21 June 2012

19 June 2012

'Neath the Green, Green Grass of Home

Lately I've had occasion to read the obituaries from my hometown. It appears that grass is a particular source of joy for men back there. Here are some lines taken verbatim from obituaries printed over the last month:

He enjoyed yard work especially mowing the lawn. 

In later years he enjoyed mowing and weed-whacking.

He enjoyed mowing the yard and spending time with friends in the garage.

He could often be found in the backyard on his mower trying to keep up with the grass.

(We are a comma-less people.)

Anyway, I kind of like to mow, myself, but I can't imagine that fact making it into my obituary. In that same context, "weed-whacking" would be even more cringe-inducing. Nor do I want it implied that I was "trying to keep up with" . . . grass. That paints such a poignant picture:  It's like, the yard won.

Porter Wagoner sings 'Green, Green Grass of Home.'
1965. Songwriter: Claude 'Curly' Putman Jr.

The old hometown looks the same as I step down from the train
And there to meet me is my mama and my papa

And down the road I look and there runs Mary hair of gold and lips like cherries
It's good to touch the green green grass of home

Yes they'll all come to meet me arms a-reaching smiling sweetly
It's so good to touch the green green grass of home

The old house is still standing though the paint is cracked and dry
And there's that old oak tree that I used to play on

Down the lane I walk with my sweet Mary hair of gold and lips like cherries
It's good to touch the green green grass of home

Then I awake and look around me at these four grey walls that surround me
And I realize that I was only dreaming

For there's a guard and there's that sad old padre arm in arm we'll walk at daybreak
And again I'll touch the green green grass of home

Yeah, they'll all come to see me in the shade of that old oak tree
As they lay me neath the green green grass of home

17 June 2012

Idle Wonders, #3 in a series

I was looking up this medical problem my dad has called cervical stenosis. It's a pain in your neck (ironically) from your cervical vertebrae having narrowed to where the spinal cord can't be accommodated. 

And I got to wondering . . . how come your neck is your cervical spine, way up there, yet your cervix is, you know, way down there???

<--- The graphic at left shows the divisions of the vertebra in the human spine.

 The graphic at right shows that the human
 spine is not actually

The position of the canine bitch's cervix, indicated here, approximates the position of the human female's cervix. See why I wondered??

I've looked up the answer to the opening question.
The cervix is considered the "neck of the womb." Ah.

14 June 2012

Who's Loony Now?

Looking for money around the house (these are truly hard times), I found a whole bunch of loonies and toonies. And I thought, Maybe I can drive to Canada to buy groceries. . . .

Therapy Goes to the Dogs, #6 in a series

I was thinking that my dog, Silas, might
benefit from therapy. You may recall from
earlier posts that he's a very anxious dog. . . . 

<<< silas wondering, what's next??

So, Truffle, do you ever feel
uncomfortable as the center of all that attention?

I understand wanting to escape, Mookie,
but maybe we can find a safer way than
    driving at dangerous speeds.           

Now, now, Percy, you're not the only example of 
your breed to struggle with anger management.

Well, His Nibs, I'm glad to see you again. You seem a little less depressed than when we last visited, am I right?

11 June 2012

Idle Wonders, #2 in a series

Let's just go with . . .

Hampshire (maybe then people wouldn't say New Hamster) 

Jersey (the idea is already taking off!) 

Mexico (and the country can be Old Mexico)

York City, York
(drawback: it would change the cadence of that song. . . .)

It took years to build this up.

Idle Wonders, #1 in a series

Did the very first, regular, mirrors say,  
  Objects in mirror are behind you?

10 June 2012

Appalachian Summer, #1 in a series

 Water Critters

Back when I was, oh, 'bout 10, we got a little falling down house out in the country. We went on weekends 'n'at, and later we moved out there. 

Anyway, down from the hills 'n 'cross our land was a crick that terminated itself in a big ole pond. We'd go swimmin' in both of 'em, crick 'n pond. Sometimes we'd be swimming buck-naked. 

There are a couple wild animals I remember having run-ins with back there . . .


These things is like rats, but big as a 'coon. Hairless tails jes' like rats. Big ol' claws you'd like to never believe. Muskrats is what you call semi-aquatic. In the water, out the water, same to them.

Three of 'em lived on our pond. 

Weird critters, looks-wise and personality-wise. Can't hardly tell what's going through their heads when they look at you. Some people think they's cute 'cause of that song, but you sure don't wanna see 'em coming at you when you're out skinny-dippin'! I remember Carol Sue, in our family, yelling out at the boys there a-swimmin', That ole muskrat's gonna git your doo-dad!

You can't hardly see these poison snakes in the woods, and it's even harder to see the haid that's 'bout to strike. This one's haid is 'bout to strike. Mean as spit, copperheads is.

Lots of times, people mistake non-poison water snakes for copperheads. Like that milk snake you see here. But then, when you see a snake that you think is a copperhead, it's not much on your mind to make sure.

We found a big ole snake a-swimming in the crick once. Maybe five foot long. As I look back, I figure it wasn't nothing more than a king snake, which wouldn't never hurt you.

But, a'course, everybody wanted it to be a copperhead so it was a copperhead.

Some of the boys got a straight hoe to kill it. They slung that there snake over a fence and, just like you mighta heard of, that snake kept moving and twirling 'round even though it was sure as fire dead!

One of the boys got it down and hacked it to pieces. Don't you know them pieces kept squirming. Makes me sick to think of.

Snapping Turtle

You'd be hard-pressed to find a soul who'd say a snapping turtle was cute. . . .

But how much damage could they do? Don't even have teeth! Well, I'm here to tell ya, that thing can snap your hand clean off with the sheer force of its jaws. Even a baby one'll try to eat you, and if it gets a-hold of a finger, that finger is gone!

Things is real hard to handle, too. Their necks is so long, they can reach 'round and get a part of you wherever you put it.

This here shows the size they can get. Well, they can get bigger but still this is big enough to show.

Ya know what we we do with these? I mean a-sides running from 'em? We eat 'em! (We eat everything. Squirrels, frogs' legs, giblets—heck, I called deer venison 'til I moved away.) Anyhow, the two guys here are getting ready to plop that fella right into that pot.

Now I'll jest run over the highlights 'bout the rest of it 'cause it can be hard to take when you wasn't born there or ain't heard it before.

First we put that turtle live in a big ole pot of boiling water where it swims 'round and 'round and empties its bladder 'n'at. (This is outside, over a wood fire. It's kinda like a party.) When it's dead we swirl it 'round some more, and then slip the skin off its neck and legs and tail 'n'at

Out it comes from the water, and we hack its head off, close up so as to harvest the neck meat. Even after you cut the head off, you gotta be careful of the claws 'cause its reflexes work for hours, jes' like that snake.

You can see how you wouldn't want it to get its claws in you, dead or alive. Plus the whole thing's just freaky, being s'posed to be dead 'n'at. All right, the rest varies as to if you want soup or supper meat so I'll stop here.

Talk about swimming, and fearin' something might get your doo-dad! I guess that was a real good thing 'bout being a girl back there.


I've attempted to write this story in the dialect of Upper Appalachia (West VA, KY, OH version). My intent is not to ridicule the dialect or its speakers: this is my home dialect. I wrote the story this way because I wanted to capture the dialect of my childhood and the dialect of the setting.

It isn't easy to transcribe the phonetics of a dialect, using the alphabet and the usual spelling conventions. What's much easier to represent than pronunciation or prosody are the characteristic lexicon and grammar; for example, 'n'at, a-swimming, we was, they is . . .

The Upper Appalachian dialect is great for reading aloud, as Twain's Southern Appalachian in Huckleberry Finn is. There are better written samples than mine on the 'net. Give them a try. Many people find it delightful both to read and listen.

Well, all right now. See you'ins. An' hey there, don't be strangers.

09 June 2012

Last Wishes Are the Best Wishes!

skeleton picture i really like
I just know that if I were to die unexpectedly, my father would put my bod through everything he put my mother's through last year.

A guy who went to my high school, Bill Epperson, at the Black-Epperson Funeral Home in Byesville, Ohio, would embalm me, dress me in a get-up I would never wear in life, and lay me out in some tarted-up, candy-colored casket. The villagers would parade by me, noting that "she was always a pretty girl (sic) but she looks much better now that someone else has done her up."

Pastor Nancy would pray over me, and my body would start squirming and a wailing would rise up in me such as has never been heard in the Main Avenue Methodist Church, hard by the Black-Epperson Funeral Home. (I actually like Pastor Nancy, so if I have to be prayed over by anyone.... And Pastor Nancy will totally understand if I writhe and wail throughout the ordeal. She would expect no less.)

Can anyone who knows me imagine me in any of these caskets? See what I mean? Writhe. Wail. I wouldn't be able to stop if I tried.

And this is just the shit my father would pick out, too. With Little Bill Epperson's pointed guidance.

Bill and I clashed a bit over my mother's funeral. He was pushing my dad way up in price, which is what funeral directors do primarily. I doggedly pursued everything I'd learned to question from reading The American Way of Death by Jessica Mitford—twice.

No law says we have to embalm, right, Bill? 

Instead of spending $6000 on "Serenity's Slumber," can't we rent it and then put a simple pine number in the ground? 

Why do we need to have "open-casket viewing" (blanch) and a service, separately, over two full days?

So I imagine that when Bill gets his chance, he'll relish pushing for my final resting place to be in something "tasteful" (his favorite word—at first I thought he was using it ironically) like:


Bad enough The Last Supper, but if they put me in the Heart of America you'll see me do more than writhe.

If I I am ever made to be in a coffin or <<<shudder>>> have a "showing," then I want something like the nice pine box below, made by Prison Industries. (I actually saw this today when I dropped into Maine State Prison Industries. They do beautiful work.)

Now then, in effort to pre-empt all this, I state my last wishes here:

I want my body to remain completely intact, including having my blood congeal and dry up inside my circulatory system. No embalming. This does not stem from an excessive preoccupation with my own bodily integrity. It's that I want my body to be used for scientific or medical research. It's the only thing I can think to do with myself that might matter at all. (Otherwise, you could throw me in a dumpster and who would be the wiser? Do that if you can't do this.)

Ideally, my organs and tissue (including skin, corneas, meniscus...) would be harvested, my flesh flayed, and then the bones cleaned and boiled and re-articulated. Finally, I should like my skeleton to hang in a science classroom and be observed, studied, and shamelessly fooled with. I really like the idea of teenagers posing me hand in pubis and laughing like the adolescents they are. But I wax specific. Send me where I will be of best use.

Donating my body to be used for more general scientific or medical purposes is perhaps more realistic. Knowing that parts of a donated corpse are often distributed to a variety of institutions and universities (spread the wealth, yuk, yuk), I authorize all that is deemed necessary or beneficial by the qualified authorities.

I do not care what is done with any particular part of me or the whole. I won't be holding out for the science class skeleton gig; at actual point of use I don't need to have a say.

No memorial service, unless my father wants one for family and locals. (And believe me, he'll want one.) Just please don't let him invite any of my friends.

It's fine to send out a death announcement but it should have a skeleton on the front. Try a party supply store. I like the images here. Something festive, you know, something cheery to cheer the cheerless, to make them think about the live tapu!

Keep in mind, only if you follow 
these wishes can you say with assurance,  
It's what she would have wanted.

How great is this, huh?
A labeled portrait of me!

08 June 2012

Relative Velocity with Flies

I've been reading a little physics on the side. . . . You have probably come upon the classic problem of whether a fly, inside a car going 80 kph and flying from the back to the front of a car itself, is going 80 kph or faster. I've been having so much fun with this one.


— fly's velocity relative to car vs. total velocity relative to Earth

— fact: max velocity of fly itself, flying in still air but not a vacuum, is approximately 80 kph

— if a vacuum existed inside the car, the fly would never have the guts to do that again (but then it wouldn't have been able to lift-off anyway)

So the most interesting thought I had about it was that the potential total velocity of the fly in the car would be 160 kph. Wow. Over-achiever, the fly that does that!

Aside:  I once read that in many single car accidents, a large dead insect is found in the car. Theory has it that the driver loses control while swatting at it. Get a grip on yourself and don't do this.

06 June 2012

Email Addresses of These Two Women That I Knew

I just remembered this. I worked with a mother and daughter, last name Litwack, some time ago in Boston. The syntax for the company's email was <first initial> +<full surname>. So Sherry and Caroline's addresses were:




Some unfortunate email addresses you can get over pretty quickly; but these . . .

01 June 2012

These people all look so comfortable to me.

And this is why:

It was a 22-hour staged layover, meaning they announced the delay in 3-6 hour increments so we couldn't just get a hotel. We were due out Wednesday at 2; we left Thursday at noon. The Columbus, Ohio, airport designers chose seats similar to the above for their terminal. So Asa and I "slept" like this:

(not the real tapu, but how the real tapu slept)
(not the real asa, but how the real asa slept)

It's Friday, and we're still in recovery.