Thursday, June 28, 2007

New Nonsense from the Home Trenches

The Geico Cavemen often have a better vocabulary, and better insight, than I. (P.S. I heart the Geico Caveman who occupies the Caveman's Crib--he's pretty snarky and crabby, but he is so savvy, intellectual and sophisticated, and his apartment is downright awesome. I like dressing him up in his hopelessly retro tennis outfits. He knows how to party. I would totally eat the shrimp cocktail, and I want a set of those refrigerator poetry magnets in Esperanto!)

(convalescing on sofa with ice pack after the toe-smashing incident and looking a little downhearted, worried about whether he'll be allowed to participate at baseball practice): Mom, I'm in a fig.

Me: Whuuutt?

Tyke: You know. I'm in a fig!

Me: Huuuunnnhhhh? [Grunt]?

Tyke (really loud this time, as if increased volume will help me comprehend): YOU KNOW!!! I'm in a FIG!!! You know, a FIG!

Me: [feeling like a complete imbecile] I'm sorry, Tyke, I just don't understand what you're trying to say.

Tyke looks at me in silent disgust, as if to say, "You old people are so pathetic."

A whole minute goes by. I assume the meaning in the message will remain a mystery. Once that minute has passed, I've given up and forgotten about it.

Tyke: Oooohhhh!!! OOHHH! I know! (pause) I'm in a FUNK!!

Me: [laughter to the point of hyperventilation; faint]

Cut to this morning.

Tyke: Mom, why are inches so long?

Me: [Long stare. Silence.]


Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The Definition of Irony

  1. Kid leaves open trumpet case in the very center of bedroom floor.
  2. In morning, Mom takes other kid to nine-hour daily musical theater camp.
  3. While mom is gone, kid goes racing up stairs and into room.
  4. Kid smashes foot on trumpet case.
  5. Mom comes home.
  6. Kid informs mom that he thinks he broke a toe or two.
  7. Mom calls doctor's office for appointment.
  8. The only available appointment is at the precise time of the weekly trumpet lesson.
  9. Mom calls trumpet instructor to inform her that kid probably broke toes on trumpet case and can't come to lesson because fixing toes will be happening at the time the lesson should take place.
  10. Doctor is informed that on any other day at the time we are visiting her, we would be at a trumpet lesson. Doctor thinks the story is very funny.
  11. Trumpet instructor says, "Well, okay. Tell him no foot tapping when he practices!"

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Old and New

(Click on pic for larger view in separate window)

I should probably save this for the Fourth of July, but it's occurring to me now, so here goes it.

This week, I'm thinking about Father's Day. I'm not just thinking about my own father, but about all those fathers (and mothers) who came before him and, against all odds, somehow resulted in my life--the life of an only child and the life borne of parents who were also only children. Given history, it all seems so unlikely that I'm here, and that I could even know what I know.

Preface: I'm a fourth-generation Californian. My DH is a third-generation New-York-stater.

Since our whirlwind wedding, we've lived all over the country and even out of it. Shortly after we moved to CT, DH and I uncovered some family history we'd long wondered about. Both of us have roots in what is now called the US or America all the way back to about 1636. We have 14 and now 15 generations of documented family trees. In my case, no one but Americans intermarried; what I mean to say is that we don't have any immigrants coming into the family later than 1636. On DH's side, there's only one German forebear who arrived in the 19th c and not through Ellis Island. We've just been Americans marrying and procreating Americans. And for many generations before that, my ancestors on this side of the pond were Cherokee--real natives of this land.

When we lived in England, people assumed that because we were "American" it automatically meant that we were offspring of recent immigrants, as in Ellis Island. We got into many heated discussions. Other people got really mad at us because we wouldn't disclose what "nationality" we really were. They suspected we were trying to hide something. They had no concept of mixes, which I thought was completely odd, since they are in a tiny island country that is all about historic invasions and is also, unlike the US, just a stone's throw to any part of Europe. Many of them said we couldn't possibly know who our ancestors were, because they didn't know who theirs were. Preposterous.

It was all very provincial and close-minded, except for the handful of folks who were in awe about how far back we could go and wished they knew that much about their own families. The highlights of our living in England were our visits to ancestral places where as many as four generations back to the early 1400s were buried together in crypts with their names carved into huge stones in the floor aisles of Norman churches. We met the record-keepers of those churches, took pictures (froze our butts off since the churches were stone), and got a town tour showing us the home of one of my ancestors--a medieval manor that's still there, dovecote and all.

Anyway, a long time ago we were talking about our genealogies and stumbled upon the fact that both of our families had settled in the same area, this area, in the 17th and 18th centuries. We used to joke that maybe we got married but were already relatives (not just a lame joke, but also a creepy one!). When we got here, we researched and found a bunch of our ancestors buried here. We freaked out when we found some of them of the same generation from both families in the same cemetery. That's just weird.

The photo above is one of my favorite pictures (click on it for big), which I took when three generations of us visited an 18th c church in Hartford in order to scrutinize the cemetery and find our folks. A wedding was about to take place in the church, but the minister graciously brought us through the wrought iron gates and escorted us out to the back where we could be with our people.


We couldn't stay long, but we did find our relevant stones. Then we had to leave since the wedding party were arriving, and on the way out I snapped the photo. This beautiful church is nextdoor to what is known here as The Gold Building (because it's a skyscraper of gold reflective windows). Note: This is not the building of the same name that's in Albuquerque, NM. I've also lived there, but that's not the building I'm talking about.

I loved the juxtaposition of the history next to the modern commerce, and the distortion of history as captured in the modern lens and windows.

And I love the fact that we--completely accidentally--have come home to our ancestral roots.


Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Poetry Thursday: Color Pact--Umber

The prompt word I got today was "umber."

I love it! Thank you, prompt generator.

This poem may not make any sense to anyone who has not tried watercolor painting. It's about the color names.

Color Pact--Umber

Mine is the umber that's not yet burnt.

It hovers
Madder, like rose genuine

and falls incorrectly,

through ochre and sienna
desperate to be

(it has no promise of Crimson)

and ends

closer to

scarlet lake

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Poetry Thursday: Four-Letter Gulf

This week I was thinking about four-letter words. Not the "four-letter-word" kind of four-letter words. Just words with four letters. Rules: 1) How about a poem written exclusively in four-letter words, 2) only you can't use any "naughty" four-letter words?

Well, I hammered and hammered and found out it was


Then I got a somewhat decent poem, but after I was absolutely certain I was finished, I found a gosh-darn five-letter word! It was


And the way I felt was [Insert favorite four-letter expletive here]. And I had to


my forehead and try yet again. And when I endeavored to take out the shoes, I had to change feet to foot, which worked well to get rid of the plural but made a not-as-good sounding poem (in my opinion) and lost a pleasant rhyme.

So I have two versions: one that follows the rules exactly, and one that just barely doesn't.

Blogger absolutely, routinely, and subversively will not allow me to put my line breaks or in-line spaces or what would appear as tabs where I want them or permit me to put in deliberate WELL KNOWN HTML CODE for such spaces in its "Edit HTML" supposed feature, so it can go eat itself. Because of this, my poems do not appear as I graphically designed them, and this makes me furious. Despite the fact that I know how to code, these poems are misrepresented as posted.

To that I say, Bu@@ CRa9!

I. Four-Letter Gulf (with five letter word, ohwell, sigh, oohh, sigh is four)

Boys trot toes thru sand,
find star fish arms.
They slap full guts over surf;
foam wash tops damp hair.
Land sips shoes, shoes slip from feet;
wade bath sops bald heat.
Gust, wind!
Leap this deep dew's pool.
Air's hand, clap!
Drag time.
Wave wets away dusk:
gold orbs slip down, gild back seas.

Hail, cool sky's moon.

II. Four-Letter Gulf (with all four-letter words--not so good)

Boys trot toes thru sand,
find star fish arms.
They slap full guts over surf;
foam wash tops damp hair.
Land sips shoe, shoe slip from foot;
wade bath sops bald heat.
Gust, wind!
Leap this deep dew's pool.
Air's hand, clap!
Drag time.
Wave wets away dusk:
gold orbs slip down, gild back seas.

Hail, cool sky's moon.

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Friday, June 08, 2007

My Inner Criminal

Any of you who have read my posts over time will already know that I am a raging asthmatic. I have a number of prescriptions and a regimen that I adhere to strictly in order to keep myself alive. Although I'm under constant monitoring by my docs, over time I have occasionally bought over-the-counter tablets because under certain circumstances they really help clear out excessive mucus in a way that none of my prescriptions do. This improves my overall condition. Furthermore, I always try to have tablets on hand if I travel, because any change in my environment always exacerbates the asthma. That's a 100% reliable given.

So we were finally getting our summer plans in order, and that included vacation. I started thinking about what we might need to take with us this year and whether anything needed to be upgraded. I riffled through the "family hygiene" Ziploc baggie to make note of what was present and what needed adding or replacing. (The Ziploc contains everything anyone might need--bug bite remedy, children's fever reducer, Dramamine, Benadryl, topical anti-itch creme, extra toothpaste, shampoo/conditioner, combs, sunscreen, yadda yadda, yadda). I noticed that the travel Primatene tablets were absent. So while I was out after regular grocery shopping, I stopped at Walgreens to pick up a small box of 12-24 Primatene for the kit.

For months and months, our local Walgreens has been getting a major facelift. Half the store is blocked off and empty, and the other half is completely mixed up; nothing is where it used to be and even the Pharmacy counter is now hidden in the bowels in a far-back corner. After wandering for a while, I found the cold/allergy section and scrutinized the shelves for Primatene. I looked and looked for the familiar package and started to think I would have to go across town to CVS instead. Just before giving up, I saw a spot on the shelf with claim cards in it. It's like the sort of ticket you get at Toys 'R' Us when you want an extra-large item that they have to bring to the cashier station from the warehouse.

I had never seen such a thing before. The card said I had to present it to the pharmacist. Whuuuuttttt?? It's a frigging over-the-counter remedy that's been around for years. Oh, and I might add that it's less effective than it used to be because they took out a good ingredient that used to make it work better (I can't remember the name of that now). I was in a bit of a hurry, and now I was going to have to stand in line at the pharmacy and wait for them to rummage for a single item?

A kid about 17 took the ticket and scanned the shelves behind the counter. When he came back, with the box (the size of which I had no choice about), he had the audacity to ask me for ID. What the Fu$k??? This is a Walgreens, and a kid too young to be an agent for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms is asking me for ID? It's not a state liquor store and a jug of moonshine, for goddsakes. It's a box of 60 tablets, and by the way, I never wanted more than 24.

So of course I had to argue. The pharmacist flew out from between the shelves and said menacingly, "If it contains pseudophed it's restricted."

"But I'm not trying to buy pseudophed." She grabbed the box, frowned at me, and looked at the ingredients.

"It contains ephedrine. It's controlled." Oooh, the 'c' word! When I lived in New York state, "controlled" items were certified narcotics (such as a kid's Ritalin or a cancer patient's pain meds). These had to be prescribed on a special, separate pad and signed in triplicate. If every item on the form was not filled out in a very particular way, the pharmacy would send the person presenting the prescription back to the doctor to make the doctor correct the form. Every time I would go to get a bottle of pills, there'd be a mistake on the form and it would take days to straighten out. Days that someone was doing without important medicine.

What, I'm an effing narcotics head now and I have to be checked against the America's Most Wanted list?

I showed the boy my drivers license. I figured he was just looking for the date, the way they would at a liquor store if I weren't ancient enough never to be carded.

But, no.

He was actually taking all the information off of my drivers license! He did not even explain to me what was happening. Had I had half a chance to know what this was about, I would have thrown the box back and stormed out in a huff. Shove your frigging Primatene where the sun don't shine! "Hey, what are you doing there with my personal information?" He didn't answer, just acted as if I weren't there. What was I going to do, leap over the counter and chase him down? The kid was slow as molasses. Don't their high school technology courses teach them how to use a keyboard? He kept squinting and squinting some more, until I decided he needed glasses. He was really milking it, squeezing every last bit of information from my license.

We are not free citizens, people. We are objects to be controlled by our information, a jumble of numbers and mere faceless subjects in a maze of databases waiting to betray the honest.

So that's it. My personal information is now in a database somewhere as a person of interest among those who might have the potential to sell street drugs. Give me a break! After I got the receipt, I read the fine print at the bottom, which says,
Federal law limits the sale of pseudoephedrine products to no more than 3.6 grams per person per day and limits an individual's purchases to 9 grams or less per 30 day period. Some states are more restrictive.

But I wasn't buying pseudo ephedrine. I was buying the real thing. Whoopee! Does that upgrade my criminal status to Addict or Drug Lord Extraordinaire? Next, I looked at the ingredients on the box. "Each tablet contains 12.5 mg of ephedrine HCI, USP and Guaifenesin, USP 200 mg." 'Scuse me if that looks to me like a mere pittance.

Because of this 12.5 mg--and never more than two tablets a day, I might add, since the shaky side-effects are overwhelmingly not worth it--I am now a shining star on the National Do Not Sell Registry. What would do if I go back in tomorrow to get another box? What if I decide to raid CVS? Are there DEA officers hiding behind the counter with cuffs, and a waiting vehicle out back?

If I could do the math, I would figure out how many grams of pure evil I actually bought. In any case, I fail to understand how this further violation and degradation of me as a citizen makes the government feel all better about its sorry self in its continued resounding failure in the "War Against Drugs." The people who legitimately need this medicine, who used to just breeze into the store and pull it off the shelf, now can't get it without interrogation and a fight. But what Big Gubmint didn't consider is that the people who really are making street drugs are not doing it piecemeal, by legally and dutifully purchasing one box a month of Primatene. All they have to do is raid a warehouse or truck or a drugstore and steal it. Much cheaper and more efficient.

That's right! I and all my mom-jeans-wearing housewife cronies have a big ring here in our little town, which I might add is above reproach. We go around buying up all the Primatene and NyQuil in surrounding snooty suburbs--patiently, month by month--and once we have a really good stockpile, we smuggle it down to the basement and scrape out the "good stuff" (which is what? I don't even know). Then we dress up like hookers in Land's End garb and sell it on the street. I wouldn't hold out much hope for what I could glean from a box of 12. But imagine the potential from a box of 60. Uh, maybe not so much.

Oh, yeah. I forgot. I don't have a basement.

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Thursday, June 07, 2007

Poetry Thursday: A Dark Memory & Revenge

I'm not just lazy this week, but also really busy. Haiku and a cinquain will have to suffice.

Dark Memory

Chewed insulation.
Electrocuted squirrel.
All the lights went out.


forces mourning:
its flesh white as a ghost,
spirits sharp as the butcher knife
carve tears.

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Tuesday, June 05, 2007


I'm still reeling with doubt. Surely I didn't see what I thought I just saw.

Out of pure curiosity, I was looking up the word "Mandelbrot" in my 1999 Oxford American Dictionary and Language Guide. Of course the word is too specialized to be in a regular dictionary, and I found nothing between "mandatory" and "mandible." Anyway, because I am a certified dictionary retard and have hardly gotten over the excitement of the 2007 Scripps National Spelling Bee, I kept reading the words under M. Two pages later, on page 605, I found the following confusing mistake that somehow did not get corrected during proofreading. I tried writing this up by formatting it as it is in the dictionary, but Blogger wouldn't let me and refused to render my hand-coded HTML, too. Also, I could not find the proper code to make a schwa in HTML. So I scanned it from the dictionary page:

Anyway, my point is, the entire dictionary entry of the word "manor" is hanging-indented directly under "ma non troppo," as if it is a subset of the entry "ma non troppo." And there's the interesting matter of that poor little orphaned word "manor" inexplicably following the cross reference to "troppo," as if it's shyly rehearsing to be the next entry. [Aside: This is pretty ironic. As is typical, Blogger has goofed up my formatting for this paragraph and refuses to let me fix it. I frequently hate Blogger, with its myriad non-functional "exciting new functionalities," and its refusal to let me put the code for an RSS feed in my template, and its loss of my profile changes and not letting me put up a new profile image, and its refusal to put a list of labels where I want them. But I digress bigtime.]

But, getting back to the error. Honestly. I am shocked to my foundation. As in "troppo," it's just too much. Help me! This is the Oxford American Dictionary, people! My favorite book(s) in the world, which would be my choice if I were stranded on the proverbial desert island, is The Compact Edition of The Oxford English Dictionary. (Hee, it's two "compact" volumes as opposed to the 25 volumes of the full edition, but I would take both volumes, because who wants to be stuck with only A-O or P-Z?) Anyway, any English major--and I consider it a calling--knows that Oxford is the alpha and omega of authority. So why does the American dictionary have to have a proofreading error and be an embarrassment to us ignorant colonials? When I read Oxford, I expect impeccability.


It's one of those things that makes me feel conflicted and uncomfortable. On one level I think it's funny that I found perhaps the only error in a 1306-page book. On another level I feel a bit betrayed, and wonder what other mistakes might be in there that might mislead those who refer to it. On one hand I feel smug. On the other, I feel disappointed--crestfallen.

A lot of people--the vast majority, probably--would tell me I'm stupid and that I should just get over it. But it really means something to me. I haven't been this surprised since I was reading The Wall Street Journal and a writer, talking about a large number of some noun, said "gads" of them instead of "scads," and no one caught the mistake. "Gads" is not a quantity. The friggin' Wall Street Journal. Ever since then I read the Journal with slight trepidation. Sigh.

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