Wednesday, October 26, 2011

There are many good reasons to go to your local library’s book sale, such as supporting a good cause and taking note of how many copies of the Da Vinci Code have been discarded by your fellow citizens. I stopped counting at 18.

Here is another: find out what you have in common with John Steinbeck. But first, I must tell you that I thought I had read or was at least cognizant of all the books of Steinbeck. I was wrong. I had never heard of or read The Short Reign of Pippin IV, and there it was for $1 at the book sale.
So here it is: not only have both John Steinbeck and yours truly engaged in the most amusing pastime of inventing necessary saints, but we both invented female saints who would be sacred to manicurists. (See SQD of April 1 – St Digitassa of Phalangeville)
In The Short Reign of Pippin IV we make the acquaintance of St Hannah, patron saint of feet. She founded an order of nuns “dedicated to silence, black bread and pedicures for the poor.”
Don’t laugh too hard – I think we could really use this saint. Has anyone seen CSB’s toes lately?

Saturday, October 22, 2011

I was taking the shortcut through the Grace Church glebe, and decided to see if there was a signature or plaque to tell me who was David's sculptor. There was not.

This is what I saw on the back side (backside) of David.

Friday, October 21, 2011

If you are having a bad day, say your pet tiger just escaped and was shot by the local sheriff, or your basement flooded and the 100 pounds of Jasmine rice that you were saving for a rainy day cooked itself and expanded so much that it burst though the walls of your closet and oozed all over the basement and now every mouse in the county has moved in, or perhaps it is the sixtieth birthday of your ex-husband, or it would have been his 60th, had he lived, and you are miserable and overwhelmed by sadness and intimations of mortality, well there is only one thing I can suggest to alleviate the problem: reorganize out your medicine cabinet.
Perhaps this is not the first thing that occurred to you.
But I can vouch for its efficacy.
I found it impossible to weep while I figuring out the difference between witch hazel and hydrogen peroxide, and then memorizing their many hitherto-unknown-to-me uses, such as: Hydrogen peroxide for whitening animal bones, removing fresh blood stains, controlling fish fungus, and removing skunk odor.
Witch hazel for pimples, hemorrhoids & after shave.
And in order to count how many packages of dental floss (more than 8, all freebies from the dentist) you have, you must concentrate and that means you are not obsessing about birthday presents you might have given your ex-husband when he was not your ex, and alive. It is impossible to simultaneously calculate the total length of dental floss and regret that you never found him a first edition of William Burroughs’ Naked Lunch.
[Since reading the expiration dates of all the OTC medications is sure to remind you of mortality, I would not recommend that route.]
Instead, organize all your tubes and bottles of sunscreen and arrange them in ascending order of SPF strength (Bain de Soleil 8 to Neutrogena 70).
And if the above is not enough distraction from your misery, you can tackle the mystery of why you have so many tubes of Neosporin (Original and Maximum Strength), Bacitracin, Hydrocortisone cream and Benadryl anti-itch cream.
And please, let me know what you figure out.
As a last resort: paint the inside of the medicine cabinet bright blue or green.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Travel tips for NOLA

It is true that I have been to Axum and Kerala, Tierra del Fuego and Caratunk, but never before had I been to New Orleans. And now I am in love.
An abbreviated list of the things to love about New Orleans:
• Street names in French and Spanish
• Wooden shutters and balconies
• Beignets, which are basically fried dough covered with sugar but since the word is French they have NO calories. Don’t ask me how this is possible.
• Oysters
Abbreviated list of what to avoid:
• Mimes

While my sister was busy studying how to alleviate the rising of the waters and the sinking of the city, I wandered the French Quarter and discovered the home of Frances Parkinson Keyes, a writer I had never even heard of. But now I am one of her fans, or I will be as soon as I read her biography of Saints Rose of Lima and Mariana of Quito.
Prior to being the home of the prolific Mrs. Keyes, it was the home of Paul Morphy the chess prodigy, and before that, the home of Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard, civil war general and engineer of whom I shall write more later.
Frances Parkinson was born in Virginia in 1885. As a girl she went to Miss Windsor’s School in Boston. (Much later, Windsor - having dropped the ‘Miss’ - was an athletic rival of MAGUS, that is, Milton Academy Girls Upper School. I did not participate in any of those athletics as they all involved hurling balls, and some of them even involved sticks. ) Later Frances married Henry Keyes, who would go on to be the Governor of New Hampshire (“Live Free or Die”) and a U.S. Senator. Then he died in 1938.
So in 1950 Mrs. Keyes moved to New Orleans and bought a derelict old house across the street from the Ursuline Convent. Already a successful writer, Mrs. Keyes had to crank up her production to earn the kind of money needed to restore the historic house, and collect her porcelain veilleuses and dolls. A veilleuse is a very small teapot kept warm by resting atop a porcelain stand containing a votive candle, and in my humble opinion is rendered quite useless by the very small size of the teapot. Utility, however, is doubtless not the point of such a collection. Among her many veilleuses, Mrs. Keyes had examples in the shape of classical buildings, Persian dancers, a city in flames, and Joan of Arc. The tour guide told us,sadly, that this collection was not the largest in the US. That honor belongs to the collection of Dr. Frederick Freed in Trenton, Tennessee (“A tea-rrific place to live!”). Certainly Mrs. Keyes had the largest collection I have ever seen of dolls dressed as nuns; there were very many, in various habits, with some quite spectacular wimples. I am sorry photography was forbidden.
Meanwhile, my sister was discussing environmental justice in the 9th Ward.

Monday, October 10, 2011

The winner of The Ladies Hatchet Competition.(I couldn't type with those nails, never mind wield a hatchet. I am in awe.)
From the Morning Sentinel, Somerset County, Maine.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Walking the Wallace S. Walk

Wallace Stevens may not be the most widely read poet in America, but he is probably the most-widely read poet from Hartford who was also the Vice-President of a major insurance company and also has a walk through Asylum Hill in his honor. And because of that singular distinction, two dear friends and I gathered at The Hartford Accident and Indemnity Company* Parking Lot last week to walk the Wallace Stevens Walk. Each of the thirteen stops along the way is marked by a stone inscribed with one of the thirteen inscrutable verses of “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird”. As we walked we parsed one friend’s protracted divorce proceedings, focusing (of course) on the bizarre, and delusional behavior of her soon-to-be–ex-husband.
Our second stop (“ I was of three minds, /Like a tree/In which there are three blackbirds.”) was in front of the Asylum Hill Congregational Church and their Thrift Shop was open. This is very handy if you want to thriftily acquire items you don’t need. We went inside and B found a blue tea tin for 10¢ while M-A and I ate the free tootsie rolls on the counter.
The fifth stanza (“I do not know which to prefer/The beauty of inflections/Or the beauty of innuendoes/The blackbird whistling/Or just after.”) was engraved in a stone directly in front of the St. Francis Hospital, the birthplace of M-A. I do believe she preferred inflections.
Stuck in the ground right next to the ninth stanza (“When the blackbird flew out of sight/ It marked the edge/ Of one of many circles.”) was a bright yellow sign alerting us that PESTICIDES had just been applied. The record is eerily silent about Wallace Stevens’ opinions about pesticide use and GMO’s.
And here we are in front of Wallace Stevens’ (former) house, enjoying the suburban susurrus of blasting leaf-blowers while reading the thirteenth stanza (“It was evening all afternoon/It was snowing/ And it was going to snow./ The blackbird sat/ In the cedar-limbs.”)

*You may be pleased to know that both Robert E. Lee and Abraham Lincoln had homeowners’ insurance with The Hartford. I find that reassuring. Re-insuring.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

What St Francis and the animals don't mind

The whole point of a temporary tattoo is that it is temporary. That would make sense to me. But it is not that simple. Temporary tattoos are temporary if you happen to have make-up remover in the house. If you do not, and you are unwilling to scrub your granddaughter’s arm with a pumice stone or an SOS pad, then you must consider the tattoos as temporarily permanent.

It was the feast of St. Francis, and I thought it would be a good idea to remove beloved granddaughter’s faux tattoos before we went to church for The Blessing of the Animals. Which probably shows you how shallow I am. Would God or the rector mind that a five-year-old is sporting faux tattoos? Not at all. Nor should they. Would St Francis or the animals? Ditto.
But I really wanted those tattoos off her soft little arm. Perhaps now is not the time to explore my feelings about tattoos, almost entirely a result of my daughter’s tattoos, each and every one of which I consider to be far less beautiful than the skin it currently mars. Maybe all mothers think this is the case, but in my case it is an absolute fact, that my daughter had and has the most beautiful pale and soft skin imaginable. What is not imaginable – to me – is why she would willingly allow herself to be pricked, dyed and scarified by some random tattoo “artist” who may be suffering from any number of infectious diseases and is surely suffering from a good-taste-deficiency. No, it does not matter to me in the least if her tattoos are ‘interesting’ or ‘tasteful’ (the alphabet in Czech modernist font?). What matters to me is her skin. No matter how much I love Moby Dick, the fact that Queequeg was covered with tattoos does not strike me as a good reason for my child to get a tattoo. She is not a South Sea Island whaler, nor is she a cannibal.

I thought I was not going to rant about tattoos. And lest anyone get the idea that I an prejudiced or narrow-minded, you should know that last week CSB and I went to the opening of Tattoo Flash at the very cool Lift Truck Project in Croton Falls. To be honest, I went because it was curated by my friend the poet Pam Hart and not because of an intrinsic fascination with the subject, because I do not have such an intrinsic fascination. But I discovered the wonderful stories of the early tattooists and their close connection to seaports and circuses. Of the tattoo flashes, I especially liked the buxom dames with Indian headdresses.
There were no wolves at our little church’s Blessing of the Animals, but we did have 1 rabbit in a hamper, 2 gerbils, at least 4 hermit crabs, a white cockatoo, a green and yellow parakeet (or parrot, I can’t tell the difference), 1 live cat, 2 photographs of cats too fearful to come out and play with all the dogs, and many dogs of all sizes and ilks, including one of ours. Bruno had to absorb the blessing for his rowdier sister in absentia. There were also about 12 honeybees, in a small jar in my pocket, and they too had to stand in for their thousands of sisters. Cherished granddaughter held the cockatoo’s cage for much of the service.
Should I tell her that on most Sundays there are not so many animals at church?

The new chickens (born April 22nd to be exact)are starting to lay, and notice how much smaller their eggs are. The Rhode Island Reds and Buff Orpingtons are laying brown,buff and mottled white eggs, while the Araucanas are laying sky blue eggs. Numero Uno granddaughter continues to expect a green yolk inside a blue egg. One day I hope to oblige.