Reviews of Several Movies, One of Which I’ve Seen

 

I didn’t sleep well last night and as a result am as dumb as a box of rocks today. My husband came home with a “temporary” flip phone to replace the flip phone I lost (I think it’s really Under Something), and I told him I had to keep my phone number because I’m incapable of remembering any new numbers, even when I get plenty of sleep. It’ll take several hours to two business days for them to arrange for the new number.* I also have to think carefully before saying or writing my new address. I scramble the numbers. Anyway, this may turn out to be a disjointed post, but it won’t be the first.

Scene from the 1912 Broadway production of Little Women, adapted by Marian de Forest. Via Wikipedia. Public domain.

David and I saw the latest adaptation of Little Women two weeks ago. I’d read glowing reviews but had also heard some viewers are conflicted, haven’t decided what to think.

I loved it. Absolutely loved it.

I’m embarrassed, sort of, to admit I’ve never read the book. I’ve skimmed it. But, as high school freshmen say, I saw the movie—the one made in the ’90s, and I loved it, too. I’ve also seen the version in which Katherine Hepburn played Jo. And the series aired on PBS a couple of years ago.

I’ve read three or four of Alcott’s other novels. In the sixth grade, I read Alcott’s Eight Cousins–and recently found the book report I did on it–and its sequel, Rose in Bloom. The latter was very affecting; I cried when that poor young man died in an alcohol-induced accident, but that’s what happens to young men who’ve been spoilt by their mothers and as a result are wild and even their Cousin Rose can’t reform them. Rose then fell in love with her medical doctor Cousin Mac, whom she’d always thought of as “the worm”; that’s what happens to women in novels of that period. I think Mac was a doctor. Or a medical student. He was Serious and Responsible. So was Rose.

At the end of Little Women, Alcott marries Jo to a teacher and scholar, as the director does at the end of the movie—hurrah for faithful adaptations—but the movie makes clear that Jo did so reluctantly. The director allows viewers to infer that Alcott was just as reluctant. But she wanted the book to sell, and the public wouldn’t have accepted a spinster who goes to New York to publish or perish.

A documentary that aired a few years ago on PBS includes the reading of a letter Alcott wrote refusing a proposal of marriage. It was hilarious. I’m glad I wasn’t the would-be groom who received it.

The movie’s one flaw is that the story is not told in chronological order. I think the format works perfectly. But the movie jumps back and forth in time without adequate transition from scene to scene. Viewers unfamiliar with the story might have trouble following along.

Louisa May Alcott, ca. 1870. Via Wikipedia. Public domain.

I also have a concern about the script, which applies to all the LW feature films I’ve seen—the characterization of Marmee. In this movie and the one made in the ’90s, she’s depicted as a cheerful, youthful feminist, neatly and attractively dressed, rather perky. In the PBS series, she looks older, as if she’s raising four daughters on a tight budget, with a husband away at war, and a seriously ill daughter, and mid-19th century housework that affords no time for idleness. She’s happy, but not perky, and she often looks tired. “Housekeeping,” wrote Louisa May Alcott, “ain’t no joke.” She knew. At one point, while her impractical philosopher father discussed and wrote about ideas, his wife and daughter worked as domestics.

When David and I got to the ticket window, we were told there were only three seats available, first row. We took the two on the far aisle. I hadn’t sat on the front row since I saw Toby Tyler when I was nine. Fortunately, the seats reclined, so I didn’t get a crick in my neck from looking up at an 88-degree angle. There were four people, including David and me, on the front row, the other two on the opposite aisle. At least half of the reserved seats were empty.

David commented afterward that there weren’t many young(er) people in the audience. No, the majority had gray hair, or at least visible wrinkles. Post-Boomers don’t know, or want to know, I guess, about Little Women. It’s all Game of Thrones, or whatever. Since retiring and losing the school’s subscription to Booklist, I don’t know anything about recent publications. My latest read was written in 1908. It was delightful. More about that later.

The other movie—there was a trailer—was a new Dr. Doolittle. It’s a 2020 adaptation. I think Robert Downey, Jr. is as cute as a bug, but I’ll skip this one. There’s so much noise (chaos) I couldn’t hear the animals talk, except for one little bear, or something, lying on his back and crying, “I’m too pitiful to die.” I think that was what he said. He was on board a ship in a terrible storm on the open sea.

I once cried something like that when I was on board a cruise ship in choppy waters. Nine other relatives and me, celebrating Thanksgiving in style. First night out, a norther hit. The next morning, when I phoned for someone to come attend to the carpet, the man in housekeeping, or whatever they call it, said, “You bomited in your room?” Yes, I bomited in my room. Which was better than the rest of the revelers, who were bomiting in the halls. That afternoon, they had to give me an injection of phenergan and pills to take every three hours, after which, because I was blissfully unconscious, I stopped wailing to my travel-agent cousin/roommate, who that morning had brought me a Sprite and abandoned me to my fate, “I’m going home. When we find land, you get me a plane ticket or I’ll walk home.”** The next day, we walked to the market in Cozumel and I bought some earrings.

Well, sorry for the disgusting story, but when I saw that poor little bear, that’s what I thought about. He might have just been afraid, but I suspect he was plain old seasick.***

###

*It might be a burner phone, which will come handy for research when I put one in a mystery, or if I myself decide to do  something untoward.

**Her leaving was heartless but for the best. An optimist, she kept saying I would be fine tomorrow and I was not going home. Mal de mer is misery enough. Victims do not need the added affliction of cheerful healthy people.

***Those patches work. The next cruise, I went prepared.

 

Regarding Sheetrock, or Drywall: Back When

 

A slow drip leading to a leaking pipe leading to several brittle pipes and serious drips, and finally to a plumber, have brought contractors in to cover holes left in the drywall of the laundry room, and appreciation for a landlord who responds to problems without delay.

With strangers in the house, William is lurking behind the cedar chest. Ernest is folded up on the bottom shelf of an empty bookcase still hidden by boxes and facing the patio window. They don’t enjoy the process. I do.

I grew up calling drywall sheetrock. Well into adulthood when drywall cropped up, I asked what had happened to sheetrock and learned that it’s properly Sheetrock. More properly it’s Sheetrock™, a trade name that’s become a generic term like Kleenex (Kleenex™).

Frank Waller, aka Dad, dressed for painting me dressed for watching, ca. 1953.

I learned about Sheetrock in early childhood because my grandfather, sometimes assisted by my father, did remodeling and repair around town. Once or twice I got to watch.

Dad was meticulous. Unlike some I’ve seen, seams he taped and floated disappeared, the drywall mud flush with the Sheetrock. Seams in my parents’ living room remained invisible for a good fifty years.

When he painted, the brush moved slowly from side to side, no slopping of paint onto floors, windows, or doorknobs. Stray paint was immediately cleaned up.

During my family’s brief sojourn in Del Rio, we lived across the street from a young man who, post-high school, had briefly lived on the farm with Dad after his parents moved away from Fentress. While visiting, Dad found Dick painting the walls of his kitchen but getting paint on the ceiling, where it didn’t belong. Dad took the brush out of his hand and finished the job himself.*

(My father was almost as particular. He and my mother stopped in to see neighbors who were hanging wallpaper. My dad had to leave because he said they weren’t using enough paste, and the paper was going to fall off almost before they got it up. He couldn’t watch.)**

When Dad was painting Dr. Luckett’s clinic, I dropped by and insisted on helping. He tolerated more from his nine-year-old granddaughter than from adults, and handed me a brush. He knew I wouldn’t last. After about twenty minutes, I stopped to play with a ball of putty, (unsuccessfully) keep my puppy, who had followed me to town, from getting into the paint, and generally get in the way. Not long after that, I went home to air conditioning. My parents had recently elected to move back home from dry Del Rio, and the South-Central Texas humidity was killing me.****

Me with San Marcos River catfish caught by Frank Waller (still aka Dad).

Dad was famous for taking off in the middle of a job to go trotline fishing. Family shook their heads and said, “Well, that’s just Dad.” If people complained, they did it out of our hearing. Many were relatives—extended family lived all over town—and they expected him to disappear for a while.

Or he might have shared his fish. He caught enough to spread some around.

Once in early spring, he did some work for a sister- and brother-in-law who had a peach orchard beside their house. His helper said, “Mr. Frank, I sure wish we were going to be here when those peaches get ripe.” Dad said, “Don’t worry. We will be.”

For years, I thought leaving like that was a character flaw. When I heard that other contractors sometimes take time off in the mid-project, I thought it was a tall tale. People who worked for me finished in a timely fashion. Then a fellow who was repainting the door of a previous apartment—the blazing west sun hit it in summer, so it required paint that wouldn’t peel—told me he did a lot of painting, but he took off and went fishing whenever he wanted, and he didn’t ever apologize for it either. Business as usual, I guess.

The Sheetrock people have gone. They left no sign they’d been here. Dad would be pleased.

###

*My grandfather had other crotchets, too. My mother claimed that when he was driving down the road and saw a sunflower, he would stop and pull it up. (Farmer.) He let most things go much further than other folks would, but certain things he could not abide.

**As to my father’s other requirements: After retiring, he worked for some farmers he was acquainted with, hauling maize from the field to wherever it went.*** He enjoyed driving, and he liked the men, but after a week or so he resigned. He said they let Johnson grass grow up at the edges of their fields. (Farmer.) He wasn’t obsessive about anything else, but his fields had to be clean, and his fences tight, with sturdy cedar posts and six strands of barbed wire, so his cows couldn’t escape, except for big, fat, sleek Hereford Opal, who lay down and rolled under. Impossible, we thought, but he finally caught her in the act.

***Once upon a time, I knew where maize went, maybe. But I wasn’t a farm girl, and I was busy reading in the air conditioning and didn’t pay attention. I wish had, because now when I set a story in a rural area, I have to look things up.

****After a zillion years, the humidity is still killing me.

Letter from the North Pole, 1957

Lacking a fireplace, I mailed my letters to Santa Claus at the post office in downtown Fentress. My list of preferred gifts was always extensive. I knew I wouldn’t get everything I wanted, but there was no harm in asking.

One year Santa wrote back. As proof, I’m posting not only the letter he wrote, but the envelope as well. Judging from the postmark and the reference to Sputnik, I’d just turned six.

It takes a lot of stamps to get a letter from the North Pole to Texas.

It also helps when your Uncle Joe is the postmaster.

Beware This Boy

 

Spirit of Christmas Present: Will you profit by what I’ve shown you of the good in most men’s hearts?

Ebenezer Scrooge: I don’t know. How can I promise?

Spirit: If it is too hard a lesson for you to learn, then learn this lesson.

Scrooge: Spirit are these yours?

Spirit: They are man’s. They cling to me for protection from their fetters. This boy is ignorance. This girl is want. Beware them both, but most of all, beware this boy.

***

Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol during a period when the British were exploring and re-evaluating past Christmas traditions, including carols, and newer customs such as Christmas trees. He was influenced by the experiences of his own youth and by the Christmas stories of other authors, including Washington Irving and Douglas Jerrold. Dickens had written three Christmas stories prior to the novella, and was inspired following a visit to the Field Lane Ragged School, one of several establishments for London’s street children. The treatment of the poor and the ability of a selfish man to redeem himself by transforming into a more sympathetic character are the key themes of the story. There is discussion among academics as to whether this was a fully secular story, or if it is a Christian allegory.

Published on 19 December, the first edition sold out by Christmas Eve; by the end of 1844 thirteen editions had been released. Most critics reviewed the novella favourably. The story was illicitly copied in January 1844; Dickens took legal action against the publishers, who went bankrupt, further reducing Dickens’s small profits from the publication. He went on to write four other Christmas stories in subsequent years. In 1849 he began public readings of the story which proved so successful he undertook 127 further performances until 1870, the year of his death. A Christmas Carol has never been out of print and has been translated into several languages; the story has been adapted many times for film, stage, opera and other media.

Author William Thackeray “wrote that A Christmas Carol was ‘a national benefit and to every man or woman who reads it, a personal kindness.'”

~ Wikipedia

***

Images

“Ignorance and Want” by John Leech, from the original edition of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol,1843. {{PD-US-expired}} Via Wikipedia

Charles Dickens in 1842, the year before A Christmas Carol was written, by Francis Alexander. {{PD-US-expired}}

***

A Christmas Carol (1951), Alistair Sim

***

 

Calming, Part II: The Cat Lounge and Other Stuff

Ernest, still calm

Ernest arrived at the veterinarian’s under the influence–that calming spray is magic–and was immediately ushered into the cat lounge, a small room with four comfortable chairs for humans and just enough space in the middle for a carrier.

Wall pheremones were plugged into an electrical socket, and music filled the air: the album Music for Cats. David Teies, a soloist with the National Symphony Orchestra, worked with animal scientists to develop music designed to help cats de-stress.

Eleanor Stanford, reviewing Teies’ CD for the New York Times, describes it as, “a series of whirring, lilting and at times squeaky musical tracks designed for cats’ brains and ears.”

In some tracks, sounds similar to the chirps of birds are overlaid with hurried streams of staccato for an energizing effect; in others, crescendos of purring and suckling sounds are designed to relax.

“To a human ear,” she says, “the sounds are otherworldly and at times soporific.”

Regarding cats, Charles Snowden, professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who worked on the project, reports,

My cat, Pocket, could do with some music-induced relaxation. She was found wandering the streets of the Bronx, and when we took her from the New York City Animal Care and Control shelter to her new home in Brooklyn, she developed a nervous habit of running full speed down the hallway, smacking her head against doors along the way.

Listening to the track “Cozmo’s Air,” built upon soothing vibrato sounds, she sat still. By the end of the four and a half minutes, she had curled herself around the speakers, purring.

William, always calm

A link to one of the tracks, “Katey Moss Catwalk,” appears on Youtube. A link is below.

Ernest huddled in his carrier the entire time we were in the lounge, and I didn’t have a good view of him, so I couldn’t gauge his response, but he remained calm, even, the technician reported, during some unpleasant tests. So who knows?

Anyway, if he didn’t care for “Music for Cats,” I did. It is truly soporific.

Having recently been plagued by insomnia, I may buy a copy for myself.

*

For anyone who hasn’t run across the word before–and I mean no disrespect, since the first time I heard it, I had to look it up, and I was working on a master’s degree in English at the time–soporific means, “causing or tending to cause sleep; tending to dull awareness or alertness.”

The word appears in the first lines of Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of the Flopsy Bunnies.

It is said that the effect of eating too much lettuce is “soporific.”

I have never felt sleepy after eating lettuces; but then I am not a rabbit.

They certainly had a very soporific effect upon the Flopsy Bunnies!

From this we may infer than young children can learn big words and will learn them if they’re used and explained in the proper context. It is wrong to underestimate the abilities of children. They don’t have to be graduate students to add grown-up words to their personal lexicons.

*

On impulse, I include Rossini’s “Cat Duet,” sung by Felicity Lott and Ann Murray, also on Youtube.

One comment: “The perfect response to everyone who thinks classical music is dead serious, dull and boring.”

Another: “My cat just left the room.”

And a third: “Dear God I cannot believe two grown women actually did this.”

Ernest listened and appreciated it.

(Note: The comments above refer to a performance by Kiri Te Kanawa and Norma Burrows. But this one is funnier.)

Music for Cats

P.S. Ernest is doing well.

Christmas: Pray, Love, Remember

The Christmas tree goes up on December 1. I love it.

~ Richard E. Grant

There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance; pray, love, remember; and there is pansies, that’s for thoughts;  . . . there’s rue for you, and here’s some for me. . . . O, you must wear your rue with a difference.

~ William Shakespeare, Hamlet 

*

 

The Davis tree went up on December 2. I love it.

I always shoot for early December, but I’m calendar-challenged; some years, Christmas arrives almost before the tree.

This time, David said if I didn’t have the gumption to get up out of my chair and into the car, he would choose a tree himself. Not in so many words, of course, but the subtext was unmistakable.

Christmas trees have always been problematic. When we were first married, we had a tree tree. Six-month-old Chloe walked it like a spiral staircase and perched among the branches. We had to close her up in the bedroom so we could decorate. In fact, we had to close her up in the bedroom so we could get it into the stand.

She left off climbing—I don’t know why, certainly not because I told her to—but for the rest of the season, she and Christabel lay on the bunched up sheet (snow) beneath. They were picturesque. Then we discovered them eating needles.

We took the hint (potential surgery) and responded with an artificial tree with lights already installed and an electrical cord for easy twinkling. On a dining room chair, and after only one blip, it attracted minimal attention. Ernest did not chew the cord.

This year David had a brainstorm: Put the tree atop the china closet.

So we went next door to Home Depot, passed up fir, and brought home a small rosemary tree. Nontraditional, but that’s us. One of our most repeated sentences is, “I wonder how normal people do this.”

We also bought a string of 100 lights, some of which now hang down the side of the china cabinet. They add to the the quirky charm. Unless Ernest notices, chews the cord, gets 110 volts, and must again be rushed to the ER.

We found snow (a length of fabric from the Walmart sewing aisle) to keep the pot from scratching the wood where we would never see scratches, but still. Folded, it doesn’t look too bad, and it was cheaper than a lovely felt tree skirt. I think our old sheet-snow was lost in the move.

I insisted on some tiny ornaments. David said there wasn’t room. There wasn’t.

Back at home, I googled rosemary and learned it’s not toxic to cats, and that due to the strong odor, they probably won’t eat it, and, if they, do, they’ll stop at one bite. But the insecticide is toxic. Jolly. If eaten, rosemary can cause gastric distress. The label says the plant should be watered weekly; I’ll be sure to do that, since I don’t want any dropped leaves. We’ve had enough gastric distress to last well into 2020.

The label also says the tree needs natural light, which it ain’t going to get in its current location. David says not much light penetrates our window screens, anyway, so it’ll have to make do with lamps. I might put it outside for a few hours each day. No one is likely to walk off with it.

With any luck, it will last till Epiphany.

So there we have it: Rosemary for remembrance—and we will remember; and a prayer that, although we display our tree with a difference, David and I will get those cats through Christmas without our having to wear rue.

Shakespeare has a line for everything if you’re willing to think hard enough. That’s where the pansies come in.

***

 

Ragdoll Cat (Temporarily)

“Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off—then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can. — Herman Melville

When it’s November, I give thanks summer is over and 100-degree weather temporarily behind us.

This November I gave thanks for the veterinarian.

While was in Dallas at a writing conference, David noticed symptoms of diabetes and took Ernest in for confirmation and treatment. I asked how he got the cat into the carrier. “With great difficulty,” he said.

After I returned home, we took him back to the doctor for gastric problems related to his new dietary regimen. The next day, he seemed to be in worse shape, so we took him back. Because he doesn’t like injections any more than he likes the carrier, we hadn’t been able to give him insulin, so that afternoon, before releasing him, the vet gave him a shot.

That night about midnight, in the dark, I stepped on a furry mass beside the bed and turned on the light. Guess who. Ernest. That was a surprise, since he usually sleeps under the bed. When I picked him up, another miracle occurred—he tolerated it. He doesn’t like to be picked up and held either. He  felt like a rag doll. David rubbed honey on his gums, and we headed for the animal ER/hospital (where he went several years ago after eating thread).

By the time we arrived, his blood sugar was 25, so he stayed for an IV and monitoring. At dawn–6:00 a.m., but it felt like dawn—we took him back to our vet for further monitoring. At 5:00 p.m, on the vet’s advice, we delivered him to the hospital for 24 to 36 hours of monitoring. The vet who had given him the insulin was amazed his glucose plummeted like that. The next afternoon, we picked him up.

Over the next two days, I functioned as a lap.

He’s doing well now. We hoped his diabetes could be controlled by diet, but he’s taking injections from David as if they’re no big deal. We watch him for hypoglycemia.

I don’t know whether I could inject him. He and David have always been buds. David is calm, so in David’s sphere, Ernest is calm. I energize him, so he marches around on me and sits on the arm of the chair and pulls on my sleeve. To give him his due, he’s learned to “liiiiiieeeeeeee dowwwwwwwwwwwn” after hearing me plead not too many times. But he has no intention of learning, “Stop pulling on my sleeve.”

On the topic of energy, since retiring, I’ve realized I energized my students, too, more’s the pity. They didn’t need energizing.

Anyway, November, to me, will always be The Month of the Hypoglycemic Cat.

And on a less alarming note, the The Month It Is Cooler, and in 2019, Damp and Drizzly, and Sometimes Even Rainy, Which is Nice.

*

I shouldn’t say this, lest it embarrass him, but in the hospital, Ernest’s legs were shaved so veins could be accessed, and now he looks like a 1950s lady wearing a fur coat with three-quarter sleeves and gauntlet gloves.

Note the elegant tilt of the head.

 

 

The Great Throwing Away or, The Great Unearthing: Toy

“One of the advantages of being disorganized
is that one is always having surprising discoveries.”

~ A. A. Milne

Some of my surprising discoveries during the Great Throwing Away didn’t surprise me, because I knew they were there, waiting to be unearthed. One of those takes me back to the summer I was eight, when my grandmother, Mary Veazey Barrow, spent a month in Del Rio with my family. (To prevent confusion, Veazey was her maiden name.)

For a week—it might have been a weekend, but I like to think it was a week—my oldest cousin, Mary Veazey Worden, came from Houston. Those two women were funny, and with my mother in the mix, everything was hilarious. They were more entertaining than any of my child-friends ever could have been.

We (they) spent much of the week making aprons. I don’t know why. I think the material came from feed sacks. I don’t know where we got it, considering we were living in a city and had no farm animals. I presume my mother had saved it from our years in a minute country town. She’d made me several play suits from chicken feed sacks in a green and white pattern. They were comfortable, attractive, and sturdy, and were probably handed down to some smaller child when I outgrew them. Few things last longer than a feed sack.

The highlight of the month was a day trip across the Rio Grande to Piedras Negras.

My family usually went to Ciudad Acuna, only three miles from home. I loved Acuna, because for seventy-five cents, I could buy a ring. The first time I went there, when I was seven, my parents footed the bill, so I bought maracas and a puppet whose strings I never managed to untangle. They bought me a leather jacket with fringe. The maracas weren’t popular at home because I insisted on shaking them, but I loved the coat. It was soft and warm. I felt quite cowboyish in it.

I despised it, however, the Halloween my mother made me wear it over my princess costume. The night was chilly and probably fell into her category of “I’m cold so you have to bundle up,” but it ruined the effect I wished to project. Clad in a long, glittery dress and scraping along the asphalt in high heels enhanced by fur-covered elastic bands across the toes, I felt elegant and feminine, two qualities that usually eluded me. Wearing the cowboy jacket, I felt like Gabby Hayes in drag. Even a bag of chocolate didn’t console me. After sixty-two years, the disappointment is still palpable.

But back to Piedras Negras. Situated across from Eagle Pass, it was larger than Acuna and offered shoppers more variety.

The shopping didn’t make much of an impression, except that we covered a lot of territory, and that we didn’t have lunch until we got back on U. S. soil. My parents had a thing about not eating in Mexico, even though some of our neighbors ate at Acuna’s Crosby Hotel, and others went to the dentist over there.

But the toy is a happy memory. My grandmother bought one for each of her four younger grandchildren. I don’t think she bought them for the older three, although she might have gotten one for Mary Veazey, because although twenty-something, VZ was nevertheless younger than the rest of us.

Why is the toy memorable? Because for the entire hour’s drive back to Del Rio, Mary Veazey and I sat in the back seat and tried to get the little wooden ball into the little wooden cup. My grandmother (who once amazed the grandchildren by trying out a hula hoop in the living room) took several turns herself.

The feat isn’t easy, and it’s made more difficult by the little wooden piece, which attaches the handle to the cup, sticking up a half-inch in the middle. It’s a wonder we didn’t hit someone, including ourselves, in the head. We shrieked a lot. I’m sure my father’s hearing aid magnified it, but he didn’t complain. He never did.

I tried the toy a few minutes ago. Getting the ball into the cup takes more skill, and luck, than I remembered. It takes considerable force to swing the ball high enough to get the cup under it. I fear my right triceps has deteriorated. Well, I know it has.

About the eating thing. Years ago, David and I spent Christmas Eve in Ciudad Acuna, moving from cafe to cafe, eating tacos—real ones, not Tex-Mex. In the evening, we walked by the Crosby Hotel, which had no vacancies, and saw through the windows the dining room, white tablecloths, small red poinsettias at the center of each table. Beautiful.

The hotel no longer exists. I wish we’d eaten there.

***

Today, WP refuses to print a tilde. Thus Acuna. Maybe tomorrow.

The Maven

2018-10-20 ttm pixabay poe cc0 pd writer-17565_640

One more time.

*****

Why? Because–A friend, calling to confirm David and I would meet her and her husband the next day for the Edgar Allan Poe exhibit at the Harry Ransom Center, reported her house was being leveled for the second time in three years: “There are thirteen men under my house.”

I hooked up Edgar Allan Poe with the number thirteen and house with Usher and wrote the following verse. Halloween approaches, so I’m posting it again.

Note: Tuck and Abby are my friends’ dogs.

Another note: Maven means expert. I looked it up to make sure.

THE MAVEN

To G. and M. in celebration
of their tenth trimester
of home improvement,
with  affection.
Forgive me for making
mirth of melancholy.

 

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary

Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,

While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a rapping,

As of someone gently tapping, tapping at my chamber floor.

“‘Tis some armadillo,” said I, “tapping at my chamber floor,

Only this, and nothing more.”

 

 

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the dry September,

And my house was sinking southward, lower than my bowling score,

Pier and beam and blocks of concrete, quiet as Deuteron’my’s cat feet,

Drooping like an unstarched bedsheet toward the planet’s molten core.

“That poor armadillo,” thought I, “choosing my house to explore.

He’ll squash like an accordion door.”

 

 

“Tuck,” I cried, “and Abby, come here! If my sanity you hold dear,

Go and get that armadillo, on him all your rancor pour.

While he’s bumping and a-thumping, give his rear a royal whumping,

Send him hence with head a-lumping, for this noise do I abhor.

Dasypus novemcinctus is not a beast I can ignore

Clumping ‘neath my chamber floor.”

 

While they stood there prancing, fretting, I imparted one last petting,

Loosed their leashes and cried “Havoc!” and let slip the dogs of war.

As they flew out, charged with venom, I pulled close my robe of denim.

“They will find him at a minimum,” I said, “and surely more,

Give him such a mighty whacking he’ll renounce forevermore

Lumbering ‘neath my chamber floor.”

 

 

But to my surprise and wonder, dogs came flying back like thunder.

“That’s no armadillo milling underneath your chamber floor.

Just a man with rule and level, seems engaged in mindless revel,

Crawling round. The wretched devil is someone we’ve seen before,

Measuring once and measuring twice and measuring thrice. We said, ‘Señor,

Get thee out or thee’s done for.'”

 

“Zounds!” I shouted, turning scarlet. “What is this, some vill’nous varlet

Who has come to torment me with mem’ries of my tilting floor?”

Fixing myself at my station by my floundering foundation,

Held I up the quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore.

“Out, you cad!” I said, “or else prepare to sleep beneath my floor,

Nameless there forever more.”

 

Ere my words had ceased resounding, with their echo still surrounding,

Crawled he out, saluted, and spoke words that chilled my very core.

“I been down there with my level, and those piers got quite a bevel.

It’s a case of major evolution: totter, tilt galore.

Gotta fix it right away, ma’am, ‘less you want your chamber floor

At a slant forevermore.”

 

At his words there came a pounding and a dozen men came bounding

From his pickup, and they dropped and disappeared beneath my floor.

And they carried beam and hammer and observed no rules of grammar,

And the air was filled with clamor and a clanging I deplore.

“Take thy beam and take thy level and thy failing Apgar score

And begone forevermore.”

 

 

But they would not heed my prayer, and their braying filled the air,

And it filled me with despair, this brouhaha that I deplore.

“Fiend!” I said. “If you had breeding, you would listen to my pleading,

For I feel my mind seceding from its sane and sober core,

And my house shall fall like Usher.” Said the leader of the corps,

“Lady, you got no rapport.”

 

“How long,” shrieked I then in horror, “like an ominous elm borer,

Like a squirrely acorn storer will you lurk beneath my floor?

Prophesy!” I cried, undaunted by the chutzpah that he flaunted,

And the expertise he vaunted. “Tell me, tell me, how much more?”

But he strutted and he swaggered like a man who knows the score.

Quoth the maven, “Evermore.”

 

He went off to join his legion in my house’s nether region

While my dogs looked on in sorrow at that dubious guarantor.

Then withdrawing from this vassal with his temperament so facile

I went back into my castle and I locked my chamber door.

“On the morrow, they’ll not leave me, but will lodge beneath my floor

Winter, spring, forevermore.”

 

So the hammering and the clamoring and the yapping, yawping yammering

And the shrieking, squawking stammering still are sounding ‘neath my floor.

And I sit here sullen, slumping in my chair, and dream the thumping

And the armadillo’s bumping is a sound I could adore.

For those soles of boots from out the crawlspace ‘neath my chamber floor

Shall be lifted—Nevermore!

 

The Great Throwing-Away: Bob’s Grocery

I just packed the egg separator from Bob’s Grocery in Fentress, Texas, ca. 1956.

Why?

Because it’s from Bob’s Grocery in Fentress, Texas, ca. 1956.

Bob–really Rob Waller–was my father’s first cousin. They grew up on neighboring farms on the Guadalupe County side of the San Marcos River.

Nell, Rob’s wife and partner in the grocery store, was my second mama. She and I were the sole and exclusive members of a Mutual Admiration Society.

Rob and Nell’s three daughters, teenagers when I came along, were my idols.

There are a lot of stories I could tell, but the movers will be here any minute, so I have to stop.

But the point is, no matter how broken and cracked and shabby that egg separator is, you just don’t go throwing it away.

Little Google Fiber or, Quick! Get Up and Put Some Clothes On!

Tomorrow we end our relationship with Google Fiber. At the end of two years of excellent connectivity, I repost the verse I wrote to celebrate the beginning.

With apologies to James Whitcomb Riley

 

 

 

 

 

 

Little Google Fiber’s come to our house today,
To scramble through the attic and drag cables on the way,
And cut some boards and drill some holes and stuff some cables that
Will link up with some other stuff beside the thermostat;
But first the upstairs closet had to be cleared out for space,
The downstairs china cabinet moved and china all displaced,
“And Kathy can’t just lie in bed,” they said, “or lounge about,
‘Cause we’ll see her in her jammies

Ef she

Don’t

Watch

Out.”

 

 

I heered ’em in the attic, flippin’, flappin’ like a bat,
And a-scritchin’ and a-scratchin’, like a sheetrock-eatin’ rat,
And the warnin’ that they said we’d get? Like knockin’ on the door,
And sayin’, all polite-like, “Ma’am? Here’s me and all my corp
Of drillers and of draggers, we don’t want to scare you none
By creatin’ a cacophony before your sleep is done,
So please wake up, get up out of bed. It puts us in a pout
When we see you in your jammies

‘Cause you

Don’t

Watch

Out.”

 

 

But, no, the warning never came, and I was in still in bed,
Although my husband came upstairs an hour ‘fore and said,
“Dear, don’t you think you’d better rise and put some lipstick on
And stretch your arms and stretch your legs and give a drowsy yawn,
And don some clothes and stuff those PJs in the nearest vase,
Cause those raggedy old things reflect on us a sad disgrace,
And the Google guys will run and flee. You’ll cause a general rout
If they see you in your jammies

‘Cause you

Don’t

Watch

Out.

 

 

Though I am a thoughtful wife and always try to please,
My lids were heavy, and I stayed in bed and took my ease,
And so it was that I was still in Morpheus’ embrace
When the scritchin’ and the flappin’ up above me did take place.
And I sprang up from my bed and ran, but threw up neither sash,
Nor did I fly to ingle-side to brush aside the ash.
I screeched, “That isn’t Santa, it’s the Google men, no doubt!
And they’ll see me in my jammies

Ef I

Don’t

Watch

Out!”

 

 

So I scrabbled and I flipped and flapped and sounded like that rat,
Although louder and lots faster, like unto a scalded cat.
“I’d be ready now,” I said, “if only Google had been nice,
And not made me move the china so my muscles needed ice,
And my body and my soul cried out, ‘This raveled sleave of care
Must be knit up, and sore labor’s bath I needs must have! O swear
That Google will not taunt me for a loathesome layabout
‘Cause they see me in my jammies

Ef I

Don’t

Watch

Out.”

 

 

Exciting stories sometimes end in flaming denouements.
This one has a climax that is really, really blah.
I got up, brushed my hair, found clothes, as usually I do,
And dressed and, looking ‘neath the bed, dragged out my other shoe,
Went downstairs, and stared at the wall, and checked email, and when
The Google man knocked on the door, and David came, ’twas then
I said, “Ha ha ha, you cannot say, you early-rising lout,
That you saw me in my jammies,

Cause

I

Watched

Out.”

 

***

By Unknown – Van Allen, Elizabeth J. (1999). James Whitcomb Riley: a life. Indiana University Press. ISBN 0253335914., p. 197, Public Domain, 

The poem “Little Orphan Annie” was written by James Whitcomb Riley in 1885. The original title was “Little Orphant Annie,” but an error in a later printing changed the name.

English: James Whitcomb Riley, known as the Ch...
James Whitcomb Riley, known as the Children’s Poet, poses with a group of children for a photo to be included in a book published for the Indiana state’s centennial anniversary. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The poem was inspired by Mary Alice Smith, a child who came to the home of Riley’s parents as a “bound” servant to earn her board and keep. She worked alongside Mrs. Riley and the other children and helped with housework. The Rileys referred to her as a guest and treated her as one of the family. In the evenings she told ghost stories to the children, including James, the future poet.

In the 1920s, Mary Alice Smith inspired the comic strip “Little Orphan Annie” and the Raggedy Ann doll created by Johnny Gruelle.

The poem is in the public domain. It appears at https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/little-orphant-annie

Thanks to Wikipedia for the information shared here.

Thanks to James Whitcomb Riley for writing the delightful poem that popped into my head as soon as I heard the Google men scrabbling around in the attic. Read in just the right way, the last four lines can scare the stuffings out of a bunch of eight-year-old girls at a Brownie troop meeting.

***

Little Orphant Annie’s come to our house to stay,
An’ wash the cups an’ saucers up, an’ brush the crumbs away,
An’ shoo the chickens off the porch, an’ dust the hearth, an’ sweep,
An’ make the fire, an’ bake the bread, an’ earn her board-an’-keep;
An’ all us other childern, when the supper things is done,
We set around the kitchen fire an’ has the mostest fun
A-list’nin’ to the witch-tales ‘at Annie tells about,
An’ the Gobble-uns ‘at gits you
             Ef you
                Don’t
                   Watch
                      Out!
							 
Onc’t they was a little boy wouldn’t say his prayers,--
So when he went to bed at night, away up stairs,
His Mammy heerd him holler, an’ his Daddy heerd him bawl,
An’ when they turn’t the kivvers down, he wasn’t there at all!
An’ they seeked him in the rafter-room, an’ cubby-hole, an’ press,
An’ seeked him up the chimbly-flue, an’ ever’wheres, I guess;
But all they ever found was thist his pants an’ roundabout--
An’ the Gobble-uns’ll git you
             Ef you
                Don’t
                   Watch
                      Out!
							 
An’ one time a little girl ‘ud allus laugh an’ grin,
An’ make fun of ever’one, an’ all her blood an’ kin;
An’ onc’t, when they was “company," an’ ole folks was there,
She mocked ‘em an’ shocked ‘em, an’ said she didn’t care!
An’ thist as she kicked her heels, an’ turn’t to run an’ hide,
They was two great big Black Things a-standin’ by her side,
An’ they snatched her through the ceilin’ ‘fore she knowed what she’s about!
An’ the Gobble-uns’ll git you
             Ef you
                Don’t
                   Watch
                      Out!
							 
An’ little Orphant Annie says when the blaze is blue,
An’ the lamp-wick sputters, an’ the wind goes woo-oo!
An’ you hear the crickets quit, an’ the moon is gray,
An’ the lightnin’-bugs in dew is all squenched away,--
You better mind yer parents, an’ yer teachers fond an’ dear,
An’ churish them ‘at loves you, an’ dry the orphant’s tear,
An’ he’p the pore an’ needy ones ‘at clusters all about,
Er the Gobble-uns’ll git you
             Ef you
                Don’t
                   Watch
                      Out!