23 April 2012

Perfect takes practice.

Hi, Mama. I'm coming inside now. 

Yes, I see. What were you doing out there all that time?

When I don't have anyone to play football with, I just throw myself on the ground to see if I can take a hit.

         . . .  pause . . .

Son, are you doing that out in the front yard?

20 April 2012

Anyone else run into these ads?

Dermatologists Hate Her!
Local Mom goes on killing spree. 
Slaughters dozens of dermatologists. 
Looks decades younger!

Try This One WEIRD TRICK for a 
Flat Tummy!
Don't eat. How's that for weird?
100% Guaranteed—
Your tummy will get flatter!

Yucca, er... maybe that other one is Yucca. Okra?
The "Money Maker"
(Yeah, I got yer money-maker right heah.)

Five Odd Veggies 
That Help You Sleep!
The five odd veggies are...
 Yucca               Okra
Money Maker Eggplant
Elephant Foot Yam

Romanescu Broccoli/Cauliflower.
Make a paste; work into feet. 
What? You thought you had to eat them?

Romanescu Thing
Whichever one that other one wasn't.

Elephant Toe Jam... er, Foot Yam

19 April 2012

I was a nervous child.

Funny, because I'm not really nervous as an adult. Yet, there are two occasions in my childhood—of the highest order nervousness—that I recall.

You really couldn't see for
 sh-t, remember that?
                     Trick-or-Treat Nightmares

In my hometown, Halloween was tightly controlled. First, the town's fire alarms went off promptly at 6:00. As soon as the sirens stopped, everyone ran from their own porch and up onto others' porches to beg for candy. 

On the stroke of 7:00, the sirens went off again and you had to be back on your own porch by the time they stopped. That hour was the hour for trick-or-treat. Even if you tried to start early or stay out, no dice because no one in that town was going to give one treat. They knew the rules, too.

About a week before Halloween, I would start having nightmares. They were always the same. I would dream that I was trying, trying, to get that year's costume on but I couldn't quite manage it. And then I heard the siren go off!! So I started frantically pulling at the leggings or whatever was holding me up. And I was crying and then the end siren went off! I collapsed in exhaustion and heartbreak.

I never did miss out on the real trick-or-treat. I was usually ready and on the porch an hour before they set off the siren. Still, the dreams went on every year, until I got too old to trick-or-treat.

                             Canned-Goods Anxieties

When I was in, oh, maybe second grade, we had a canned goods drive at school. Everyone was supposed to bring in something in a can from home for poor people to eat. My mom gave me two cans of blackberry filling. As I lugged them to school, I was puzzled. Did the poor people make pies, or just eat the filling right out of the can? I would eat the filling right out of the can, myself. Yum.

Well, somehow I missed putting the cans in the big boxes that were in class that day. I don't know how. I was easily distracted. I often listened to my head and not my teacher. Regardless, toward the end of the day, some men came for the boxes and I realized I still had the blackberry pie filling—two cans! I waited until we all got up to leave and... I surreptitiously drew the bag with the cans out of my school bag and flung them into the back of the desk well on top of some papers wadded up there.

I spent the rest of the school year protecting my canned goods from others' knowledge. I don't know what I thought was going to happen to me if I was found out, but I would suffer and sweat and breathe unevenly when they made us clean out our desks. With deft moves borne of desperation, I switched the cans to my school bag, then back to my desk. I was afraid to take the cans back home, too! It was all getting worse, so much so that I was thinking about it at night as I lie in bed. It was pathological anxiety.

Then one day, in class, I saw my chance. We were cleaning our desks again (god, what were we, pigs?) and I had the trash can to myself. No one could see my hands.... I yanked out canned tell-tale hearts and buried them in the basket! I made sure everything was well covered. And I realized... I was free!

Yeah, I guess you could call me a nervous child.

Remember when it looked like this? All sepia-toned?

tapu's tips for turning green

I'll tell you up front:  Tapu's Green Tips are small in scale while being a little far out there. I wasn't aware of how far out until I told a few people, and by their reactions it was clear that they found my tips, well, pretty far out there.

I won't apologize for these ideas, though. I do promise that they have merit and aren't that difficult to buy into if you just focus on the practical side and not on the humor you may find in them. Ahem.

First of all, suppress the damn last page. You know, on your printer and on every printer in the office that you see print an extra blank page at the end of the document. I cannot take seriously the heavenly concept and promised land of the paperless office when no one has questioned cranking out a blank sheet every minute. Check your program software. Look for "suppress blank pages." A paperless office will not happen in one fell swoop.

Wash out your Ziploc bags. I know a lot of people do this already (maybe .00001% of the U.S.). I picked it up living in México. I surmise that many more people would do this if someone suggested it.

All you have to do is put a tiny drop of dish soap in a dirty bag. (Now how dirty could it be? It held–what–three Nutter Butter Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies?) Fill with water and shake. Turn inside out to rinse. You can hang them on anything to dry, as shown here.

Bear with me on this one. It is the most highly ridiculed among tapu's constant flow of ideas and innovations....  Here it is: Instead of using full-size bath towels, use large, quality hand towels to dry after a shower.
If that flips you out, consider trying it just in the summer, when you won't miss that huge, warm towel quite so much. At least have young children downsize. (When I moved my small son into it, he said, Frankly, Mama, I prefer it. It was more manageable for him.)

Among the three tips here, this would be the most valuable green idea, on the personal and the global level. Think of the wash water saved. Think of the electricity and dryer time. (Of course, you could hang them on a line, even better.)

Extending this idea, take bath towels to the beach and store those preposterously large beach towels they sell now. Use a washcloth for a hand towel. Use a fabric swatch for a washcloth.... Heh, heh. Okay, I guess there's a limit.

breaking point—we all have one

Asa told me a story the other day about his "early childhood."

When he was about 5, an older kid at camp offered him four lollipops if he would say, "I hate my mom" and hold up his middle finger. 

That seemed like a terrible thing to Asa—really a big deal. He demonstrated for me how he whimpered and said, "I-I-I h-hate my mommm" and tried to raise his middle finger part way.

 "Asa, you mean you went ahead and did it??"

"Mama, those lollipops are like a dollar a piece!"

18 April 2012

LL Bean — The Most Popular Tourist Destination in Maine (I grow pale.)

Bean's is what Mainers call LL Bean. It also gets called Freeport—the quaint little town (and name) it took over, stranding the last of its little bungalows—brave hold-outs —in a sea of parking lots. 

The LL Bean "campus" (promotional verbiage, which they're very, very good at) and surroundings get called The Outlets because around Bean's there has grown the  largest collection of upscale outlet stores in the world. (I made that part about the world up but I wouldn't be surprised if it were true.) Even Prada is there. Can you imagine a Prada outlet?? 

Bean's "Flagship Store" (cough,promotional verbiage) can make a person feel queasy. It does me, anyway. It's an underworld where nature and corporate exploitation engage in frenzied promotion of natty sweaters. 

And Bean's does some whacky sh-t, that's for sure. They are so full of themselves.  (Remember that boot. We'll see it again. And again. And again.)

If you don't see a particular species while in the wilds of Maine, you can check it out at Bean's. You won't see its natural movements; it will be still, but otherwise very lifelike. Many exemplars from each species have been exquisitely taxidermied and brought inside where they can be better appreciated.

This is an extremely rare locked-antler moose mount. mm-HM!
They almost don't look real.

Bean's took the "Bootmobile"  to Times Square and the Fenway. 
What poor sumbitches had to drive that?


 Inside the store, is a
 trout pond. See the trout?


On the level below the trout
(what?!), is an aquarium. 
See the trout? 

And see how that babe is 
imitating the trout?
 They hate that.

Archery range. 
But be on the alert for any wild zings by amateurs like Marge here.

Shooting range. 
I popped off a few rounds myself in there.
What can I say? It's inspiring. 

Your kids can play at the "Boot of Sand"!
 (Is that the "Sock of Sand" hanging 
  on it? Or... the "Winter Scarf of Sand"?) 

All this at the "Flagship Store,"which is friggin' huge. Bean's also has specialty stores scattered all around it. One just for bikes. One just for kayaking. And even: LL Bean Home. Where you can buy furniture and decor to make your own home look just like Bean's.

You just can't cover all this in one day!

Hey, could we get a boot in here for this shot? (There actually 
is a 10-foot Bean's Boot on the other side.)

See the trout? Oh, no, it's on the first floor. 
And the lower level.
Bean's in Freeport is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Think about it. I know someone who worked there and he said Christmas is very busy. And it's the same people every year. Jews?, I asked. No, he thought mostly Christians. Huh. I should tell them Jesus is on his way in to clear the place.

Now for my favorite part of Bean's: the parking lots. Bean's has, like, a thousand parking lots. And each parking lot is named after an animal so that you can better recall which lot is yours. Good thing, too, because you could be out there on foot for an awful long time. Maybe even die of exposure.

The parking lot animals seem to go in descending order of size, desirability, importance. Not sure.... But right up by the Flagship Store, it's the Moose parking lot. (Well, of course.) No one ever gets to park in Moose parking lot because it is always full. Even on Christmas. 

After you foolishly wend your way around the Moose parking lot, you drive over to Elk parking lot, and then through Deer and Bear parking lots. You start to feel like you're headed down in whatever social order this represents. 
Oh, to park in 
Mountain Goat someday!

Next is Antelope lot, then Mountain Lion, then Mountain Goat. Oh, man, we're already at the Goat one....

Continue down to the much lesser species:  Otter and Skunk lots... then Vole, Titmouse, Carpenter Ant parking lots....

Now that I'm savvy about Bean's, I think, if I have to go there in the height of summer, or on Christmas day, I'm going to zoom through the maze straight to Amoeba lot and be done with it. 

Maybe no one will be there to see me in such reduced circumstances.

16 April 2012

One of my Top Ten Films of All Time is Bambi

I decided to go to Baxter Woods 
today, it was so nice out....

Not the real me.

At one point I headed off-path. When I was a little way down the side of a ravine, I came upon a baby deer!!!! Bet you thought it was a moose, didn't you?
A baby moose is cute, well, sorta, but
a mama moose gets enraged really easily.

Baby Bambi startled for a second, but he didn't run away. OMG, he was adorable. I pulled out my iPhone and was taking pictures of him, when a dog up on the path started barking.

My little deer friend turned his head back and forth, his eyes wild. He stayed right there with me, but he was definitely revving up for a run. I had to club him on the head a couple of times to get him to hold still for a few more shots. He sure was cute. I'll show you the pix, if you want.

I wish someone would get me a vintage Bambi poster.
I had one but I gave it away.

14 April 2012

Bully for you, Donny!

In the news, in the movies, and on everyone's lips, is the topic of bullies and bullying. People tell painful stories about how they were bullied. You'd expect there to be a passel of former bullies out there, but you never hear anyone say that they were a bully.

I'm turning myself in: I was a bully. Maybe the bully of the 70s, if I'm the only one copping to it now.

Real Don Rickles
I began to hone my devastating comments and delivery in grade school, culminating with an act for the 6th grade talent show when I wrote a script about the teachers. I could see them cringe and try to smile patiently as my cast mimicked their characteristic moves and voices and delivered every acid line.

By middle school, I concentrated more on other students and soon was well on my way to inspiring a school shooter or two. I could terrify, embarrass, or shame absolutely anyone at Pleasant City Junior High.

My homeroom teacher called me "the Don Rickles of the 8th grade." I was thrilled.

Don Rickles of the 8th Grade

I usually, but not always, targeted fat kids as my victims. Well, fat boys. It's been shown that female bullies usually bully other females. But I already liked girls, and I liked weight on girls. I fired my bullets into the boys.

I remember one boy in particular. Donny. I was merciless. I recall I got a lot of laughs when, right out loud in the classroom, I called him Chun King. (A "chunk" was what you called a fat person back then. Chun King was a brand of Chinese canned food.) 

As I grew to an adult, I somehow became non-bullying. This was no conscious change. I guess I just developed a frontal lobe. Now it's hard to believe I was so insensitive to others' pain. My feelings toward people are very different now. My treatment of others so much more gentle and compassionate. I hope Donny wasn't too scarred by how I treated him. (I'm thinking I'll turn on the TV someday and there will be Donny crying and telling Oprah all about me.)

I still wonder at times if I could apologize to Donny. He's on the internet. He still lives back in Guernsey County. He writes for a local paper there.

But I can't do it. Whenever I think about it, I think of a thousand reasons not to.

¡Super Flor!

Asa and his doll, Abene
When Asa was, oh, maybe a couple of months old, we were introduced to a woman who had cared for our friends' children. Their kids had grown into daycare and out of needing full-time care at home. With a new baby we agreed to go half time with them.
   Flor came from Guatemala. She spoke very little English, which was fine with me because Asa would learn some Spanish while she was with us. Asa didn't pick up much after all, but my Spanish became polished. Better than when I lived in Mexico. Perq!
   Flor was part of our family for 10 years. She was a grandma to Asa. The photo shows Flor playing with Asa and her granddaughter, Josie, at a water park in Guatemala. We became part of Flor's family, too.
   Asa reminds us about Super Flor's magical abilities. If all we had in the house was oatmeal, baking soda, and half a bottle of vinegar, she could whip up a chicken dinner.
   We moved to Portland, Asa went to school, and though Flor would come up on the bus from Boston to be with us a few days at a time—and to whip up chicken dinners out of magic dust—eventually she got on with a new family in Boston. We haven't seen her for about two years now. Life's so busy. 

Funny how people pass in and out of your life. . . .
I feel like crying.

13 April 2012

"Measured Progress"

I used to work for a company called Measured Progress. It produces those state assessments that every student—and quite a number of teachers and parents—hate. But no matter. I want to talk about the name. 

Measured Progress. It's so Puritan: 

Cotton Mather and  Measured Progress
went into town to visit Silence Hill.

Cotton, Measured, and Silence.
Hey, did Cotton Mather's friends
 and family call him just "Cotton"?

Besides... doesn't the phrase "measured progress" already have an established meaning:

The patient is making measured progress 
but she's not out of the woods. 

Taking off from there, I developed some new stationery designs for Measured Progress:

   One Step at a Time

  Don't count us out.
           Trying oh-so hard.


ick with us, c'mon!


Determined not to let you down.

12 April 2012

The Perfect Football

Asa loves all things football. (I may have mentioned this before.) The other day he came out with his Spaulding PeeWee Football that he and his little friends (he hates it when I call them that) play football with every day. It's blue and gray and he's had it for a while. He said, "You know, Mama, this football is just right for me. It's my perfect football."

Not the real dog or football
involved in this story.
Otherwise, pretty much the scene.

  Yesterday the dog bit 
the perfect football 
and flattened it.
Oh oh.

Asa was filled with darkness. You know that gray cloud from the comics? The one that hovers over angry people's heads? Well it was like that except Asa and the cloud were real!!

He yelled at the dog which We. Do. Not. Do. (Dogs are just trying to do the best they can. Besides, it was obvious that the dog had no idea why he was being yelled at for chewing a ball. A ball... that had been thrown. In the yard. Like all the other balls that are thrown, in the yard, for him to bite.)
Asa was otherwise pretty calm about it. He's never been one to pitch a fit. His face still dark, he went in the house for a while to hate the dog.

I felt very sorry for him. (It kept echoing in my head: my perfect football; my perfect football...) So right then and there I took Asa to Sports Authority in the mall and got him a new football. It was around $30. Then I took him to the Team Spirit Store and got him a NY Giants clock, with quart movement. It was another $30. He was definitely perking up. By the time we finished our pretzels and drinks at Pretzel Palace, $9, Asa was full of cheer.

Kids are easy. If you throw enough 
money at them, they'll come around eventually.