30 March 2012

Asa to the Mama This Morning

Picasso, Mother and Child

You're so beautiful, Mum.
If I carved you up, you'd still
be beautiful on the inside.


28 March 2012

Dug! Rows! You two get in here!

Some proper and common noun pairs are homophones/heterographs (sound alike; written differently). When the proper noun is a person's given name, we're generally oblivious to the common noun meaning. If you haven't nodded off yet, see what I mean:

Carin' and Sharin' sure
make a cute lesbian couple!
Here's Carolin' now.
Her husband and parents
  are a-carolin', too.
Do you know women named Carin' and Sharin'? Such sweet names. . . . 

How about Carolin'? As in:  Deck the Halls. 

Well, what did they expect  
when they named her Blare?

Less festive but no less illustrative:  Blare and Die. Yes, it appears that even when choosing the baby's name parents don't always pick up on this. There are parents who would heedlessly call their little girl Die.

Princess . . .
 [Brief editorial: How many times 
had she asked, Please retreat?
And these were people she'd known
for years, that hunted her down.]  

For guy names, let's start with Pall. 
Quite diminished.
Need I say more? 

   And how about poor Wane?  

Additional examples: 
Less, Kneel, and of course the twins, Decks and Wrecks. 

"Less is More."(There's Less now, on the left.)

Decks and Wrecks after an afternoon at 
McDonald's Playhouse.  Sadly, they are banned 
for a length of time still to be determined.

Hey, Kneel! How's 
it goin', buddy?


Final note (if you're still with me):  I thought of a name, really a nickname, that cues most English speakers to pick up on both meanings. Except for some astonishingly clueless parents . . . who could have gone with Rich. Or Rick.

27 March 2012

24 March 2012

5 Things I'll Admit To

So much easier.
1.  I didn't teach Asa how to tie his shoes until he was 8 or 9 years old. 

I had never gotten him lace-up shoes. They are a lot of fuss. And I am busy.

But, don't they teach that in daycare anymore? Or Kinder? He was at "all the best schools":  Catherine Morrill Day Nursery, Nathan Clifford Elementary. . . . What is happening in this country?

2.  I went over a year and a half without smoke alarms in my home. 

Again, busy. I can't even concoct some lame excuse. . . . I didn't get any because I didn't get any.

The important thing is—I now have smoke alarms and a Carbon Monoxide alarm. Bring it on.

3.  I don't give myself regular breast exams.

Sure, I have the little placard that the Breast Cancer Awareness people give out to remind you and show you how. And I did hang it in the shower. A talisman of sorts.

I catch myself reading the card compulsively when I'm washing my hair. Just haven't gotten beyond that stage. I'm, um, very busy?

"Barney" was a recidivist biter.
here, who is the biter,
and who the bite-ee?

4.  Once when I was maybe 5 years old, I made this high-pitched SCREEEE noise while sitting next to our Scottie dog and she bit me on the nose.

Nothing showed, but my nose bled copiously from the inside! I thought I was going to bleed to death! It was very dramatic! Hurt like the dickens. 

My mom yelled at the dog and I felt kind of bad about that, but no way was I going to say I made a noise first.

5.  When I was 14, I joined the Lay Witness Mission of the United Methodist Church. Under pretense.

Other denominations probably have something like this, but the UM were particularly enthusiastic about Lay Witness Missions during the 70s. Maybe they still are, I just don't know. 

On a mission, Methodist brethren from various churches gathered at a church in another  town for a weekend. And, as it's described in Mission literature, we brought the Holy Ghost with us! IMHO, we could've done with a marketing make-over. We weren't supposed to scare anyone.
This is a prayer circle, usually held in the
parking lot of the church, as here.
It was exciting
for me at that time.
The teen and adult agendas were separate, though at times we were brought together. 

On Saturday night we had a big meeting where missionaries were called up by the lay leader to witness to the people of the host church. 

The goal, as I understood it, was to get everyone so emotionally overwrought that, in their weakened state, they got to believing that the physical touch of God (Or the Ghost? Can the Ghost touch?) was upon them. Worked pretty good, too. People were a mess.
I went on missions just because it was so damn fun. Lots of  teenagers. We had pretty much free rein, and you can believe we felt the wind in our faces. 

We tooled around in the church vans, youth leaders only a few years older than us driving. We did goofy teenage stuff and developed serious, if transient, crushes. We shamelessly ran  emotionally-charged exercises, playing it to the hilt. That made everyone cry, even the boys. It was Emo for Christians. Heady stuff.

The one time I was called to witness, I made up a story from whole cloth. Just an "epiphany fantasy" I'd summoned in advance, knowing I might need one.  

See Holy Ghost, at top. It's always
a bird in pictures. Let's just go
with "Holy Bird." Less scary.
It's not like I'd had real experiences or feelings that counted toward witnessing for God. I didn't just fail to bring the Holy Ghost with me: I'd never made Its acquaintance.

I cried convincingly during my testimonial, standing up front by the altar. Lay Witness Missionaries smile on one crying. I was enthusiastically invited on each and every mission afterward.

Overheard in mi barrio

One time, in Boston, I was walking around Jamaica Pond with my dog. (Not Silas. My late cattledog, Rudy. You may recall my dog Rudy—as opposed to my cat Rudy and my gartersnake Rudy—from an earlier posting.) 

So we were walking, Rudy and I, and we saw a woman having trouble with her dog. It was so very not into the walk-to-my-left thing. So this woman was yelling at the dog, at a pretty loud pitch: Goddammit, Chuckles, you stop that! Chuckles! Chuckles! I mean it!

And I thought, Wow, if you're going to yell at your dog like that in public, for sure don't name it Chuckles.

Goddammit, Chuckles, I mean it!


I suspect that Silas has inherited my hypochondria. (See earlier posting below on my own struggles with this chronic condition.)
Like, right now he may have conjunctivitis, or it may just be a little dust or or other irritant in his eye, making it slightly red. 

You see at left what has him concerned. The conjunctive... um, stuff... in his eye is reddish. But he insists that it's conjunctivitis, and doesn't even want to hear a differential diagnosis. This is what leads me to believe that he may have hypochondria.

Oh hey, if you notice the strap across his nose, it doesn't have anything to do with his eye problems. It's just something I'm doing to him.

23 March 2012


I found a page on the Maine BMV site where you can try out your license plate ideas and generate little images of them. This is the first one I thought of:

I'm okay with the realization that many could see this and think it was spelled just fine. But I am a little worried that some may recognize the misspelling and think I've done it in error. Just the idea of someone thinking that would make me cringe to the point of having to stop the car. 

I made this one as a helpful warning to others about the potential I have for immediate and deeply corrective reactions to their driving infelicities:

 If I still drove an Audi, I'd probably go for something like:

Of course, if you wanted to make the paradigm shift more directly, and didn't mind people thinking your belly button was like that, you could have:

I'd enjoy this one for its ambiguities:

"Really, if I'd known it was you. . . ."

20 March 2012

He's Saying/She's Saying

Did you ever go to some friends' house and sit around the living room with them while they tell you what the baby is "saying"? 

They exclaim, in the brightest voices EVER:  Look at Evvie! She's saying, "I'm a big girl now! I'm standing up all by myself! Yes!"

And you think, "Actually, she's slumped over that ottoman pretty heavily and now she's slurring. Could she be... drunk?"

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Let's ratchet it up a notch. How about when it's a pet. . . . 

Looky there at mama's baby sweetpea! He's saying, "You give me some soda! Yes, give me some now! I'm going to open it. You watch!"

And you're thinking,  "Aren't you afraid it'll drown?"

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Five instantiations.
My parents extended the pet channeling phenomenon in a poignant way. . . .

They had Scottish Terriers, serially. When I'd visit, we'd sit around and in the middle would be... Maggie?... uh, Sophie?... Missy?... Zoe? They always had the same name to me.

And they were always female, all the same size,  all just as black as black, and they all wore their hair the same way. The only divergence was that they lived in different decades.

If someone hadn't told me each time that the previous instantiation had died, I would never have recognized that there was a new one. I would have thought that Scotties lived 30-40 years or longer.

My parents would start a visit with innocuous translations of what the dog was "saying," delivered in falsetto (as these things so often are): Oh, Gigi likes you! She's saying, You're somebody new to look at! Yes! And I like what I see!  <staccato laughter all 'round, even from me: kack-kack-kack-kack>

Then things would take a specific turn. It sounded like the dog was saying things that my mother herself might say:  Look! Pookie's saying, I don't know you! No! You just don't visit often enough! No, you hardly ever visit, do you?
Cute, but pretty much vacant.
Not a brain in its head.

Hmm, my eyes narrowed. When I first picked up on this seeming transference, I watched to see if it bore out for the rest of the visit. Indeed, it did.

I stumbled out into the kitchen in the morning and the dog "said," Oh my! You'd sleep the day away, Lazybones! I've been waiting all morning for you to get up, yes, I have.

When I stood outside with my coffee for a few moments, there would be Mom and the dog, the latter—er, former?—"saying," Oooh! You can rake up these leaves with me! Let's go find the rake! I've been waiting for someone to come along and rake up these leaves with me!

My head would pound. I'd think, "Stop its little voice! Stop its little voice! Stop its little voice! Stop its little voice! . . ."

Then I'd have to remind myself that it wasn't really Pookie, or Bitsy or Chloe or Flo-Flo, nagging me. Nor was my mother nagging me. My mother just wanted to get as much time as she could with me, on those infrequent visits. I wish I'd picked up on the poignancy of it back then.

19 March 2012


K.D. Lang. For personal reasons,
I don't care for her. Hence the photo
of her I've chosen to show.

Janet Reno. Once thought to be a lesbian,
now revealed to be a straight man.

Occasionally—very occasionally—I get mistaken for a man. I know women who are far more often mistaken for men, and it seems clear that it's because, well, they look like men.

Ellen DeGeneres. Or a singer in a British boys' band.
(Whoa. Check out Portia's leg there.)

I, on the other hand, do not look like a man. I have feminine facial features. I've worn my hair long and in an obviously feminine style. Yet it happens: I once stepped up to a store counter and the clerk had his head down slightly, looking at something. I had long, curly hair and I was wearing a summer dress. The clerk said, "I'll be right with you, sir." Did I mention that I was pregnant? A friend with me at the time suggested, between giggles, that maybe I "present male." It's an interesting idea.

Most of the incidents have been banal, like that one. But on two occasions, the circumstances were hilarious—and coincidentally both occured in Big Sur.

In the first one I was dressed in cargo shorts, boots, and a thin A-shirt. I was walking through the Sequoias in a line of 6–8 women. We passed a woman and man with a little boy who must have been about five. Just after they passed me, his little-boy soprano voice piped up:

That guy was a lady!  I know 'cause I saw his boobies!

Second time, I'm hiking with my college friend, Kevin. We stop at a restroom, him in front of me turning right to go to the men's room, and I turning left into the women's room. Next I hear two elderly ladies, in a palaver, talking and laughing in high voices. It seems they saw me as a man turning one way, and they automatically went the other way to that door. Where they came upon Kevin, already busy at the urinal. I went out to see what all the fuss was about and one of the women exclaimed, 

Oh, my!  We thought this young lady was a fella!

Senior prom. 
Wear this now, and you'll find 
yourself in a CNN headline.

Now, I contend that I do not look like a man even when I'm wearing a full-dress tuxedo with tails and bowtie, as here. Er, I'm on the right. Tell me you knew that.

The OH-well

There's this bird I know. (A kind of bird, not just this one bird named Tim or something.) I was aware of this bird's existence for a few years before I found out what he was, which is hard to believe because it turns out he's our state bird, the Black-Capped Chickadee.

I knew him only by his song. He sings, OH-well. Just two notes; equal length; one high, the next lower:  OH-well.

I don't call him a chickadee (stupid name); I call him the OH-well. The OH-well can be useful in daily life, especially if, say, you're having a bad spring. Unfortunate things may happen, your head might feel like it's about to explode, you could be engulfed in the morass, but then you hear this bird sighing, OH-well. 

Some sources, Wikipedia for example, suggest that this bird says bee-bay, or something equally implausible. Bee-bay. <snort> What would he say bee-bay for?

The OH-well usually looks like this:
Good day.

But he can look like this:
Bad day.

I figure it's when he's looking like that second picture that he needs to belt out an OH-well. . . .

There's other birdsong in this recording, including a few different chickadee calls. Just ignore all their chit-chat. The best place to hear the OH-well is at 43+ secs.

10 March 2012

13 years minus 1 day, and counting....

Asa is focusing on the future
today. One more day and 
he'll be 13 years old.... 

Here's Asa now. He's wearing the NY Giants jersey he got for his birthday. 

Asa is obsessed with pro football. There seems to be nothing he doesn't know (and doesn't passionately want to share) about last season's games and stats, the games and stats of decades past, and even personal details about players. He knows what kinds of pets his favorite players have.

My son considers the coolest thing about me to be that, as a child, I would stay all night at Dom Capers' house all the time because his little sister was my best friend. Sigh.

I, like most mothers on this 
occasion, am focusing on the past....

Thirteen years ago... right about now.... I was like an animal in its death throes. My vision and hearing were going in and out. For close to a day, it had felt as though someone were yanking viciously on my colon, trying to pull it out. 

They had given me an epidural but it didn't knock out sensation below my waist. It did, however, knock out all muscle control and when someone lifted my right leg to reposition it, they dropped it off the side of the table and I screamed. 

Granted, I may already have been screaming. Or I may have hit the extended period when I made uncanny drawn-out growling, wailing, sobbing noises. The doctors and nurses were in full white haz-mat with full white hoods, and my blood was splashed and smeared and dripping down their clear plastic facemasks. There were spatters on the ceiling.

A friend who was in the room later told me, God, it was a trainwreck in there!
Finally being born surprised him.
It took a long time for him to
lose this expression.

Then, thirteen years ago tomorrow, Asa was born. Six suction attempts and a forceps delivery. Oh, look, here's Asa now.

I want that address.

Walking through the Haight to
Golden Gate Park...

09 March 2012

Check it out—

I can wiggle my scalp! Look, no hands! It's as though it's detached from my skull. It moves about half an inch, back and forth, independent of the rest of my head. It's really freaky.

Friends and family laugh. Sometimes they say, "Stop. I mean it. Why are you doing that again?" And when I wiggle it out in public, like if I'm on a sidewalk, waiting, pedestrians' eyes get big and they skirt around me to pass.

Sort of related: Not everything about the scalp and skull is funny. It's not. Have you given blood (Please consider it!), and they ask if you've ever had a dura mater graft? Take it from me: Don't go home and google that.

08 March 2012


In March 2001, we moved from Boston to Portland, Maine, where we lived in a big house on Deerfield Road. The "road" was really a short city street, about two blocks long. It curved, and up our leg of the curve, on our side of the street, were four houses. These four houses:

93 Deerfield Road

The first house was owned by a foreign gentleman, age 60–65, named Marshall. Coyly he told us that he came from the only non-Catholic country that spoke a Romance language. Huh, we thought, that's sort of interesting. At the time, we weren't sufficiently motivated—rather, sufficiently moved in—to puzzle it out. Marshall eventually gave us the answer: Romania. (If you're wondering what I was wondering, I'm sorry but I know nothing about what he was doing during the Ceausescu reign.)

Our son, Asa, tells us that sometimes he would be outside and Marshall would be up by his house and would roll a golf ball down the grass to Asa. I remember Asa saying, Look at all these golfballs Marshall gave me! And I thought, Golf balls? Really?

95 Deerfield Road

Our house. I miss it too much to talk about it. Maybe someday.

97 Deerfield Road

This was where Bubba lived. Bubba does not need a last name in Portland, ME, and I don't think I've ever heard it. He has been the owner of Bubba's Sulky Lounge for decades. (That's sulky as in horse racing, not as in The lounge is hurt and a little sullen over it.) The Sulky Lounge is hands-down the weirdest, wackiest bar I've ever been in, and believe me, I've done a longitudinal study on that and have a well-documented standard. I'd go on about the lounge decor, but words cannot describe. The place gets listed as a must-go on travel sites worldwide.

Shortly after we'd moved into Deerfield House, I was out in the yard and Bubba ambled over. He said, I'm Bubba and I've lived here 30 years. I said, I'm [Tapu] and I've lived here 3 days. Bubba thought that was damn funny and we instantly became friends.

Bubba is a man passionate about his hobbies: antiques, or really kitsch memorabilia (and now you have a hint—just a hint—about the lounge decor); and, sulky racing. Bubba runs his own racehorses at Scarborough Downs.

Bubba once showed me his finished basement with all its kitsch decor. There, in perfect condition, was a 1950's kitchen tiled in BakeLite. Even the ceiling was BakeLite. Red Bakelite. Blood. Red. Bakelite. To get an idea of how strange and wonderful (and grotesque and disturbing) this was, poke around the net for photos of BakeLite, sometimes written as Bake-a-Lite. You'll realize you've seen the stuff a million times, as it has a million uses. There's a big tragedy in the history of Bakelite. I'd read a book on it—that's how I knew what Bubba had there. I have no idea of what it could be worth. (Read: a lot... but you'd never be able to get it out of there without destroying it.)

99 Deerfield Road

The last house belonged to Breda. Breda was, oh, 70+. Dyed her hair jet black. Was not very social. Mostly stayed in the house.

Breda was not really on our radar until the day Asa, 4 or 5 at the time, came in and announced, Breda is mowing the lawn in her bathing suit. With furrowed brow I stepped out and looked down the street. Breda was not mowing the lawn in her bathing suit (silly boy); Breda was mowing the lawn in her bra and panties.

Bathing Suit*
Bra and Panties*
Well, hell. What to do? I loped down there to Breda's yard and she stopped the mower. I said, Breda, you've been out here a long time today. Why don't you go in, maybe change. your. clothes. and have something to drink?

Breda was perfectly amenable to that. I didn't know anyone to call for her. Maybe I should've called the police. Anyway, I did what I did and Breda had visitors regularly, so I knew someone would be there soon.

*  Wouldn't these have made nice flashcards to use with Asa? Oh well, you know hindsight....

06 March 2012

More Amusing Myself in Everyday Situations

If I'm in a store or restaurant and something goes a little wrong, say they're out of something or I'm displeased by a delay, I'll ask for the owner by name.

So I'm at McDonald's and there's something wrong with the mocha machine. I'll say, No mocha? Oh, my, then I'll want to talk to Mr. McDonald. Is he here now? I'll talk to Ronald if he's not. They're father-son, right? Could you get one of them for me?

Yeah,  I do crazy well. I've been told that it can be a little scary sometimes. Certainly, workers freak when I pull this. 

Another time, I nearly caused a "situation" at a department store when I insisted on talking personally with Mr. Macy. Is Mr. Macy back there? Is this his office? I veered toward a closed stockroom door at the back. Only one security guard accompanied me out, but he told me back-up was on the way. I left peaceably. The idea is not to make trouble, but just to shake things up a little. It amuses me.

   "Yes, hi, we have someone in 
Women's Casual who's asking
 for 'Mr. Macy.' She seems kind of... 
scary. Oh! Now she's in the stock
 room, calling for him."

<Heard in background:
Mr. Macy? May I come in, sir?
 I just want to have a word with you.>

"Mr. Macy.  She's asking for Mr. Macy, as in...?
There is no Mr. Macy."

"Yes. Well. That's why we're
calling. We knew he certainly
wasn't in Women's Casual."

When Asa read this post, he reminded me of when he was 6 and Mariah 8 and we were in a KFC whose adolescent crew had completely lost control of things. I said, Excuse me, is the Colonel here? Does he manage the place on a daily basis, or does he just drop in? I just want to point out to him that you guys could use some help.  Those teenagers' jaws hung open. Asa and Mariah were in stitches.

05 March 2012

Overheard During My Childhood

"Practically nobody can hold their moonshine."

It was most likely at Granpa Jones' place where I heard that. He wasn't none of us' granpa, but we all used to pile in the car and drive out a dirt path through the trees, to where he lived way back in his own private holler. I'd think he had to have a still; I know he always had moonshine.

This is what a "still" usually looked like
 back then. Now there's lots of plastic.
That's a picnic cooler used below.

Unlike how it's shown in movies and TV, moonshine is
not always clear. The jars  above hold Lemonade and
Apple Pie moonshine—"Gourmet Hooch," you might say.
Sure as sh-t, the hooch goes in
Mason Jars—that's not just in
the movies and on TV.
Granpa Jones' house (more a cabin) had a great big porch we all set on at night. This was back when there was lightning bugs. Big clouds of them. While the grown-ups drank and smoked and hollered and fought, us kids would catch the bugs in jars and peel the bellies off and stick the glowing blobs on our ring fingers. Then we'd pretend to get married. . . .

On any night, riding out to Granpa's in the car, we'd have my parents and me, some of my cousins, another set of parents, and their four kids. By the end of the night, all the grown-ups were stinking drunk, some were even sick, and one of us kids would have to drive the car back home. We could hardly see over the wheel.
Rogovin, Appalachia 1969, detail

I remember one of the boys having to drive and he was absolutely terrified. He was afraid the grown-ups would yell if they knew he was scared. But they weren't much concentrating on us. They were still all hollering and coughing. Someone threw up.