Saturday, May 31, 2008

Possible exorcism required

Our printer (HP 700 series) is demonically possessed. Though demonically may be too strong a word. A tiny elderly woman from Madras, her formerly impeccably starched white shalwar kameez besmirched with ink, is trapped inside, somewhere in the DMZ where paper jams occur. Whenever she makes attempts to escape, she triggers the printer and it spits out – at half-speed – about one third of the take out menu for a new Indian restaurant down the road. She is disconsolate. She worries if she will ever get the ink stains out of her shalwar kameez, as do I.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Skies of Saint Bona

Today we celebrate (Well, someone, somewhere, celebrates.) the feast of Saint Bona of Pisa, the patron saint of stewardesses. Back in the twelfth century, when she was living a saintly life, there were no airplanes, and therefore no stewardesses. She never wore a trim navy blue suit with stockings, sensible pumps, and a fetching airplane brooch on her lapel. She never gave anyone a cellophane sack of pretzels. She did however make no less than nine pilgrimages to Santiago de Compostela. Then in 1962, Pope John 23rd deemed that stewardesses needed a patron saint, and he gave them Saint Bona.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The serial begins

Here, as promised (threatened) is the first installment of a very short story, Quickies. Even the installments are very short. There are thirteen sections. The thirteenth is the longest, and the last.

1. Proctor Puckett, whose passions were opera and spiders, was at the Met’s production of Verdi’s Otello the night a man threw himself from the Family Circle to his death in the orchestra. The opera stopped just after the Moor killed Desdemona but before he realized the wicked deception foisted upon him by Iago.
Earlier that week, Proctor, on his way back from a therapist’s appointment in Nyack, was halfway across the Tappan Zee Bridge when a man jumped off. Even though there are an average of thirty successful suicides off the TZB every year, and Proctor had been seeing his therapist for five years, with mixed results, depending on whom you asked, he had never before been on the bridge when someone jumped. The traffic was stalled for hours.
Things come in threes. Proctor knew that. The trinity, of course. The branches of government, the ages of man, the children in his family. (He was the middle child). That was why World War 3 was inevitable, and why he would most likely be the next jumper.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Bees' knees. Do they have them?

Contrary to what everyone tells you about what a breeze it is to get your knee replaced, how pain free and generally fun the whole experience is, I found myself inconvenienced enough to not write this past week. As in: Not one single legible word.
Maybe that’s because the nurses were on strike.
Yep, in a solid triumph of good planning, this surgery occurred just as the nurses at Saint L--’s were set to go on strike. Click here.

Meanwhile, CSB took a break today from constant attendance upon my knee to attend a Queen-rearing class. Two methods of raising queens were discussed. One was the Miller Method and the other was the standard grafting of eggs into queen cups. In both cases, eggs are inserted into a queenless hive, and then the nurse bees do their work. Yet even as the rapt beekeepers stood around their Master Beekeeper and watched this royal in vitro, behind them in the apiary a hive was swarming: thousands of bees were departing – with their Queen – for a roomier home.
(A friend told me today of her dog’s day care situation: he attends Buddy's Barking Lot, and we agreed that pets seem to bring out the bad punster in all of us. Apparently, the same is true for beekeepers.)

Because this is a trend that I find troubling, I will mention that today is the feast of Saint Injuriosus, known for nothing more remarkable than being married to Saint Scholastica. The two were called Les Deux Amantes, ironically I presume, because the marriage was never consummated. There is no reason to think that is the same Saint Scholastica who was Saint Benedict’s twin sister. Though I have read nothing that actively denies it, and the dates (mid 6th century) would work.

Blessed Claritus - the last male of his family line - he founded a convent for Augustinian nuns in Florence, in 1348. There his wife lived out her days, and Claritus himself joined the convent as a servant. Until he died in the plague of 1348. His shrine nearby is a popular watering spot and “credited with the property of emitting a peculiar odor whenever one of the nuns was about to die.” Butler does not describe that peculiar odor.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

What shall we do with the lint?

I spent a good part of the morning with my arm inside the dryer vent – up to my shoulder – extracting the wads of dryer lint that have lodged themselves in there.

So here is a question:How many tons of dryer lint are generated every day (every week) in the industrialized nations? And is there any possible use for it? (Fertilizer? Fuel? Sculptures by Jeff Koons?) Is this an untapped resource, if only we could recognize it? Or am I daft?

Later I climbed up onto the roof (having first slithered through a casement window) to see from whence came the cataract just outside the bathroom window. Lo and behold: The gutter was completely afloat because the leader was completely clogged with leaf debris. So, I stuck my hand down there too, as far as it would go – which wasn’t all that far.

Clogged lines seems to be the day's theme. Or unclogging.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

We love garlic

Vera, my Albanian hairdresser, hates garlic. She can’t stand the taste or the smell or anything about it. From the sounds of it, this is a solitary bone of contention between Vera and her husband. I ask her how it is possible to cook without it, and she reiterates her antipathy. I have no idea how we started talking about garlic. I overhear other conversations at the beauty shop and realize how ill equipped I am for normal salon chat. One woman is talking about her 71-year-old mother who has a boyfriend (all agree that boyfriend is an uncomfortable word here). At a grandchild’s bar mitzvah, the mother told one of her daughter’s friends that she had fallen in love twice in her life, once at 17 and again at 71, and that she planned to write a book about sex after 71. The daughter found this highly embarrassing. Both the lady getting her hair done and the hairdresser expressed squeamishness at the very concept of sex after 70. This seems to be a normal thing to talk about at the hairdressers. As opposed to garlic.
I am reading about a New Mexican garlic farmer.
In my garden there are twelve varieties of garlic growing. Holly brought us the seed cloves from the Garlic festival up north and we planted them last fall: Spanish Roja, Russian Redstreak, Romanian Red, German White, Bavarian Purple, Andalusian Purple, Carpathian Red, Piedmontese Red. (Truth? those names are fictitious. The real names do involve geographical regions and colors, the popsicle sticks on which I wrote the names last fall when I planted are now unreadable. But the gist is correct.) Now I have to learn when to harvest them.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Serial Fiction

Sometime next week I will start posting a short story in thirteen installments. This is a craven attempt to lure in readers. (It worked for Dickens.) The story, called Quickies, will entertain you and warm the cockles of your heart.

The Queens have arrived

Are you a corn chandler or a baker of holy wafers? If so, today is the feast of your patron saint: Honorius of Amiens.
Reine and CSB have told me that this blog is already a little heavily freighted with the saint-stuff. So I will try to limit myself.
But how can I resist also mentioning Saint Simon Stock who lived inside a hollow oak tree? Could you resist mentioning that?

The Queens arrived today.
There is something wonderful and fraught with expectation about queens arriving: five new queens – already mated, chock a block full of drone sperm – each in her little queen box with her coterie of attendant nurse bees, there to feed her, groom her and eat their way through the sugary stopper at one end of their little cage and so be released into the hive, her new home. They are delivered by Express mail, in a padded envelope labeled LIVE BEES that the post office has graciously (Anxiously? Leerily?) put inside a large mesh polypropylene bag labeled: CABBAGES.

A few years ago in Egypt, I asked a man we were visiting what he knew about beekeeping in the countryside. He was silent for a while and then told me that his grandfather kept bees to pollinate his orchards along the Upper Nile. He remembered going to the train station with his grandfather one to day to pick up the Italian Queen. He said his grandfather was excited beyond anything he had ever seen. The train pulled in, and amidst all the smoke and steam, the conductor handed his grandfather the precious package. He showed his grandson, now the old man I was speaking with, and said reverentially: This is an Italian Queen. She is beautiful. The old man modulated his voice to duplicate his grandfather’s tones.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Will they swarm?

The annals of hagiography contain several sainted married couples (Sts Amator and Martha; St Ethelreda -her sisters were names: Ethelberga, Withberga and Sexberga - and the long-suffering Egfrid, St Hedwig and more) who forswore sex, either before ever having it or after procreating the requisite number of offspring. I have never ceased to find this a strange phenomenon. But a Buddhist couple in Arizona has taken this a step further. Not only are they chaste but also they are never farther apart than 15 feet. Also, they eat off the same plate and read the same page of the same book at the same time. The logistic problems that come to mind are myriad.
On a more cheerful note, today is the feast of Saint Dymphna. Saint Dymphna lost her head somewhere in the middle of the seventh century after Christ. She was the daughter of an Irish king who, after the death of his beloved wife, conceived an incestuous passion for his daughter. In order to escape from his advances, Dymphna and her confessor, Saint Gerebernus, fled across the water to Antwerp and settled nearby in Gheel. Inevitably, the Irish king found them there and he slaughtered Gerebernus before beheading his own daughter. Centuries later, in the 1300s, the relics of the two saints became objects of reverence; their finger bones were encased in gold and rock crystal coffers, their skulls displayed in gem-studded reliquaries. From all over darkened Europe epileptics and lunatics made the pilgrimage to Gheel. These poor souls were taken into the homes of the local inhabitants, who cared for them and treated them as members of the community. And many were cured. This was a time when the mentally ill, the demented, the delusional obsessives, the paralytics and the merely strange were often rejected and cast out; although sometimes they were sanctified.
To this day, the tradition continues as mentally ill and neurologically afflicted patients come from all over the world to be housed in the town and live amidst its compassionate inhabitants. (NOT: as with much of hagiography, the truth is a hard thing to determine, also to define. This last paragraph is true, we think. The first part of the first paragraph? Unverifiable, but appealing nonetheless.)

On the bee front, CSB discovered twenty odd swarm cells (the ones that look like peanuts in their shells) in one of our Irvington hives. In order to prevent the bees from swarming, he removed as many of the swarm cells as he could, though he is unsure if he got them all. Meanwhile, we are keeping the swarm cells on a plate in he kitchen, beneath a fruit basket. Cousin H suggested covering them with a blanket, but we have not done so. CSB thinks it highly unlike that any virgin queens will emerge, but I can always hope.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Bruited Titles, rejected.

The first names
I suggested for the blog were deemed as Boring by Reine, then as Taken by the blog server: WISH YOU WERE HERE, then KNOCK ON WOOD. I don’t think they were that boring. Reine lobbied hard for GEEKWAD MAGOO, which admittedly is appealing but I think she should save that for her own blog. Then I had one of those middle of the night epiphanies and came up with URSULA’S RELICS OF DISCARDED HOBBIES. For almost 12 hours I was delighted with this. Then Reine said it was too long. What she actually said was: “what part of short and concise is that?” Also considered were THE DISNOMIA CHRONICLES and CAFFEINE IS YOUR FRIEND. My friend Merrill suggested PUTTING THE FUN BACK IN DYSFUNCTIONAL. But I am sticking with SORT, QUENCH & DUMP.

Today (neither the date of her birth nor her death, since neither date is known) is the feast of JULIAN of NORWICH, about whom it is worth noting that her Revelations of Divine of Love is Still in Print. It describes her sixteen visions – she referred to them as “shewings” – of Christ’s suffering. She was hardly the only medieval religious to experience revelatory ecstasies or write about them, but her prose is more direct and emotionally available, which may explain why she is Still in Print.

It’s also the feast of JOHN the SILENT who for nine years lived in a hut built upon a rock, protected by a lion.

Saint SERVAIS or SERVATUS is the patron saint of rat-catchers. (Nothing in his story explains why.)

While in prison, after having been hung by her hair and beaten, Saint GLYCERIA was fed by angels. Butler tells us that the Greek “acts” relating her life are “unfortunately quite unreliable”. (This is true in more cases than I can count: the unreliability of the sources, not being fed by angels. Or maybe not.)

Saint PETER REGALATUS had the gift of bi-location. And he was not alone.

To read HAGIOGRAPHY is a new understanding of fiction.