Tuesday, August 31, 2010
(WARNING: If you're not in the mood for whining, skip this blog and go back to yesterday's.)
Today is the end of August, 2010. I am sooooooo happy. When this month started, I had great hopes. Finally. This would be the month when I would spend less than my pension check, I told myself. No dipping into savings. Well, shut my mouth! William Faulkner wrote the book Light in August. I’m changing the title to Fright in August.
As you may recall from an earlier blog this month, it all started with a frightening $188.00 water bill, over three times the norm for mid-summer. We’d had barrels of rain in July, so I knew this total couldn’t be from watering a thirsty lawn. Here’s the rounded-off damage:
Plumbing bill to fix the water leak: $450.00
Back hoe bill to dig the hole to fix the water leak: $250.00
Carpenter’s bill to rip up the front porch to fix the water leak and then put it back together: $470.00
Another plumbing bill to fix the clogged sewage line: $80.00 (Oh, yes! After the water leak was repaired, everything that went down the toilet started gurgling up the bathtub and bathroom sink.)
Then, my body rebelled:
Chiropracter and doctor office visits, co-pay: $50.00
My share of three medical bills that insurance wouldn’t pay: $65.00
To add insult to financial injury, my wacky tinnitus got wackier (for free!) and Fluffy got tapeworms ($100.00).
I’m ready to rip August off the calendar and flush it down the toilet--except doing so might cause another sewage problem, so I’ll play it safe and just toss it in the trash.
Remember the song “Tomorrow” from the musical Annie? Well, I’ve switched words: “September, September! I love ya, September! It’s only a DAY AWAY!!!”
Monday, August 30, 2010
Miss-o was one of several coin-eating diversions in the southwest corner of the pool room at the Palace. It was such a bitch of a challenge and in such demand that two people would often play it at once, and that’s how I became friends with Kathy Mac. She was left-handed, I was right, so we’d each finger our appointed flipper, showing off lightning-quick reflexes, zoned in on keeping that little silver ball in play. Sometimes we would rack up so many free games that we would draw crowds watching us with admiration. When we were flipped out for the night, we’d finally strut away in triumph.
Kathy Mac, a nursing major, was a short, squatty loudmouth who could, amazingly, tell dirty jokes, drink beer, laugh louder than anyone in the joint, and play pinball at the same time. I wasn’t so multi-talented. About the only word that came out of my mouth when we were playing was, “Damn!” on those rare occasions when I missed on Miss-o and the ball slid down the loser’s slot. Boo, hiss! But that didn’t happen often. Practice makes perfect, and I practiced a lot. If there had been a Miss Miss-o Contest at the Palace, I would have been the frontrunner, for sure. And Kathy Mac would have been right beside me.
Ah, the carefree days of my misspent youth! I sure do miss Miss-o.
Saturday, August 28, 2010
“Well, I think I’ve found out what’s happened to our owls,” he said of our missing-in-action bird pals.
“What?” I asked.
“They’re in Princess’s stomach!” he growled. Princess is the ill-named yellow tomcat that belongs to one of our neighbors but roams the ‘hood seeking excitement and trouble. Sometimes we find him perched on our birdbath getting a drink and waiting for a thirsty, feathery tweeter.
“You’re kidding! What makes you think that?”
“I saw him way up in the tree a while ago on the branch where the owls usually are.”
“Well, that’s a bummer.”
“You want to hear what happened next?” he asked, in a somewhat forlorn tone.
“I threw a rock at him to get him out of the tree,” he started. Oh, crap. Surely he didn’t kill Princess.
“…and it ricocheted down and broke one of the Stuber’s garage windows.”
I was almost relieved, but BB felt terrible about it and was waiting for our neighbors, not the ones who own Princess, to get home so he could go over to plea guilty and apologize. He’s already gone to the lumberyard to buy a little replacement pane and plans to be making his amends this weekend.
“I’ve got just one thing to say,” I told him. “You’d either better learn to control your temper against Princess or improve your aim.”
I suspect when BB is at the neighbors later today fixing the window, Princess will royally meander over and give him plenty of advice on how to get the job done right. Having lived with them forever, I know that cats ALWAYS have the last word. “Meow.”
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
We have just one pharmacy is our little town, down from three a few decades ago. It’s a no-frills, drugs-only establishment, which is fine with me. The staff is friendly, knowledgable, and lets me loiter while waiting for my prescriptions to be filled. They dish out sympathy while I piss and moan about my ailments, and when other customers come in we can all just sit around and piss and moan together. Misery loves company.
When I was growing up in Fredonia, there were two drug stores on the south side of the square. City Drug was owned by Ben Baldridge, a laconic, bespectacled man, and Wiggans Drug was owned by Tom Wiggans, energetic, chatting it up, hustling about the store--kind of the opposite of Mr. Baldridge.
Now, when I was a kid I was one of those perfect attendance, never-get-sick kind of kids who rarely had a prescription to take to either of the local pharmaceuticals; however, that didn’t keep me from being a regular customer at both the City and Wiggans. You see, both places were a social mecca for teen-agers in the 1950s and ‘60s because they had SODA FOUNTAINS and BOOTHS!! Scoot over, sit down, and I’ll tell you all about it.
The City’s hangout was older, cavernous, and more imposing than at Wiggans. The booths were made of dark wood that sort of formed a wall, giving each one more privacy. You didn’t know who else was there unless you booth-hopped around; whereas Wiggans had a low seating, open-air, brighter environment. One foot into the door, you pretty much knew who was there. Wiggans also had a great jukebox at the back of the booth area where I spent many a coin. One Saturday afternoon some of my pals and I played a cool new version of "Deep Purple" over and over and over again. It was sung by the dynamic brother and sister duo Nino Temple and April Stevens. You remember them, don't you?
Both drug stores had a fine assortment of soda fountain drinks. My favorites were the cherry phosphate and vanilla Pepsi. I don't recall buying the ice cream treats, probably because I never had enough money, but I often sprung for a 10-cent bag of Guy’s barbecue potato chips to dip into my choice of beverage, all of which sound rather nauseating right now--especially since I’m having one of my famous brain-buzzing tinnitus attacks.
I think it’s time to stop this blog and go pop some pills.
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
Saturday, August 14, 2010
Julia is getting rave reviews for “humanizing Liz’s plight,” whatever the heck that means. I haven’t yet seen this movie, but I can certainly relate to Ms. Gilbert’s terrible dilemma. I once had a $30,000 a year job, was married to an average guy, and lived in a bungalow. And, when I got divorced, I packed up my troubles and took off on a 4-day road trip to Texas with my gal pals, Library Lady and Ana Banana. (that’s pronounced: Ah-nuh Buh-nah-nuh). We were just like Mrs. Gilbert, sort of. We ate a lot at cheap restaurants, prayed we’d survive a night in Houston, and loved, well, no one, really.
Our ultimate destination was Galveston, but we had a layover in downtown Houston in order to tour a museum, where we hoped to see world treasures and meet Javier Bardem. We stayed in some seedy motel where the night clerk greeted us with, “Are you here for the Gay Pride parade?”
When we unpacked and turned on the 6 PM TV news, we were startled at the content. Every other story was about some grisly Houston murder that had taken place that day. I was especially shocked about the jogger who’d been killed-- her hands and feet cut off. What’s with that? So much for my plan to lace up my Nikes and take a little spin around the block. We didn’t venture any farther that night than the vending machines, and we lounged out on the motel roof listening to music and police sirens.
After our trip to the museum the next morning, it was onward to Galveston. En route, we entertained ourselves on the clogged Interstate by playing Pocket Trivia and reading all the billboards advertising vasectomies. Texas, we have a big problem--and it’s inside your pants.
Galveston was fun. We dipped our toes in the water, took an evening boat ride across the Bay, went on some home tours, and ate. Ate some more. And some more. My favorite eating establishment was a joint that had all-you-can-eat fried shrimp with cocktail sauce. Oh, how decadent and ravishingly romantic. My taste buds were in love.
When we returned a few days later to our meager homes and jobs in Kansas, I was still single, five pounds heavier, but glad to be alive. Alas, no book agents or movie producers came pounding on my door for my divorce recuperation story, but any time Julia Roberts wants to portray The Flaming Bore, I am more than ready to allow her to see if she’s up to the challenge of “humanizing” a normal, ho-hum person. Now, THAT’S the stuff of Academy Awards!
Friday, August 13, 2010
Well, we knew there was no point in calling up the plumber who fixed the main leak because he had already told us he was leaving for vacation Thursday. So, I called a semi-retired plumber who did “snake” work for us four years ago when Big Bore and I clogged up the sewer line due to violent cases of Noro virus, no further explanation needed. He had no time for our problem, however, so we’re in “tough it out and wait mode.” I’m not sure when the vacationing plumber will return, but a HELP!! message has been left. In the meantime, laundry is prohibited, bathing is limited to every other day, and it’s good luck with the flushing but keep the plunger handy.
I think the only summer cruise we’re taking may be in our own bathroom. Today is Friday the 13th, and I'm going back to bed.
Thursday, August 12, 2010
Being in Pep Club was serious stuff. First off, we had uniforms--a black blazer worn over a white blouse or turtleneck, and a black pleated skirt. The blazer had an official Pep Club crest. First class all the way. If we couldn’t be a cute cheerleader, at least we felt semi-special in that itchy outfit. (see The Flaming Bore, age 16, top right, looking not-so-cheery in her Pep Club ensemble)
Once one had the Pep Club look, following the rules of hallowed membership was imperative. The Sergeant-at-Arms kept a record of participation and de-merits if someone dared to muck up. Miss a game, big demerit. Be in attendance but not in the official uniform, demerit. Tardy; demerit. Not yelling every cheer as if your toenails were being ripped off; demerit. Not waiting until halftime to hit up the concession stand; demerit. Loitering in the ladies room; demerit. It went on and on. And God forbid if I had a demerit. I was determined to rack up as many merit points as was humanly possible. The very fate of our team depended on me!!
The school provided a bus to take us to away games so we could show off our Pep Club skills to other towns. When we hit the city limits of the opposing school, the windows were shoved down, regardless of the weather, and we began our standard chant: “WE’RE FROM FREDONIA! WE COULDN’T BE PROUDER. AND IF YOU CAN’T HEAR US, WE’LL YELL A LITTLE LOUDER!!! And with each round we’d get louder and louder and louder and didn’t shut up until we arrived at our destination, or the bus driver went insane, whichever came first. By gosh, we may not have had a very good football or basketball team, but we had the highest decibel level of any Pep Club in the Tri-Valley League.
I don’t know at what point in time high school Pep Clubs died out--probably when girls were allowed to play sports. But I kind of miss them. At the school where I taught, the only people who knew the cheers were the cheerleaders. What’s the point? Who are they leading? Nobody. Maybe what goes around comes back around, though, and Pep Clubs will someday make a revival and return to the sports scene. Teens will see the value in supporting their teams, promoting school spirit, wearing stylish uniforms, and following ridiculous rules. Something tells me, however, that there’s not a chance of that ever happening. I said, “THERE’S NOT A CHANCE OF THAT EVER HAPPENING!!!!!”
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
While they’re at it, they are going to re-route the gas line, which apparently is presently in a prime spot for blowing up the whole house. I don’t understand all this manly talk, and my sensitive ears don’t like the noise, so I’m running away from home and hiding in various locations about town--preferably those with public restrooms. Later on, I'll return to the scene of the crime to perform the hardest job of all---writing out the check to pay for the big mess they made.
Monday, August 9, 2010
My Oprah story occurred about 15 years ago, when a student aid busted into my English classroom with a note from the office. She was all excited. “You need to call the Oprah Winfrey Show,” she announced, handing me the note.
Upon hearing the revered name of Miss O, the students I was trying to teach became all excited, too. “What’s it say? What’s it say?” they asked about the message.
I scanned the note and rolled my eyes. “They want me for a reunion show. Someone wants to thank me for something.”
Now, the kids expected I’d drop everything and rush out to return the call to the holy one, but I wasn’t about to. I am one of the few people on the planet Earth who does not think Oprah walks on water. It’s wonderful that her little toe makes more money in a minute than I will ever make in a lifetime, but her grandiose, “I’m important” style just doesn’t appeal to me, although anyone who has her own award-winning talk show AND her own magazine has earned the right to be a pain in the ass. I probably haven’t watched her show since she was a size 8, and we all know how long ago that’s been.
Anyway, I wadded up the message with the show producer’s name and phone number, tossed it in the waste basket, and went on with class. By the end of the day, everyone in school knew that Oprah was after me--word travels fast in a small school--and the kids were incredulous when I told them that I had no interest in being on the Oprah show and wouldn’t be returning the call. If someone wants to thank me for something, there’s no need to go on national TV to do so.
The next day, I got the same message again at school. I gave the same response. None.
So, you’d think that was the end of it. But, noooooo. A few days later the doorbell rings at my house. There’s a police officer on my front porch---with the same damned message from the Oprah Show!! Jeez. This was getting ridiculous. So, to get Oprah off my back, I called the number and spoke with some producer lady whose name escapes me. Seems Oprah’s Thanksgiving Show invited viewers to thank, in person, some long-lost acquaintance in their lives for a past good deed. It was going to be a real tear-jerker of Oprah proportions, and we all know how big THAT is.
The producer lady told me who the person was, a former ward of the court, a runaway, who had been in my foster care caseload, along with hundreds of other kids, years before when I was a social worker. Yes, I knew this person, now an adult, but I couldn’t think of anything out of the ordinary I had done for her. It was nice of her to think of me, but if anyone should be thanked, it would be the foster parents.
“She has my address,” I told the Oprah minion. “There’s no need to go on national TV to thank me. That would be a private matter.”
Well, the lady found it rather hard to believe that I wouldn’t want to be on Queen Oprah’s show. “We’ll fly you to Chicago and put you up in a hotel,” she said, hoping, I suppose, that a freebie would change my mind.
“I’m really not interested,” I told her. “I don’t want to leave my job and I hate flying.” Plus, I told her I just wasn’t keen about people dredging up the past on talk shows. I wished her well with the show but made it clear that I didn’t want anymore calls and I would not be changing my mind. And I didn’t.
Kathy Griffin, you little red-haired wimp, saying no to Oprah may be impossible for most of the free world, but for me it was easy. In fact, the pleasure was mine.
Saturday, August 7, 2010
Friday, August 6, 2010
Thursday, August 5, 2010
After just one taste of the sweet stuff, William quickly got the hang of feeding cake to himself. Big sis and bro opened the presents, and he spent the rest of the time running from mom to dad to grandma to grandpa and back. It doesn’t take much to keep a one-year-old entertained. Happy Birthday, Sweet William!
Wednesday, August 4, 2010
Tuesday, August 3, 2010
“Hello, this is Governor Sarah Palin and I’m calling in behalf of….”
“Sarah Palin?!” I interrupted. “You’re not a governor! You’re just a governor has-been! You’re nothing but a publicity-seeking wanna-be who thrives on listening to yourself! Why would I want to listen to you? You don’t even live in Kansas, you moron!” I slammed down the receiver. Oooooh, hanging up the phone on Sarah Palin, taped or not, was such a rush.
Later in the evening.…..
“Hello, this is Pat Boone and I’m calling in behalf of.…”
“Pat Boone?!” I interrupted once again. “Hi, Pat. What’s an ancient rock and roller from the 1950’s calling me for? You live in a mansion in California. You know absolutely nothing about living in Kansas. I have to get back to 'The Bachelorette.' Goodbye.” I was a little nicer to Pat than I was to Sarah. I once slow-danced to him singing “Love Letters in the Sand,” so he commands a little more respect.
My Big Sis says she’s not voting for anyone who called her with a canned speech. But I’m not even voting for anyone who called me with a live one.
“Hello, this Is Valerie reminding you to vote tomorrow. May we check to see if you’re voting for Mike….”
“ No, Valerie, I’m voting for Joan….”
Democrats aren’t allowed to run for office in Kansas, so we’re registered as Republicans and do write-ins when we feel like it. This morning Big Bore and I mulled over who to write-in for Senator in this year’s primary. I’m leaning towards Little Bit Evans (our cat) and BB has nominated Sweet William Bishop (great neph). We figure a cat and a 1-year-old have much more sense than the backbiting dimwits actually running for this office.
Well, we’re headed to the polls as soon as BB finishes watering the yard and I can manage to get a bra on. I don't want to be placed under arrest for indecent droopiness while casting my vote. May the best man win…or cat, or baby…whatever.
Monday, August 2, 2010
Bo has the misfortune to play the sousaphone (my opinion only, since my weary back refuses to haul around anything heavier than a flute). When he was younger, he hoped to be a drummer in the middle school band, but there was a need for a sousaphone player. He was the biggest kid in the class, so he got the automatic nomination. Lucky him. Especially lucky on days like this past week when the temperatures were in the upper 90’s. I can’t imagine how hellish it must have been to march, and sometimes even run, with a heavy, body-strangling sousaphone. Big kid or not. I would have been begging for mercy.
As it turns out, though, Bo has kind of taken to the instrument, and it has opened up, figuratively, a few doors of success for him. At the Friday night banquet, after we chowed down on some mighty fine food with the Shriner Poobahs, five of the teen participants gave little speeches, called “perspectives,” and Bo was asked (last spring) to be the band speaker. Now, this wasn’t like getting up in front of a high school speech class. No, no. We’re talking over 1,200 people in the audience and five large-screens at various corners of the gym that zoomed in on the lectern so the speakers could be “blown up.” (see picture above) No pressure at all.
Bo’s mom and grandma were a nervous wreck. Especially when the Shriner Grand Poobah skipped over him on the program. “What the hell’s wrong?” my niece whispered to me. Surely he hadn’t bailed out at the last minute or left his speech at the dorm. Where was he? But, eventually, Bo’s name was called and he moseyed up to the lectern to a standing ovation from his fellow bandmates. You can say what you want about band geeks, but they stick together.
Would Bo take one look at the crowd and become a deer in headlights? Talk too fast? Not talk loudly enough? Forget how to read? Puke into the microphone? Nope, I’m happy to say he did just fine. When he made a little goof at the beginning, he recovered nicely. When he did a little T-shirt sales spiel at the end, which was not in the script but a request from a Poobah, people laughed. And, of course, the band gave him another standing ovation when he was done. After the banquet, people came up to him with compliments. A star is born.
Still, I felt pretty sure that this would be the end of Bo’s Shrine Band experiences. Three times is enough. For a kid whose usual activities involve sitting in front of a computer pushing around a little mouse, it’s pretty grueling, even if the practices and performances just last for five days. I talked with him after the parade; he was one drippy ball of sweat. He looked physically ready to wave a white flag. But when I spoke with him yesterday, he was already talking about “next year” when the Shrine Bowl is in Hays. Those Poobahs sure must know how to throw a party.