Friday, August 15, 2008

Blackberry Time

When you hear the word "blackberry" and you are under 25, you automatically think of this:

However, I am not under 25, so when I think "blackberry," I envision this:

On the side of my house, where the woodpile should be covered in a tarp so that the cherry tree I cut down will dry into lovely hard wood for the fireplace, I have blackberry vines. They snarl and tangle and weave their way through the split and unsplit wood, their thorns creating a barricade worth of Sleeping Beauty's Prince.
I considered cutting them back, but then I realized I had waited so long they had begun to fruit. Big black goblets swaying in the hot summer night breeze. I pulled off one, popped it in my mouth and felt the succulent scent of summer on my tongue. For a moment, I was 10, and I was picking blackberries alongside the railroad tracks near my grandmother's house. I pulled off another and another and another until my fingers were stained with their juice. I did it then and I did it now.

Dusk was falling, but I wasn't willing for the moment to end, so I went back in the house, brought out a small bowl and proceeded to fill it. As the deep purple berries plunked one on top of the other, I felt drawn back in time, not just to my own childhood, but into the far distant past where generations of hunter/gatherers collected berries in the fullness of summer.

I was doing what women had done for tens of thousands of years. Collecting the bounty of the earth. And eating it. One for the bowl, one for my mouth. I'm sure they did the same thing, gorging themselves on the ripe fruit even as they gathered it for the rest of the group waiting back at the camp.

It seems only fair. When you are the one getting scratched and pricked by the cat claws that cover the vines you should be able to eat as many as you want.

So I did. And there still were enough to put in the refrigerator for breakfast tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Discussion Question

Okay, time for discussion question and no, it's not just to see if anyone is out there reading this. Although that would be nice to know, too.

The question is: Do any of you feel the same way?

Now, the set up. I was trained that you finish what you start. Anything less isn't worth doing. So if you start to clean the kitchen, you clean the kitchen. You don't quit when there still are dishes in the dishwasher to be put away, even if they are just barely dry. A task started must be completed or else you've somehow failed.

This method worked moderately well before I got some health issues. Now it's just plain not possible. And so when I do as much as I can, it never seems like it's good enough. I hear a tape that plays, "Okay, so you got one flower bed weeded; there are five more waiting, you slacker."

Do any of you experience anything similar?
If so, how do you deal with it?

Monday, July 07, 2008

By Any Other Name
If I had known the word at the time and because I love puns, I'd have called this blog "Catholicon." (Although I think there is another blog by the name, referring to Catholic and icons. But that's not what I was thinking.)

I would have been thinking about this:
Maybe this:Probably not this:

But it does give a clue as to the inner workings of my warped mind.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Yard Work Redux

I am beginning to think that I will never be enamored of yard work. In any way, shape or form. Except maybe dead-heading flowers. I might enjoy carrying a basket, wearing a bonnet and plucking a few faded blooms.

However, that is not the kind of yard work I had to do today.

Today I had to haul hoses.

Make a pilgrimage to Mecca to return a hose I didn't need.
Plant some petunias that were on their last leaf.

Leaf blow the patio.Demoss the deck.

I didn't get it all done. But I made progress. In my next life, I'm having a gardener.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

It's my blog and I'll share if I want to

I've been writing a novel off and on for years. Something like 16 years actually. Since I resurrected my blog, I've resurrected the novel as well. So I thought I'd put up the first chapter, just for shits and giggles as my ex-husband used to say.


"What about that one?" Smenkeret pointed to the center of the crowded courtyard where a dusky, almond-eyed slave was being led toward the auction block by Paneb, the only son of Imanut, the slave trader.

The Lady Anefereti, daughter of the royal scribe Khnumhotep and, by virtue of being a half-sister of the Pharaoh’s Great Wife, a blood member of the royal household, raised one delicately plucked brow. "Surely you jest."

"She appears to be in good shape," Smenkeret said to his mistress. "Strong. Healthy. Young," he continued evenly.

"Indeed." Anefereti slanted her tall steward a sideways glance, but he had turned to watch the scene in the courtyard.

She watched in bemusement as the slave trader’s son desperately tried to act as if this weren't the first time his father had entrusted him with the responsibility of bringing a slave onto the block. It was no easy feat for a lad who still worn the sidelock of youth for, despite the rope tied tightly around her neck, the slave managed to swing her hips seductively as she crossed the dusty yard. Her only item of clothing, an ornate girdle of blue and red faience beads riding low on her slim waist did nothing to hide her obvious assets and a low whistle of admiration circled the crowd of browsers, gawkers and possible buyers.

Anefereti had had dealings with Imanut before. He was the most respectable, honorable and honest slave trader in the entire city of Amarna by his own account, and the biggest cheat in the whole of the Red and Black Lands by everyone else's. He was also well known for selling attractive slaves; a fact he was not averse to proclaiming loudly and frequently to anyone who would listen. Of course he sold them for much more than they were actually worth, but what were a few bushels of wheat more (never less where Imanut was concerned) when beauty was at stake, he always said.

Just as the boy began to climb the three steps of the granite auction block, the slave whom rumor had it had been reluctantly returned when her last master’s wife gave him an ultimatum along the lines of if-she-doesn't-go-I-will-and-remember-just-whose-money-set-you-in-your-business, planted her feet in the fine red dust at the bottom of the steps and waited. The boy reached the second step and almost lost his balance when the rope pulled taut. Clearly, it was the opportunity the woman had been waiting for. She widened her stance, thrusting her hips suggestively forward and refused to budge. The boy looked down at her and his cheeks flushed. He rocked from side to side, finally turning toward his father.

Anefereti nudged Smenkeret and pointed toward Imanut. “I’ll bet he’s trying to cheat that man out of an extra roll of linen.” Just then, Imanut kicked one of the rolls behind his omnipresent jar of beer and began loudly claiming that the buyer had cheated him.

The seconds stretched; the crowd held its collective breath and the boy, after blowing out his breath in a loud sigh, sagged his shoulders and shouted to his father. Imanut, having been convinced by the buyer’s bodyguards that he had already received more than twice as much linen as the last slave had been worth, was leaning over to take a draught of beer.

Imanut spat out the mouthful of warm liquid and hoisted his ponderous frame from the well-padded bench he always placed in the shade between buildings, scattering crumbs of bread from his once-white robe as he did. Grabbing the prod he used for herding cattle and slaves, he scuttled across the courtyard with surprising speed for one so fat and jabbed the woman in her shapely rear, hard enough to make her yelp, but not hard enough to injure her. Imanut never marred his merchandize..

Smenkeret chuckled under his breath and Aneferiti shot him a disapproving glance. Why do men always find such things amusing, she wondered. How would he like it if someone jabbed him in a delicate area?

She watched as the slave woman resisted a last moment, muttered a curse under her breath, then gave in and mounted the steps so quickly the boy staggered and almost lost his balance. In a show of what appeared to be embarrassed bravado, he swaggered to the edge of the block, tied his end of the rope to the ring on the auction post with a flourish and jumped down, raising a thick cloud of red dust where he landed. Imanut watched, a self-satisfied grin crinkling his pudgy face. The slave glowered at the trader, cranked her head around to see the small, raised welt where she'd been poked and then massaged the spot with her long, thin fingers. For the second time, a whistle of admiration flowed through the crowd.

Imanut pointed his prod toward the slave and began his spiel. "This one's been well trained in domestic service in one of the Empire's finest households and will make an excellent servant," he said. The slave, who had been well trained, but clearly not in the domestic arts and hardly in one of the finest households, scanned the crowd, catching the eye of a young scribe. Once he was staring unabashedly at her, she lowered her thick, black lashes and let the tip of her tongue ever-so-briefly flicker over her full lips. It was obvious to anyone watching that the pasty-faced scribe had decided he had to make her a part of his household no matter what the cost. "I believe she's had musical training as well," Imanut continued, having observed the exchange between the woman and the scribe. "Do I have an offer?"

"Are you going to bid on her?" Smenkeret turned to ask blandly, idly stroking his thick, closely cropped black beard.

The Lady Anefereti narrowed her kohl-rimmed lids and scowled. "I'm not looking for an addition to the harem. I'm looking for a maid." Straightening her shoulders, she brushed an invisible bit of lint from the deeply pleated sleeves of her white linen tunic before continuing. "If I didn't know better, I'd swear you were a stallion instead of a gelding," she whispered sharply.

"There are always memories," Smenkeret whispered back, with more than a hint of amusement in his voice.

"Not at my expense, there aren't," she replied, in her displeasure raising her voice just enough so that Imanut who was anxiously watching the crowd in an attempt to force the bidding as high as possible glanced in her direction. At his questioning expression, she shook her head and he turned back to the scribe who had wormed his way to the front of the auction block and in a loud voice, suddenly doubled the current bid.

A gasp rippled through the crowd. "Sold!" Imanut shouted, hastily closing the bidding before the scribe could change his mind.

The young man jumped forward, tripping over the folds of his robe in his eagerness to reach the platform. The slave batted long lashes and smiled.

“By tonight it will be difficult to tell who is master and who is slave in that household,” Smenkeret smirked. “By morning, there will be no doubt.”

Anefereti closed her eyes and waved a painted feather fan in front of her face Smenkeret always seemed to be able to embarrass her when she was least prepared.

As Imanut and the scribe worked out the details of payment, the milling crowd began to disperse. Now that the piece de resistance of the day had been sold, most of the on-lookers were drifting away, back to their shops, their homes, their duties.

Anefereti moved into the shadow of a building where the afternoon heat was a bit less oppressive. "What other woman are being offered today?" she asked as she snapped her fan shut.

"There's only one more. She wasn't available for viewing, but I'm told she's well-trained in household duties," Smenkeret said.

"Humph. I'll believe that when I see it," Anefereti snorted. "Imanut claimed the other one was a domestic servant, too. If she's ever baked a loaf of bread in her life, then I'm the King's Daughter. I wish Tetisheri could return to her duties," she said wistfully tapping her fan on her fingers. Tetisheri was her maid-servant, and her friend. In many ways she was more of a sister than her own sister.

Smenkeret folded his arms across his chest. Like most who lived in the Red and Black Lands, he was deeply tanned, but no matter how many hours he labored in the sun, he would never be as dark as those who were born on the banks of the Nile. Even Anefereti, who had spent most of her life within the cool shadows of the palace and its courtyards, was a darker, richer bronze than her tall slave. "I've been meaning to talk to you about that," he said.

For the second time that afternoon, the Lady Anefereti scowled. In the background, Imanut extolled the virtues of a rheumy-eyed, middle aged man, trying to encourage higher bidding from the restless crowd. "So talk," she said coolly.

"Tetisheri's husband asked me about purchasing her freedom and that of their son."

"And you told him to speak to me, of course."

"Not exactly."

"Not exactly? Then what exactly?" She felt a strange sinking in the pit of her stomach.

"I said I'd discuss the price with you."

Anefereti drew a sharp breath. "You said what?" The sinking feeling suddenly turned to anger.

Smenkeret looked sheepish. "It seemed appropriate at the time."

Anefereti squared her shoulders and drew herself to her full five feet. Enough was enough, she thought . "You may be in charge of my other slaves, but you aren't the head of the household. If you aren't careful, I'll put you on that block next time," she threatened.

Before Smenkeret could respond, a scuffle in the courtyard drew their attention. "You son of a river hog, he's mine," shouted a tall, gaunt wine merchant whose face was flushed as much from anger as from sampling his latest batch of private reserve.

"May you never see Osiris, you liar," added a rotund pottery dealer, shaking his fist at Imanut who was carefully keeping his beer jar between him and the angry merchants.

The crowd, which had thinned considerably after the slave woman had left the block, began to fill back in as merchants poked their heads from stalls and passersby suddenly found a new interest. Only last month, a member of the King's guard had presented Imanut with a bloody nose when a scribe had raised a bid after Imanut had proclaimed a slave sold but because the scribe’s offer was substantially higher than the closing bid, Imanut had tried to pretend he had been sneezing from the dust and that the man who thought he had made the final offer had misinterpreted his distress as a sign the bidding was closed.

While his father was dancing around both the beer jar and truth, Paneb strutted into the courtyard. With great self-importance, he yanked the rope and woman at the end of his lead stumbled, catching her balance only by grasping at the stairs. At that, the boy pulled the rope and her head jerked under the strain. She wobbled as she climbed the block and had to clutch the bronze ring at the top for support. Swaying in the relentless sun, she tried to maintain her balance by holding the ring with both hands, but at length she failed, collapsing at the boy's feet. The boy stared down at her, his mouth agape, the rope still clutched in his suddenly sweaty palm.

Anefereti narrowed her eyes against the glare of the sun. There was something about the woman on the block; something she couldn’t quite place that attracted her interest. She cocked her head toward Imanut who, by now, had calmed the merchants enough so that he wasn't in immediate danger of physical harm, then looked woman lying motionless on the block. She had to take a closer look. With the barest nod to Smenkeret who followed her lead, she crossed the courtyard, leaving a thin trail of red dust swirls on the sun-dried brick. The crowd stepped aside as she passed.

"You can't do that..." Imanut's son sputtered as she mounted the auction block and dropped to her knees beside the woman. Ignoring the boy who was hopping nervously from foot to foot, she picked up one of the woman's wrists and felt for a pulse. Satisfied the woman was not dead, but merely faint, Anefereti then lifted the matted, snarled hair from her face where a small reddish mark, perhaps a bruise, stained her cheek. "A foreigner," she murmured as the boy screwed up his face in anxiety. She fingered the neck of the woman's torn and soiled white linen robe, still bearing traces of its once crisp pleats. "Good quality." It bore a striking resemblance to her own robes, definitely not something a slave would be permitted to wear. Finally, she lifted the woman's hand once again, turning it over to examine the palm. "Not used to hard labor," she commented as she studied the long, delicate fingers which still bore pale indentations from rings. This woman had once worn more than the cheap jewelry of a common slave.

"She's not your typical slave," Smenkeret said what she had been thinking.

"No, I agree. But what makes you say that?" She was relying as much on intuition as hard evidence, but like most men she knew, Smenkeret didn’t have an intuitive bone in his body.

"These." Smenkeret lifted the tightly matted curls from the side of the woman's face to reveal small gold earrings in the shape of cowrie shells. "Since when do any of your slaves wear gold earrings like that?"

"Maybe she stole them from her last mistress."

"Then why didn't Imanut take them off before he put her on the block?" he asked.

"He didn't notice them?" she suggested.

"Imanut not notice? He'd steal from his mother's grave if he thought he could get away with it."

Anefereti stared at the small, golden shells. Egyptian woman sometimes wore cowrie shells—the real thing, not gold models—to indicate a recent birth. She lifted the front of the slave’s dress to see if her breasts were milk-engorged. They weren’t. Perhaps she had been wearing them in the hopes of having a child. Infertility was a curse and all women, from the Great Wife to the poorest servant prayed to be spared its ignomity. Smenkeret raised an eyebrow as she dropped the garment back in place. "We can ask her about the earrings when she wakes up."

"If she wakes up. And if she tells the truth."

Just then the woman's eyelids fluttered and she looked up with a confused stare, her eyes glazed and unfocused. Imanut's son tugged on the rope and started to say something, but a glance from Smenkeret caused him to clamp his lips in a tight line and drop the rope with a sullen glare.

"Water." The woman's voice cracked and she licked a swollen tongue over parched lips.

"Imanut might not be honest, but he usually makes sure his merchandise is in better condition than this before presenting it for sale," Smenkeret said, resting on one knee beside Anefereti.

"True." Anefereti stared at the woman who appeared to have fainted again. "If Imanut hopes to make any profit on her, he'd better get a move on. A few more hours in this sun and he'll have a corpse to bury instead of a slave to sell."

She tilted her chin and exchanged glances with Smenkeret. He lowered his head, silently asking if she wanted him to do something. Anefereti nodded, almost imperceptibly.

Smenkeret rose to his full height. Even standing as straight as possible, the slave trader's son, who was tall for his age, barely reached the middle of his chest. "Fetch some water," he ordered.

"Be quick about it," Anefereti added, holding up her hand to Smenkeret who pulled her to her feet. She ignored the murmurs rippling through the crowd beneath her.

The boy, clearly torn between his desire to obey her and her heavily muscled slave towering over him and his need to stay with the slave woman began sniffling pitifully. He was spared making a decision by the appearance of his father.

"Idiot," Imanut muttered under his breath as he hurried across the courtyard."No handling the merchandise," he puffed as he mopped his dripping brow with a wrinkled, gray cloth he produced from somewhere within the folds of his grimy robe. "Oh, Lady Anefereti." He stopped short and gave what would have been a crisp bow if he hadn't been too fat to bend in the middle. As it was, all he could produce was a massive wobble in the region of his upper belly. "A thousand pardons, my lady. I did not realize it was you." With a fierce glare at his son who backed as close as he could to the edge of the block without actually falling off, Imanut heaved himself up the stairs, droplets of sweat dripping off his sloping forehead. "Look all you wish, my lady. You grace my humble establishment with your beauty. Had I know you were here, I would not have kept you waiting. Can I get you something refreshing? Date wine? Pomegranate juice? Boy, get the Lady Anefereti..."

Anefereti waved her fan in mid-air. "You honor me," she said, "but all I require is some water." Imanut glowered at his son, who immediately jumped off the block and hurried to fulfill the noblewoman's request.

Anefereti bent back over the slave who was now trying to sit up and despite Imanut's startled look, said to her, "The water is coming."

The slave's reply was unintelligible. As she began to sink back into a faint, Anefereti nodded again at Smenkeret who with a grace surprising in a man his height and bulk, bent over and clasped his arms beneath the slave's limp body just as Imanut's son returned with a small crudely made-jar half full of tepid water.

As the boy jogged behind, three of his steps to every one of Smenkeret's, the big slave carried the unconscious woman through the obviously surprised crowd. He entered the relative coolness of Imanut's shaded bench and laid her on the folds of cloth which served both as a pad for Imanut's ample rear and as a convenient hiding place for such small items as might have the misfortune to pass into his grasp. Anefereti took the jar from the boy and tipped it to the woman's lips who swallowed, coughed a bit, then gulped another mouthful.

Anefereti waited until the slave had drained the jar, then wheeled to face Imanut who had followed hard behind. She had made up her mind. "I'll take her. Name your price."

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Some of my (un)favorite things or I hate yard work

Aphids on roses and moss on the roof eaves
Scraggly flowers and ponds filled with dead leaves
Overgrown bushes and bird-eaten Bings
These are a few of my unfavorite things

Droopy old lilacs and unknown dead plants
Weeds in the deck that cause me to rant
Cheeky young squirrels that think they have wings
These are a few of my unfavorite things

When the yard browns
When the bee stings
When I'm feeling mad
I simply forget my unfavorite things
And then I don't feel so bad.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Roofs and Crowns

I've decided that two of the most expensive and least satisfying things to spend money on are new roofs and dental crowns. You can't really open your mouth and say, "Hey, look at this new porcelain beauty on that back molar!" And you can point out your roof, but if it's like mine, it looks just the same as the old roof. In fact, I can't even see a difference except for the lack of the hole that the raccoons made. No one seems the least bit interested in the new roof and who can blame them.

No, roofs and dental crowns are extraordinarily expensive and while both are vital (nothing like a tooth ache or a leaking ceiling to ruin your day), they are completely invisible monetary sinkholes.

Just in case you are wondering, I have both.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Coon Chronicles!!

I have two baby raccoons in a live trap in my back yard. We are waiting for Mama. They were living in the eaves of the roof and attacked the guys who are replacing my roof--didn't hurt the people, but the shovel took a hit.

So I had to get a pest control specialist to come and set traps. We could see Mama watching us over the fence and then, all of sudden, we spied the babies on the roof. They had come out to follow Mama and so the pest control guy reached up and grabbed the little ones. They screamed like banshees and peed all over him. Mama was quite distraught, and so was I because I know they are all doomed.

The reality is that raccoons carry distemper and so the Oregon Wildlife commission won't allow them to be relocated. Apparently distemper is a bit like the flu...there are various strains of it and the wild animals in a given area get a certain immunity to it, but if you introduce a new strain, it will be fatal. There is no way of testing the wild raccoons in an area to be sure what strain of distempter they have. If it's not the same as the strain "mine" are carrying, the new variety of distemper would infect the dogs, wolves and coyotes that live in that area and dissimate the population. Better three dead raccoons than wiping out all the coyotes, dogs, and wolves in a new area.

So the pest control people are going to shoot them. I asked how they were going to be dispatched. The choices are: a bolt to the head--which is painful, suffocation--which is slow, or being shot. My raccoons are going to be facing the fire squad. I doubt they will be given blindfolds or a last cigarette.

Unfortunately they are very cute, but I don't want them living in the attic.

Bad choice of a home, Mama Coon.

UPDATE: Mama was caught. RIP Raccoons.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

Let me begin by saying that I don't like the smell of Indian cuisine. I get a whiff of those spices and my stomach begins to roil. Trust me, there's a reason for telling you this.

The adventure began on Tuesday morning at 7 when I had to find Seti who was hiding in order to take him to the vet for boarding.This is the cat who has to have sub-Q fluids on a regular basis so I can't just leave him to fend for himself like I do the other cat.

By 9, the cat had been found, taken to vet, my friend who was going to keep my car while I was gone had been picked up and I was at the airport to catch a 10 am flight ultimately to Indiana to attend a funeral.

I should have been alerted to the
fact it wasn't going to be the easiest trip when the flight to Portland was the rockiest I've been on in years and the seasoned business travelers around me were looking a little nervous as we pitched and yawed like a skiff riding a tidal wave. However, any landing that gets us on the ground in one piece is a good one, so, by that criteria, it was a good landing. The next flight from Portland to Chicago must have been uneventful because I don't remember any of it except being cramped in a middle seat and spilling my coffee, but fortunately I was wearing black so it didn't show.

I've spent several lifetimes in O'Hare so the airport is familiar turf. Hoisting my travel bag on my shoulder, I slogged from the C terminal to Outer Mongolia, aka, the F terminal where SmallMidwesternAirlineOutsourcedbyUnited flies to obscure places like Madison, WI and Fort Wayne, IN. When I arrived at the gate about 8 pm, my 9:30 pm flight had been delayed until 11:30. This is never a good sign, especially when the sky is periodically split by lightening and the tv monitors have tornado warning signs scrolling.

SmallMidwesternAirlineOutsourcedbyUnited is notorious for posting delays on the last flight of the day and then, after waiting for hours, cancelling the flight completely. The cadre of Ft. Wayne bound passengers gradually clustered together as every 15 minutes a later departure time was announced. When 12:30 am was posted, we all began began to lose hope. "Any bets on when they cancel?" asked one man who had just flown in from Hong Kong and was on his second 24 hours in airports. No one took him up on his bet. We watched as literally everything shut down around us, including the last kiosk selling overpriced water. Finally a 1:30 am departure was posted and about 1:25, the announcement came--the flight to Ft. Wayne had been canceled. Ostensibly the crew from Cleveland never showed up. Personally I think they just didn't want to bother making the flight in the middle of the night and would rather get a good night's sleep. If you had a choice, wouldn't you rather stay at home on a stormy night rather than ferry a bunch of crabby, tired passengers from Illinois to Indiana?

To mollify the crowd, the desk agent began to offer hotel rooms and people dutifully lined up. After about 45 minutes, a supervisor came over and started to say that the five of us who still hadn't been given vouchers were out of luck. They shouldn't have been giving out rooms in the first place because the cancellation wasn't covered under the obscure policy clause for passenger compensation that says when flight crews from Cleveland never arrive, the airline isn't responsible. After looking at our faces, he instantly changed his mind and decided that five more rooms wasn't worth being drawn and quartered.

So we last five stragglers got our vouchers and walked halfway to Canada to the Bus Center where we were to wait for the shuttle which was, of course, not running at this time of night.
Finally a very organized young woman called the hotel and convinced the hotel to rouse a driver and send the bus to pick us up NOW! (I later learned she was a second grade teacher. Heaven help her second graders who don't leave the bathroom in time!)

A half hour ride to a very nice hotel followed.
Usually airlines put me up at motels that advertise rooms by the hour and money back if you don't use the towels, so I was delighted to be in a hotel with fluffy comforters and piles of downy pillows. The only problem was that it was now about 2:30 am and we had to catch the shuttle back to the airport by 4:30 am. So I showered (the chamomile shampoo was quite nice) and stretched out on the bed for a power nap. I set my cell phone alarm and vaguely recall it going off, stumbling out of the room and clamoring on the shuttle for the return to the airport.

Fortunately the morning flight was completely and utterly non-eventful and I arrived in time to take care of some business I had scheduled as well as meeting with the family and all the other funeral-y events.

Fast forward two days. I was at Ft. Wayne International Airport
(international from where?) with flights to return to Oregon, sit in the airport there for one hour, catch another flight back to Denver and then on to Great Falls for a wedding. I had tried, unsuccessfully, to fly directly from Chicago to Denver and then on to Montana, but because the flights I had purchased were different classes of services, it was impossible. If there had been first class seats, which there weren't, they could have sold me all new tickets for just over $2000. I thought perhaps not. Although traversing the country made for a long day, it was certainly doable...and a lot cheaper than two grand.

When I got to my seat, once again in the middle, I noticed there was a young man at the window and his father on the aisle. When people who are traveling together opt to have a stranger between them, it's never a good sign.

As I hoisted my bag in the overhead bin,
I noticed that they were part of a large group of people who I later learned were traveling from Chicago to Oregon to attend a temple festival in honor of their guru. It soon became apparent that the young man at the window was mentally challenged and when his dad mentioned he was ADD, I wanted to say, "No shit, Sherlock" since the kid literally never sat still for a nano-second. Up, over, around, down, twirling, jumping, hopping, dancing, waving, bobbing...and talking. And talking and talking and talking. A steady, unending stream of Hindi punctuated every now and then by a question to me in English. It didn't seem to matter if I answered or not, so I pulled out my book on Medieval inventions and technology (Okay, so I have sort of geek taste in airplane reading).

We began to taxi for take-off when we came to an abrupt halt and the pilot announced there was something wrong with the number one engine. He said he thought it would just take a few minutes to fix. Hah. In some alternate universe, maybe. Anything wrong with a plane will always take a minimum of four hours to fix. I think it's an FAA rule.

So we began to wait. For the first three hours on the tarmac. In a completely filled plane. With no air. Every 15 or 20 minutes the pilot would come on the intercom to tell us it would be another 15 or 20 minutes. After the first half hour, the native road warriors were getting restless and the jungle drums aka cells phones were sending war signals to travel agents.

I tried to immerse myself the importance of water wheels to Medieval weaving
techniques, but all of a sudden the smell of curry and other vile spices assaulted my nostrils and the gag reflex set in. The group of pilgrims had broken out their carry-on cuisine. The young man next to me had to have a sample of everything and in order to keep him from spilling the dishes on me and making me reek of Indian food forever, I ended up helping him dish out strange rice dishes doused in tumeric and bread with something unidentifiable and unappetizing spread on it, a crumbly cake-like dish and several things that barely looked eatable.

Did I mention I really really dislike Indian food?

After enduring endless courses of Indian food, followed by more questions from the young man in
HindEnglish about who I was and where I was going and would we see Mount Hood and why didn't I want some of the mustard rice, I settled into a sort of nauseated stupor. Eventually, God knows how much longer, we were shuffled off the airplane, herded to another gate and told to wait because they would be sending over another plane becuse our first plane was apparently unfixable. So much for a 15 minute repair.

By now, it was apparent I wasn't going to be able to make the connections to get me to the wedding so I decided to make one last attempt to combine trips. As I leaned on the counter, taking deep breaths to get the smell of curry out of my nose, the desk agent mentioned that I had lost an earring. I clutched my ear as if somehow that could make the earring reappear, but of course, it was futile. I must have sighed deeply because the agent said, "Oh, I'm sorry." Why do people say they are sorry for things that aren't their fault? Another mystery of life.

Unfortunately the earrings
were some of my favorites and now one of them was somewhere in the seat of an airplane that was being hauled off for repairs or in the halls of Terminal C or down the toilet in the airplane lavatory. As I took off the remaining earring, the agent said she thought she might be able to switch some things for me, but at that point, I decided I was done. I wasn't going to keep trying. "No more," I said. "I'm just going to go home." I would call the wedding party, tell them that I couldn't make it and deal with the family fall-out at a later date.

An hour later, as we were boarding the new plane the first class flight attendant came up to me, holding out her hand.
"I found your earring," she said. "I have been waiting for you." In shock, I picked up my earring. How could she, in first class, have noticed me and my earrings (they are quite lovely, but still!!) when I was seated in couch? How did she find it? And how did she even think to wait to return it to me? "You do have the other one, don't you?" she asked. I told her that I had put it in my bag. She smiled and I hooked the single earring in my ear, taking its return as the sign that I really wasn't meant to go to the wedding since, if I had switched flights, I would never have recovered this special totem.

The pilgrims were all back in their places by the time I crawled into my middle seat. All in all, it
wasn't a bad flight other than the non-stop motion machine with the Indian sitar songs on his iPod cranked up to deafening levels on my left side and the sonabulatory father ignoring everything on my right. Thankfully no more Tupperware containers of curry appeared.

I landed in Portland, a full 12 hours later than originally scheduled, only to learn that all the flights to Eugene were filled and I would have to wait nearly 24 hours to catch
another flight. Since Portland is only a 2 1/2 hours drive from home, I decided to rent a car. Little did I know that car rental places won't rent one-way. I tried them all--Hertz, Avis, Budget, Alamo, Enterprise and a couple of others. None of them tried harder. Actually, none of them tried at all. One would--maybe--rent me a full-sized van for around $100 to $150 for the drive, but they weren't very excited about it. Neither was I, especially not with the price of gas.

So onto plan C or D or E. Amtrak. I booked a seat on a train leaving in two hours and then tried to get from the airport to the station. A shuttle was supposed to come every half hour, but the first two passed me up, despite my frantic waving and screaming. I called the main office and
said I was going to fling my body under the next shuttle so they had damn well better stop. The next shuttle did stop, but the driver said that I would have to wait for another one because he was full. I won't go into the gory details, but suffice to say that when the shuttle left the airport, I was seated and another man was left waiting on the platform.

I've always found many train stations to be an odd combination of romantic Harry Potter art deco/skid road bad part of town skeevy and
Portland's station is no exception. The ceiling was stunning and the bathroom was scary. The newstand had a few weary sandwiches, aspirin behind a locked case and a couple of ragged paperback. I bought a bagel, a bag of lightly salted Kettle Chips and a water, tried to get comfortable on the church pew style benches and began to read about the invention of type faces in Medieval Europe. The minutes crept and then came the announcement. I somehow knew there would be an announcement. The train was detained by a freight train somewhere north of us and it would be at least an hour before it got to the station.

So began the next wait. A little more than a hour later, the train arrived. After shoving my bag in a luggage compartment, I dropped into my seat and was lulled into a doze by the rhythmic clacking of rails and the sway of the car. It is about a three hour ride to Eugene, but naturally, we experienced innumerable delays which entailed waiting for some dispatcher somewhere to give us permission to use the track so it was the wee hours of the morning when I finally got back to Eugene. A special blessing has to go to the friend who got out of her nice warm bed to pick me up and take me home.

Apparently the wedding was lovely. They have promised to send pictures.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008


I'm quite bonkers over the tv show LOST. Tonight was a rerun of last May's finale with little subtitle thingies that explained what was going on. I bailed out of my last CPA banquet in May to watch it. I was also quite sick with the fibro at the time, but didn't realize that was what was wrong. Anyway, I watched it again tonight and cried--again--when Charlie died.

I am just completely hooked on this show. It's my oxycontin.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Doctor Visit
This is hardly a profound post, but today I went to the doctor for a variety of boring maladies: cyst on my finger, sinus infection, prescription renewal. (The middle one is the reason entry will be short and dull.) Have you ever noticed that when the doctor's office has some decent magazines, semi-seasonal at least, you are instantly called...before you can finish the fascinating article on how long you should keep your eye make-up before you are at risk for pink eye. But when the only thing there is a three year old copy of Birds and Blooms that you've read at least twice before and some Sportsman magazine about hunting with bows, you sit there for at least an hour?

I always mean to take along something to read and then I forget. Next time I'm going to stop at the grocery and get the National Enquirer. When I'm called in, I'll leave it in the waiting room. Want to bet there will be fight going on over who gets it when I come out.

I've purchased a trash mag and taken it on an airplane for a long flight. People sniff and look down their noses at you, but then, after you are done and you put it in the seat pocket, they lean over and sotte vocce, they ask if they might just take a quick glance.

When you carry National Enquirer and Guns, Germs and Steel on a plane and put them both in the seat pocket, you do get strange looks.

Okay, done with winter

I have a short tolerance for winter. One day with snow and I'm done. We are now on day two. This is more than enough winter for me. Even though the temperature said it got above freezing, the snow is still deep on my deck. And the cats are still not happy although I did see little paw prints leading from the cat door, so apparently they aren't leaving me surprises in back rooms.

I was supposed to have had my hair cut today, but the snow prevented me from getting out. I suppose that was a good thing because it forced me to work on the book whose deadline is rapidly---as in almost here--approaching.

In the interest of trying to learn one new thing each day, I read that the last thing we should do before sleep is mentally erase the day. Think of the day as a white board and we need to wipe it clean for tomorrow.

You know how whiteboards get sort of discolored by too much use? That's how I feel about my white board days. They never quite come completely clean. I wonder what I can do to change that? Maybe get a whole new whiteboard.

Sunday, January 27, 2008


It's snowing here. Or it was most of the day. I've noticed that the cats don't like snow. They find it offensive to their little paws. I feel the same way. I find it offensive to my feet. That's because I no longer own proper snow boots like I did when I lived in Montana. Even though I have spent time in Indiana every winter for the past 15 years, I've managed to avoid buying boots.

Also, I like seeing pristine, unmarked snow. Footprints in the snow aren't attractive and if you don't know who made them, they are creepy.

I'm not sure if the squirrels care about the snow. It has completely covered their corn feeder, however. I'm sure they don't like that. By the way, the squirrels didn't like the roasted chestnuts that I put out at Christmas. I wasn't fond of them either.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

UP from the dead.

Nothing like resurrecting a blog that was bogged down for, um, years.

It's a cold January afternoon. I'm working on a book that is week and like all good writers I am off searching for something, anything to do rather than finish that last chapter.