’s topographically challenged. Instead of the gizmo fulfilling its function, hubby insists I go with him everywhere and navigate. He once got lost when I GoogleMapped a destination and made a sketch. But I digress.) Once or twice in my life, I’ve been able to come up with something he wasn’t expecting and really liked. A leather bomber jacket. A portrait of his first cat. That’s not much, considering we’ve been married for 37 years.

This year, though, fate is on my side. Our house, along with most of our possessions, was destroyed by a tornado. He needs everything. (And the insurance will pay for replacements, which enlarges my shopping budget considerably.)

I won’t say what I’ve gotten for him on the off-chance he’ll read this blog post, but I will say that I have been trying to replace, not boring, practical things like Dremel tools, but things that are purely decorative and may give him some solace for all the pieces he collected that were lost. I even have a small, decorative stocking stuffer for him. If we had stockings, I mean.

I may get him underwear too, though. He’s hard on underwear.

How I Upped My Salad Game

I grew up during the time when salad meant iceberg lettuce with perhaps a tomato and that nasty orange bottled French dressing. These experiences with salad were not inspiring. My horizons seriously needed to expand. And so they have.

About seven months ago I had some dental work done – a temporary bonding that was only supposed to last for a few weeks. My dentist told me not to eat anything that would require biting into it with my front teeth and then tugging, which pretty much put sandwiches out of bounds. Pizza, too, was out, unless I ate it with a knife and fork (which I know is hoity-toity) or got the kind with thin crust cut into little squares, if they were small enough that I could cram them into my mouth whole, which I only do at home. I felt bereft when I realized I could no longer go to Red Robin and chow down on their excellent burgers. It would keep my smile intact but reduce my smiling.

My husband has been very supportive of this change in eating habits and he has convinced me to discover the wonder that is salad. I have been learning a lot about them.

I’ve learned that I can still go to Red Robin. In addition to their open-faced chili burger, they have an incredible Cobb salad so bounteous that I can eat it for over an hour. And they’ll substitute the blue cheese with some other kind if I ask them to, which I do. (I don’t like cheese that reminds me it is made from mold.) It’s not as soul-satisfying as their Guacamole Bacon Burger, but it’s a fine meal nonetheless.

In an effort to get me to eat more “rabbit food,” my husband often brings home salad kits. (I know they’re more expensive and occasionally less sanitary than homemade salads, but honestly, we can’t keep a whole head of lettuce in our fridge without it turning slimy.) Through these, I have learned the superiority of romaine and spinach over iceberg and the variety of dressings besides French. I even invented my own coleslaw dressing, involving Miracle Whip and pickle juice, which makes a refreshingly different alternative to bottled dressings.

Then there are the protein salads – tuna, chicken, and egg. I know ham salad should be in there as well, but I’ve never really cared for it. Then again, I always hated egg salad until my husband made it for me. Egg salad was always mushy slop until Dan got hold of it. He leaves the eggs chunky, which much improves the texture. And I’ve learned that dressing up tuna salad with celery and relish and chicken salad with apple chunks or grapes are ways to freshen up old favorites.

Dan also buys me little individual salads so I can try really different combinations of greens, toppings, and dressings in hopes of finding new elements that I like. Sriracha mayo, miso, or avocado dressings. Chia seeds, quinoa sprinkles, or edamame. Spring mix or thinly julienned broccoli. Blueberries and pecans as garnishes. They enliven my salads, even if they’re not things I’m likely to have on hand. My husband offers salads as snacks, lunches, or side dishes, so I get the idea that they are no longer just the least interesting part of dinner anymore.

During this experiment, I’ve learned quite a bit about what I don’t want near my salads, too. Raw onions, for example. Olives. Banana peppers. If I encounter any of these, I simply pass them off to my husband, who is well known for eating anything. (He even taught himself to like okra, for what reason I don’t even pretend to know. But I digress.)

Do I miss sandwiches? Of course. But many of them I can eat with a knife and fork if I don’t mind looking odd. I had a club melt the other day that cooperated nicely, though I can’t imagine a traditional club sandwich doing likewise. And I’ve always loved soups and fruit and cheese, so there are plenty of things I can eat gracefully – or as gracefully as it’s possible for me to eat.

There’s another thing I’ve learned during my dental and culinary experience, though. I hate kale. I don’t care if it’s a super-food (which I don’t believe in anyway). I don’t want it in a smoothie or a salad. In fact, I don’t want it anywhere near me.

Give me spinach instead, any day.


The Bubble Bursts

The town square was empty when Glinda arrived in her pink bubble. This did not alarm her. The Munchkins, after all, were shy, timid even, beset as they were by evil witches and falling houses that disrupted not only the harmony of their peaceful realm, but the careful layout of the multicolored paths that radiated outwards, leading eventually to the Emerald City itself.

“Come out, come out, wherever you are,” Glinda trilled. This time there was no young lady who had fallen out of Kansas. Glinda was there only to check up on her devoted little friends and make sure that they wanted for nothing. Taking care of the small and meek, was, after all, her mission in life.

Strangely, though, there was no immediate response. A crowd of adoring followers did not appear. No little chicks awoke and rubbed their eyes. The members of the Lollipop Guild were not holding a meeting outside the sweet shop. The Lullaby League had apparently taken the day off.

“Hello?” Glinda called. “Where is everybody? It is I, Glinda, your friend and protector.” What could it be that had reduced the population to this extent? Had another Wicked Witch emerged to trouble the placid citizens of Oz’s most bucolic, most restful, and most scenic province?

Glinda grew ever so slightly irritated. She was used to crowds gathering whenever she floated into view. She was as used to the adoration as she was to her cotton candy wardrobe and glittery headpiece. She thought about stamping her delicate, silver-slipper-shod foot, but dismissed the idea as ungraceful and unbecoming.

Instead, she wafted her way over to the Mayor’s house. She called out in her dulcet tones, but received no response. Then she saw the note tacked to the front door of the mayoral residence: “Gone to Emerald City,” it said.

What could this mean? Circling the town plaza, Glinda found similar notes on every shop, every house, every meeting place she saw. Apparently, the entire population of Munchkinland had pulled up stakes and left for Emerald City.

“No!” Glinda thought wildly. “They’ll be no match for the dangers that await along the Yellow Brick Road.” Even the Red Brick Road was fraught with so many perils that it was seldom used in daylight and never after dark. She thought about bubbling over the Road and its hazardous environs to see if she could find a contingent of little people huddled together for warmth, singing a chirping song in defiance of the perils, and trying to content their pudgy stomachs with windfall apples.

Before she had time to conjure up her bubble transport, however, Glinda noticed a figure stirring at the back of one of the town’s official buildings. By the shadow of his curled hat, she recognized the Town Coroner. He was dignified, as always, but Glinda could sense an undercurrent of excitement is his small, beady eyes.

“Where is everyone?” she exclaimed.

“That should be evident. They are gone to Emerald City,” the dignified Munchkin said.

“But how? When? Why?”

“Why is the easiest question to answer. Emerald City is the capital city. It has the most excitement, the most fascination, and the most glitz, not to mention the most opportunity.”


“Over the last several days, as soon as people could put their affairs in order.”

“You make it sound as though Munchkins were . . .” Glinda gulped, “dying!”

“Far from it,” replied the Coroner. “They have only just begun to live.”

“What do you mean?” cried Glinda, clutching her glittering skirts around her. “Did they all just start out walking and expect to arrive at Emerald City unscathed? You know the hazards that line the Yellow Brick Road!”

“Of course,” replied the official. “That’s why nobody started out walking.”

“Then how…?” Glinda was truly at a loss.

“They simply . . . beamed there,” said the Coroner. “It took no time at all. Just a warbling sound and a sparkle, and they were gone.”

“Gone? But how do you know they arrived there? What if they went to the realm of a new witch, or into the Dark Forest?”

“Several of them came back to retrieve things they’d forgotten,” the Coroner replied. He adjusted his impressive hat. “I was one of them. I just had to put my papers in order, and now I’m off to the City!”

“You still haven’t told me how,” Glinda persisted. “How do you get transported directly to Emerald City without the long, dangerous journey by foot?”

“Transported is the exact word,” the Coroner replied. “We transport.”

“But what does that mean?” Glinda sounded almost desperate. “They couldn’t have used sparkling pink bubbles. Only Good Witches can do that! Only one person has ever fallen from a star!”

“But that’s just what these people say – they came from a star. Or rather, stars,” explained the dignified little Munchkin. “You may not believe this, but travelers came from the stars and said they wanted to share something called ‘technology’ with us. Of course, we are always a people willing to share, so we asked them what we could do for them and what they could do for us.”

Glinda was stunned, her eyes glazed over. “And these people from the stars – they showed you how to go to Emerald City in the blink of an eye?”

“They did,” the Coroner nodded. “And all they asked in return was that they could ‘examine our culture’ and ‘understand its secrets.’”

“What secrets?”

“You know, horses that change color, crystal balls that show what’s happening in another world, how to melt witches.”

Glinda stiffened at that. “How does it work?” she asked haughtily. “Is it necessary to wear special shoes and click one’s heels together? Does one need to recite something?”

The Munchkin laughed. “No, all you need to do is stand in a certain spot and pull a lever. Then the sound comes and the sparkle, and all of a sudden you’re in Emerald City, in the courtyard in front of the Wizard’s Palace.”

“No bubble! That can’t be all there is to it! It sounds like some strange, unfamiliar, and probably dangerous magic!” Glinda protested.

“Magic is as magic does,” replied the Coroner, as he pulled a lever Glinda had not noticed and shimmered out of sight.



Lost in Time

I have trouble remembering certain numbers. Not like my own phone number or my social security number or my husband’s social security number.  Those I’m fine with. (Except my husband’s phone number. That’s on speed dial, so I haven’t memorized it.) It’s other things that have me stymied. Dates and times, mostly.

In response to this, I’ve had to come up with work-arounds – life hacks, if you will – that help me pinpoint where I am within the dimensions of time, if not space.

Cat time. This is obvious. Cat time is divided into meal time, bedtime, and pet-me time. But, since any of them can occur at any time during the day or night, this is not really all that helpful. I know there are people who own cats that insist on meals with a clock-like regularity or cats that wake them up in order to provide said meals by licking their eyelids or nipping their nose. But our cats are no good as alarm clocks. They lick eyelids whenever they feel like it. Pet-me time is especially variable, occurring as it does even when one of us is on the toilet.

Clothing time. This used to work. I used to know it was Friday when I was wearing jeans to work. Now I work at home and it’s pajamas all day every day. I suppose I need that kind of underwear with days of the week printed on them, but honestly, I could never trust myself to be wearing the right day’s panties. Plus, it might be awkward to have to pull down my pants just to discover what day it is.

TV time. No, not the time in the afternoon or evening when I get to watch TV. It’s that whole working at home thing again. I can take TV breaks the way someone else would take a cigarette break. No, this is a strategy for getting lost in the week, not getting lost in the day. I know that if Forged in Fire is on, it must be Wednesday. Thursdays are Beat Bobby Flay. Saturday is reruns of House. Tuesday is Star Trek Next Gen.

Work time. I do know that when I don’t get work assignments, it’s either Thursday (Beat Bobby Flay day) or the weekend, though I’m still fuzzy on whether it’s Saturday or Sunday. My husband’s work schedule is no help either, as he doesn’t work M-F either. And he works third shift, which leads him to say things like, “I work Wednesday into Thursday, have off Friday, work Saturday into Sunday, and have off Sunday.” That’s no help. I don’t even know how he keeps it straight.

Disaster time. This hardly ever works. But when it does, it’s amazingly accurate. I’m particularly bad at knowing what year something happened. To know how old I am, I have to take the year it is and the year of my birth, which I do remember, and subtract.  The same with how long we’ve been married. (Or I make a joke that avoids the subject. How long have we been married? Twenty of the happiest years of our lives. (It’s actually more than thirty, though how much more I couldn’t say without checking our framed wedding invitation and subtracting. (And I probably shouldn’t have grouped this under disaster time.))) But I digress.

In fact, the only time disaster time has worked is to determine when my mother and I went to Rio. While we were there, we heard news about the Loma Prieta earthquake back home. The people in our group were all worried about whether friends and relatives had been harmed, but the news in the Southern Hemisphere was not very specific. Now, when I want to know when that trip occurred, all I have to do is Google Loma Prieta (I’m better at remembering names and disasters), and voilà, 1989. (Of course, I had to Google that fact while writing this.) And if there are no disasters to tie an event to, I’m out of luck. I still don’t know when I was in Jamaica or Ireland. My camera doesn’t date-stamp pictures, either, so that’s no help.

You may point out that there exist in the world things like clocks and calendars. They’re just not accurate enough. They don’t tell me things like when my next doctor’s appointment is unless I go to the trouble of writing it down. (I generally just keep appointment cards in my hip pocket until I wash the jeans and the bits of cardboard disintegrate.) Again, I have to pin it to another event I do know. It’s the day after my birthday. Is it at 11:00 or 11:30? I guess I’ll find out on my birthday when the office calls to remind me.