Saturday, June 21, 2014

"Many of our fears are tissue-paper-thin, and a single courageous step would carry us clear through them."  ~ Brendan Behan

I know about fear. I once lived in Montana! It was early in our marriage that Richard was sent to Montana to be the legal counsel overseeing the legalities of a huge government construction job that his company had begun. In the beginning months of that project there was no housing for the wives, and that was actually a good thing. At one point that winter, it was 43 degrees BELOW 0! Now, I like snow, but cold, cold mountains of it seemed much too much. 

Anyway, I was teaching high school when Richard left for Montana, a man who HATES cold weather! He called every night from his office out there, and I would sit by our phone, waiting for it to ring, as soon as I got home from school every day. Richard came home once a month for the weekend, and then back again he'd go. That is, until June...

Early in June, the huge contract was cancelled by Washington, and it meant that Richard would be home again by October after wrapping up all the contract details.  So, as soon as school was out, I flew to Montana to live in a trailer with Richard for the summer and see Montana for the first time in my life.

Richard had taken up skeet shooting! I told him that I hated the idea of his shooting poor little skeets...

"Terry, do you know what skeet is?"

"Well, it's some kind of little bird, isn't it? And, Richard, you know how much I love birds! Please don't kill them!!!"

"Terry, skeet are clay pigeons that are hurled out of a gadget..."

"Oh, NO! Some jerk throws pigeons into the air and you SHOOT THEM? RICHARD!!!"

I finally got "it" when Thursday rolled around, and Richard put a shotgun in the trunk of the car and me in the passenger seat. Off we went to the Conrad Skeet Shooting place. It had 6 stations where 6 guys would stand with their shotguns aimed at the clear blue sky. There was a long wooden bench behind them and to the right, just in case more than 6 guys showed up on an afternoon. So I plopped myself down on that bench, and prepared to cover my ears during the shooting.

I was intrigued, though... there was this guy crouching in a bunch of bushes near a tiny little wooden hobbit-house right in front of the shooters! He'd dash out and set up a metal pitcher-thing that flung blue clay "frizbees" up and out into the air. He'd let fly with one per shooter. The shooter would blast it, and then that guy in the bushes would load and fling another "frizbee" for the next guy. I watched for about 10 minutes, before the bear came!

He was fuzzy and stood on his back legs and wore a plaid flannel shirt and baggy pants. The bear sat down on the bench, and I tried to disappear. Where was Mr. Spock when I needed him? ("Beam me up, Scotty! PULEEZ beam me up!") That bear of a man scared me, REALLY scared me! I'd heard of "mountain men," but I'd never been near one before. 

It was 3 weeks of skeet-ing before I even looked at the bear when he'd come to the bench and sit down after finishing his shooting. But that 3rd week he nodded to me as he sat down! I nodded back, and then, all of a sudden, in a halting voice, I said, "Hello!"

That was the beginning of my learning about history from a real live historical figure... This man and his wife had lived in Kansas during the 1930's "Dust Bowl" days, when their little farm was destroyed by the wild winds that blew the dusty dirt so forcefully that it was unliveable there. So he and his wife put what they had left into a rusty old truck and drove to Cut Bank, Montana to start their life all over again. In that truck they had stowed a tent to live in, and that was do-able, he said, until the winter came, full force. He said that the snow had been so deep and heavy that 3 times that winter it had caved in the tent completely! They stuck it out, though. They'd carved out a place for themselves in Cut Bank, Montana and had never looked back.

I will never forget that man, that bear of a man, and his hardships, and his quiet courage. I'd always wanted to meet his wife, but she never came to sit on that bench, and I wondered about her, too... Think what I would have missed if I hadn't muttered that whispery little frightened "Hello"... 

Later that summer the guys decided that there ought to be a party for all the company people, and I had another scare... sort of... 

There was food, there was music, and there was the entire company of husbands and wives in that smallish conference room. Ed, the very big, very tall, very out-going, head of the entire mission was in the mood to dance. His wonderful wife and mother of their 4 children was pregnant again with their 5th child, and her time was near, so dancing was, naturally, the last thing she wanted to do! 

"Terry! Let's DANCE!" boomed Ed from half-way across the room. Ed bounded across the dance floor, and so I held out my arms to dance. But Ed grabbed me by the waist and lifted me off the ground completely! We "danced" to 2 or 3 songs, and for those 15 minutes my feet never did touch the floor! I was whirling around the entire dance floor without ever landing! I wasn't used to feeling like a 5'8" rag-doll. And you know what? It was fun! When he finally put me back down on the floor, I was dizzy and laughing so hard that I couldn't catch my breath.

But it was Norah, his wife, who I was scared for... A few weeks later she told me that she was "due" within the next week to have her 5th baby! I kept asking her each day why she wasn't lying down and resting... 

"Terry! I have 4 children, didn't you notice!" And she sure did. Her kids were as rambunctious as her husband, and she had no "down time."

It was Friday, and I wandered over to Norah's double-wide trailer to see if I could help her, somehow, but Norah was in the midst of toting food and clothing to the little camping trailer that they would hitch to their truck!

"Ed just called and we're going camping for the weekend! Ed wants to leave as soon as he gets home."

"But Norah, your baby's due... What will..."

"Ed said that if my labor starts, he'll drive me to the nearest hospital. Now help me get these kids rounded up so I can stuff them into the trailor before Ed comes home. I think I've got all the food we'll need. 'Course Ed will shoot a deer, so we'll have venison... and the kids..."

"Norah! Will you be near a town? Richard and I drove that road last weekend, and it was all forest to the Canadian border..."

"Oh, we'll go across the border to the gooood forest. You know Ed!"

"Norah, arent you scared?"

"No time to be scared, Terry!" I could already see Ed's car careening down the dirt-covered road toward us.

Norah had her baby 2 days after they got home from camping in the wild. No, she wasn't scared. And even though I watched all that summer and lived beside all those amazing people, I didn't become brave like she was for a very long time... 

Monday, June 16, 2014

"Life is your art. An open, aware heart is your camera. A oneness with your world is your film. Your bright eyes, your easy smile is your museum."  ~  Ansel Adams

I'm working hard today... I'm cleaning my back-room, otherwise known as my "studio." I only call it that if I'm intimidated and trying to sound better than I am! 

I just found this stuff that I wrote a few years ago when an old friend of mine asked me to be one of the artists to show several pieces of my work in a museum of art in the city where she lives. I guess that's one of the real benefits of deep cleaning... you just might come across something that you thought a while ago, and maybe need to remember now. I see I named it "Inspiration." Here goes...

"Creativity is the art of courage." I wish I'd have said this, but I'm glad Anne Michelle Johal did. Her statement is quick to read, but it takes years of living and constant looking to put into play. My story is about having the courage to show what I see, what I feel deeply about, and what I know is important.

For me, creativity and courage grow out of inspiration. Of course, I'm inspired by great things, like standing up for what you believe is right in the face of jeers and sneers. But the older I am, the more I know that inspiration is all around us every single day we are alive, and it comes through little things... tiny things... things that most people never notice in their hurry through this world of ours. It might be the shyest flower that is a part of a weed at the edge of a green lawn. Or it could be a vigorous dandelion growing from a crack in the curb of the street. Watching a dragonfly flit through my backyard with its face that seems only to be made of eyes is a revelation. When I realize that it could hover before helicopters were even imagined, I'm astounded!

It's simple, but very complex at the same time. Creativity and inspiration come from looking, really looking at the glories around us. In the United States everyone is looking for something all the time. But it seems most people are only looking straight ahead. The real beauties and peace, for me, come when I get down on the ground to see the teeming life all around. It's life-or-death down there, always, and it inspires me to create. And when I look up high where the birds swoop and Mount Baldy lords it over the other mountains around him, I am inspired to create. And when I look up higher than the mountains can reach, I am encouraged to show you what I don't have words to express. I will let three of my favorite word-artists do that for me as you look at my art: Stephen Crane, e e cummings, and Issa, the 17th century haiku master. Please enjoy what you see. (You'd have to go to my website to do that now, though, since you're not standing in an art musem!)

In my native place
There's this plant
As plain as grass
But blooms like heaven.    ~ Issa

The voice of God whispers in the heart
So softly
That the soul pauses,
Making no noise,
And strives for these melodies,
Distant, sighing, like the faintest breath,
And all being is still to hear.               ~  Stephen Crane

who were so dark of heart they might not speak,
a little innocence will make them sing;
teach them to see who could not learn to look
~ from the reality of all nothing

will actually lift a luminous whole       ~ e e cummings

Saturday, June 7, 2014

"A series of accidents creates a positively light-hearted state."  ~ Jean Baudrillard

It's an amazing thing, meeting folks! They are around every corner of your life. I needed some more eyeliner today so off I went to Nordstrom's, and two of the the most beautiful ladies waited on me. They were both Persian, and I told them that the best writers I ever had in my high school classes were Persian! Their prose always read like poetry. Next thing you know, one lady was telling me about how she "learned to read English with her heart, not her mind," and what that entailed. Fascinating! We three went from "hello" to something that deep and perplexing in a matter of 5 minutes! 

Yesterday, an elegant older lady at the grocery store asked me if I coud reach a can of something that she wanted up on the highest shelf, and of course I did. She thanked me and added some pleasantries, and I could hear an accent in her speaking that I hadn't heard before. It was Welsh. I've always wanted to go to Wales, but never did, and suddenly yesterday, Wales came to me!

She told me that Wales was much like Ireland, green, green hills, green, green valleys, and, so naturally, I was enthralled! 

"I know of one difference, though, even though I haven't ever been there," I said.

"And what's that?" she asked in her whispery, musical voice.

"Every man in Wales is born with a beautiful singing voice!"

She smiled, and said it was so. "But the Irish can sing, too," she added. And we talked on and on about everything... Ireland, Wales, our husbands, her kids and my lack of them, but my teaching 10,000, instead. She told me of the dismissal of the Welsh by the English folks, and I added that it was so of the Irish, too, I thought.  

Well, you needn't know all we spoke of, but the end was the best! You see, I know the TRUE recipe for pasties, the ONLY way to make them authentically. My grandmother taught me to make the best pasties anywhere, for that matter! Not recently, you see, because I need to buy one of those thick black floor mats that hairstylists stand on in salons. Boy, do I! Pasties take hours to make, so when you do make them, make about a dozen and a half at a time. (They're wonderful warmed over, if you know the trick!) Pasties also take a fairly long preparation time before you are even set to roll out the dough and start in, unless you're Gordon Ramsey, of course! Our kitchen floor is tile, and it's just not worth the backache these days... I KNOW... boring, Terry... oh, and by the way, what do pasties have to do with anything Welsh, I'd like to know?

Glad you asked! Wales is down there next to Cornwall, and so the Welsh are very famliar with Cornish pasties. And this lovely lady agreed wholeheartedly with me when I told her of my incident at Harrod's food court when I was last in London. They were selling pasties with GRAVY inside of them! GRAVY! That's unthinkable! It's like selling hot dogs with brown gravy on them instead of mustard! It's like putting gravy over a salad instead of dressing... It's like... OK, you get the idea!

First, a tiny bit of history for you:  Wales and Cornwall were the land of the coal mines for Britian, and the miners would bring their lunches with them when they worked down deep in those mines every one of those long, long days. Their lunch buckets were just that - round two-level buckets. On the bottom of the lunch-bucket was the man's tea for the whole work-day. On the top of that was the place for two fresh half-circle pasties to sit until the lunch whistle blew, staying luke-warm because of the tea beneath that pasty compartment. Since the pan was round, so were pasties. And because I love you so much for reading this piece of my writing, I'm giving you my own grandmother's receipe below.  

Oh, I forgot to brag... My recipe below was published several years ago in a beautiful little cookbook with my very name and my city/state written there. But, best of all, I got a package one day all the way from Cornwall. It was a lovely letter that  I still have from a Cornish lady who said that my recipe was just right! In fact, she liked it so much that she included a present for me in the package. It was a tea-towel with the recipe for Cornish pasties printed on the front and a lovely painting of one, too. How kind of that lady!

The cookbook also includes my recipe for goulash soup, and, boy, is that goood too! I'm just not in an Hungarian mood today, though.  


Make a dough out of 1 cup shortening, 4 cups flour, 5 tablespoons ice water, and salt. OR, buy boxed pie crust mix and follow the directions, but add ANOTHER 1/2 cup or a bit more flour to it. The dough must NOT be a "short dough," like pie crust is... all flaky. This dough is going to hold meat and potatoes!

Form this dough into a ball and refrigerate it at least an hour.

While the dough is getting cold, YOU are NOT! Take about a pound of steak (your choice) out of your 'frig, and cut it into cubes. (Don't ask me the size... not too big, but not too small... YOU decide!) 

Done? Now, take about 4 pork chops out of your refrigerator and cut the meat into cubes, too. They should be about the same size as the beef cubes...  (Now you're gettin' somewhere!)

Now, find an onion (yellow ones are my favs, but it doesn't matter at all, really) in your 'frig, and dice it. 

Might as well grab at least 4 or 5 medium potatoes while you're at it, and cut them into dice, too.  Don't be making those dice too small, though. Potatoes are food from the gods, you know... You can never go wrong with more potaotes... and even more than that!

Now, sprinkle your work space with plenty of flour. Search in your drawers and find a rolling pin. You're nearly ready for the actual making of these little devils!

Take the dough out of the frig, and divide it into golf-ball-sized pieces. That will determine just how many pasties you'll be making!

Roll out one "golf ball" of dough into a "sort of" circle. Circle-ish is good enough for pasties!  On just one 1/2 of that dough circle, lay some of the steak on the dough. Now put some of the pork on that same 1/2. Now toss some potatoes on top of the meat. Sprinkle onions on top of all that.

Run over to the 'frig, and take out some butter. With a paring knife, cut about 3-4 little pieces of butter and let them fall on top of the concoction you've made there on that piece of dough. 

Salt and pepper the whole mass, and then the fun begins!

Take the empty 1/2 other side of the dough and fold it over the whole conglomeration! Crimp this half-circle that you've made, so it becomes a bulging 1/2 circle.

Take a knife and cut 3 smallish slashes in the top.  Use your spatchula to place this on a baking sheet. Turn your oven on to 425 degrees, while you're there, to prewarm it.

Now do that again, and again until you run out of something... dough, meat... something.  Whew!

When you have a couple of baking sheets full of these babies, shove them into the oven for 15 minutes.  When the oven buzzer rings, turn the oven down to 350 degrees, and let them bake for another 45 minutes.

Now you can put your feet up and relax... sort of... You need to take out a small saucepan and put about 1/2 a stick of butter inside it with about 1/4 cup of water, too. Heat it until it's all liquid. Now get out a teaspoon.

This is important:  Pull out each baking sheet of pasties from the oven, and put a teaspoon of this butter/water mixture into EACH slit on EACH pasty. Then shove them back into the oven for 15 more minutes.

NOW, YOU ARE DONE!  Eat! Manga bene... or however you say that in Cornish...  :}  

P.S. They warm up beautifully the next day, and even one more day after that, IF you're careful enough to melt the butter into the water and douse each pasty slit again while warming them up.

P.P.S. Because of this recipe, the lovely lady asked me to have lunch with her very soon! 

Friday, June 6, 2014

"Doesn't 'expecting the unexpected' make the unexpected expected?"  ~ George Carlin

One afternoon Mom and Jackie, my little brother, and I were sitting in the car under a tree in the parking lot of the tall building where my Dad worked. With only one car in the family, this was an evening ritual, picking up Dad after work. 

As usual, Jackie and I were sitting in the backseat talking. And as usual, I, his big sister, was asking Jackie the same question that I asked him every day. "Jackie, what color eyes does Lorrie have?"

"She has pink eyes and greem lips!"

"Ha, Ha!  No she doesn't! She has PINK lips, Jackie!  Dogs DON'T have green lips! And you say 'greeN,' not 'greeM!" 

"Mommie! Terry says Lorrie doesn't have pink eyes and greem lips! She's laughing at me! Stop her! Waaah! Mommie, Terry's laughing at me now! Stop her! Waah!"

"Terry, stop teasing your brother! Stop it right NOW!"

"But, Mommie," I'd wail. "He doesn't even know the differece between pink and greeeeen!"

I could prove that, too! At "Parents Day" in Jackie's first or second grade class that year, Mom had told people the "cutest story," as she put it. "Jackie came running over to me during the class, and told me to look at the girl in the pink dress because he liked her! Well, I kept looking at the only girl in a pink dress in the whole class, but Jackie never even looked at her. He kept running past her, over to the cutest little girl I'd ever seen in a green dress. Then he'd push her, and then look over at me with a big smile on his face. Then he'd run over to me and say, 'Did you see her?' and I would say 'yes' and point to the little girl in the pink dress but that would make Jackie mad! Then he'd go over and shove into the little cutie in the green dress...  It took me a few minutes to realize that Jackie had the names of those two colors completely mixed up!"

Well, when I overheard her tell this story to a neighbor, it gave me new ammunition to fire at my brother on those afternoons in the car, waiting for Dad to come out of that big building and drive us home.

And every day, just before the time was ripe to give Jackie a poke in the arm and start a really gooood fight, we'd see people come around the corner of the big building, leaving work for the day. We'd look at all the men dressed in suits, and then see Dad. He was always the handsomest of all to me! 

When he'd get into the driver's seat, he'd ask the same question every day, "Did you two behave in the car today?" And Mom would have the same answer every day, "Oh Dick, they were fighting again. Tell them to behave!"

Well, one day Dad thought up a better solution to this problem. He knew that both Jackie and I LOVED "Superman." We had all the comics, and I'd read them all to Jackie. We even watched Superman jumping over a tall building on television! That building did look like a perfect copy of the one Dad worked in, come to think of it.

"Did I ever tell you kids that Clark Kent works just down the hall from my office?" he asked us one day. "You know, Superman!"

You could have knocked us over with feathers, just like the old cliche! Clark Kent!!! Superman worked HERE in Dad's building? HERE!

"Yes, he does. Didn't you kids see him just now? He walked out of the building right ahead of me! Too bad you missed him. You'd better keep a close watch tomorrow." Problem solved! I've always believed that my Dad was promoted from being a "rate engineer" to become the Director of Marketing and Sales at the headquarters in New York City because he was a brilliant thinker. He sure settled our fighting in the car in a creative way!

The best part was that every day, he made up a different answer for how we'd missed seeing Clark Kent, so it never got old for us. One day, when he came to the car, he'd say, "There he is! Oops, he's just going around that corner. See? Oh, you missed him." That worked on us for several months, it seemed. And one day in the backseat of our car, Lorrie even ended up having green eyes and pink lips, too!

Driving to Dad's office building every morning was a different thing altogether. School didn't start in those days until 9AM. Families actually sat at the table together in the morning and ate breakfast cooked right before their eyes by Mom, at least they did in our home. Afterwards, we'd all stuff ourselves into the car to drive Dad to work. Then the car became Mom's. She'd drop Jackie and me off at Betsy Ross Elementary School, and the day was hers until we walked home. You decide if it's better now... I'm not so sure it is...

This morning we were driving the same route from Culver City to Dad's office in Santa Monica, the very same route that we took every week day. Dad saw the light turn red about 1/2 a block away and was slowing down. Jack was sitting in the front seat between Mom and Dad, and I had the back seat all to myself. 

Crash! Something hit us so hard from the back that it thrust our car up over the curb, right between two telephone poles! How my Dad steered that car between those poles is still a mystery to me. If he'd wavered either way by a foot... well, it would have been even more grave than it was.

 Jackie was crying. Mom was saying over and over again, "What happened? What happened?" Dad was shouting, "Are you hurt? Is anyone hurt?" And I couldn't say anything. I just sat there.

It seemed a loooong time until the police arrived, but kids don't really have any true sense of time, anyway. Before they arrived, though, all sorts of cars pulled up around us, on the street, on the sidewalk, and in the vacant lot beyond. We still just sat there in our car.

I don't remember when or how the policeman came to open our door, but I'll never forget that siren. It still scares me today. The policeman helped me out of the back seat, and he said, "Little girl, can you raise your arms for me?"

I tried, and my right arm went right up over my head, but I couldn't lift my left arm. It wouldn't go any higher than a little below my armpit. 

"That's bad," he said. "Stay right here for a minute!" I watched him walk away. Then he hurried back to me, and said, "Little girl, come with me to this nice lady's car. We're going to let you sit in her car for a minute." 

I didn't want to. I wanted to stay with my Mom and Dad, but there were people all around them. They seemed to be closed inside a people circle, and then those people covered them all up, and I couldn't see them at all.

The policeman took my right hand and said, "Little girl, come with me to the lady's car." 

Her car was sitting behind and to the side of the car that hit us, the car I had to walk past. That car had all 4 doors wide open, and there were men inside. I looked. The 3 men in the front seat had closed eyes. They had thin streams of dark red blood dripping in perfectly straight lines from both sides of their mouths, and both nostrils. The man closest to me, as I walked by with the policeman, had blood dripping from his ear, as well. None of the men's eyes were open. It's a funny thing.. I can still see that today, as well as I could see it all those years ago.

Next thing I knew I was in the backseat of a strange lady's car. But the only place I wanted to be was with Mom and Dad, and even with Jackie. The lady said that everything was going to be alright, but she never looked at me. She only looked out the front window at the commotion. Boy, was that a lonely feeling. But I didn't cry.

Then the ambulance arrived, that white, screaming, looong truck that ground to a halt with white-clothed men jumping down from all sides. One of them set me free from the lady's temporary holding cell, and we went over to my father. They were assessing us. Dad had blood seeping down his forehead, so he was a candidate for the ambulance. I had a broken collar bone, so I was placed on his lap in the front seat of that ambulance. Mom wasn't hurt at all, and Jackie was fine and had even stopped crying. The police put my Mom and my brother in the back seat of their car, and they would follow the amblance so we all could stay together. It was clear that we were in the front of the ambulance because the men from the car that hit us were in the back being cared for.

Because I was so young, I don't have a real wrap-up for this episode. I remember my father telling someone that the accident had ocurred at about 7:30 in the morning, and all of the 5 or 6 men were "dead drunk." He said our car was "totalled." And, for weeks and weeks, I was taped to two pieces of board laid at right angles across my back with a sling for my left arm.     

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

"A writer is like a bag lady going through life with a sack and a pointed stick collecting stuff."      ~ Tony Hillerman

I just got back from voting. I've only missed one election day in my adult life, and that was because I had a 103 degree fever. Made me remember one of the first times I ever went to the voting booth...

We'd just gotten married, and one of Richard's good friends was also an attorney. In fact, Dan and Richard had gone to law school together, and now Dan lived not far from our new apartment. In those days I cooked every night from scratch, start to finish.  So, of course, one Saturday night we invited Dan over for dinner.  I'd set the table with wonderfully painted dishes, chilled the wine, and then I'd put on a new dress that I'd just bought. All was ready.

Richard had gone to pick up Dan... Oops, I forgot to tell you - Dan was totally blind! 

Every single day, expertly using his white cane, Dan wallked 8 blocks to work and then back. In fact, we had visited Dan the other evening at his apartment. Richard had knocked on the door, and Dan invited us in. There were NO lights on. It was 8 o'clock on a very dark night, and inside Dan's apartment, it was pitch dark, too! Of course, I thought. Why would he need his lights on? Richard found the light switch just after I tripped over something on the floor and fell flat on my face on the living room carpet. "What time is it?" Dan said, as he opened the crystal face of his wrist watch and petted the raised numbers. "Oh, I didn't realize what time it was. I would have turned the lights on for you!"

Well, Richard and Dan walked into our apartment that Saturday night, and we sipped some wine, ate some hors d'oeuvres, talked about all kinds of things, and laughed lots. All at once, though, my silly bra strap started to slip down off my shoulder. Surreptiously, I managed to slide it back on my shoulder where it belonged. I'd had lots of practice doing that. It was then that I suddenly realized... WHO CARES? I could have been sitting there in my slip, and it wouldn't have mattered a whit! Why, I could be sitting there with nothing on at all. Dan was blind! So I celebrated this occasion, and took my darn bra off completely! There is a certain freedom in blindness, at least to the hostess, there is! 

What a strange feeling that was! I really didn't have to dust the furniture before he came over... I didn't have to vacuum. I didn't even have to comb my hair! Dan was so smart and funny and comfortable that his blindness didn't seem to enter into the evening much at all. I did cut the pot roast into bite-sized pieces for him, but that was about it. He loved my cooking. What more could I ask?

Well, time passed and election day rolled around. Richard told Dan that we'd walk with him over to the polling place because the three of us would be voting at the same one. 

In we walked, the 3 of us, and bellied up to the table to receive our ballots before entering the cardboard booths. Dan announced to the head volunteer that he was blind and that someone would have to read the ballot aloud to him and mark his ballot, as well. 

I was sequestered inside my claustrophobic booth, reading all the legalese, trying to decide what each proposition was proposing, when all of a sudden, I could heard voices, loud voices! 

"Mayoral Candidates is the first category. Joe Smit..."


"I'm sorry, sir. You must NOT yell out like this. People are voting, and no one is allowed to predju..."


"Really, sir! I cannot allow this yelling to go on. People must have quiet to..."


... and so it went, on and on and on. It was the funniest and most embarrassing voting day of my life. Have you ever seen a room full of voting booths with eyes peering around the curtains at a wild, blind man with a strange sense of humor? Those were the good old "Wild West" sort of voting days, when men were men, and blind guys made voting a test of nerves...                

Monday, June 2, 2014

"No animal should ever jump up on the dining room furniture unless absolutely certain that he can hold his own in conversation."  ~ Fran Lebowitz

"WAITER!!!  WAITER!!! Where are my in-the-shell, unsalted, roasted peanuts!!!  I've been waiting 10 WHOLE MINUTES!!! WAITER, I WANT THEM NOW!" screeched the nasty, raspy voice. "I said NOW, AND I MEAN NOW!"

"Richard, the scrub jays are out there and that big one wants his peanuts!"

"I just gave them some 15 minutes ago!"

"I guess you didn't give them enough, 'cause they're right outside this window, screaming their heads off. One of them is even standing in front of the screen door yelling!"

You see, I am the chef d'cuisine in those scrub jays' minds, and the best thing a chef d'cuisine can do when an angry diner starts to complain is to send the bistro's owner, that would be Richard, out to appease them... well, at least that's how it goes in our house.

All the scrub jays are sitting up in various branches of the Chinese orchid trees behind our fence, busy opening those peanut shells, so now I can write what I wanted to write in the first place...

Yesterday we were the patrons at our favorite little bistro in Laguna Beach, Watermarc, and nearly no one screeches there. I always have the very same lunch ~ their Salmon Niciose Salad. It's a decomposed salad with salmon so fresh that I swear I've seen it wriggle on the plate! It lies on a lightly sauted arugula salad on a long white plate. The chef arranges perfectly cut boiled egg slices overlapped in a row, and all the slices have the exact same yolk diameter! Amazing... Those eggs point you to the far end of the plate where lies a perfect salad made with the tiniest whole potaotes, red, white, and blue, each no bigger than a jawbreaker, and haricorts vert, with a few mild onion slices all tossed in a perfect house-made-fresh French vinegrette.  Oops, I almost forgot the small, hot-from-the-oven baguette with an olive butter spread that I'd like to eat by the spoonfuls, but, for Richard's sake, I don't.

Watermarc is right there on the Coast Highway and faces the Pacific Ocean. It has a sliding window that's more than 1/2 the size of the whole room, always wide open to that sea view and the salty air. It's lovely and quiet and very small.

Suddenly a lady, her daughter, her mother, and a friend came in and insisted on the table right next to us. As she came between her table and ours to sit on the shared banquette, she knocked into our table, sloshing my water all over... but then, I've done that, too. 

It was when she flopped down a few feet away from me that I saw her surprise package. She had a little dog in her hand, a dog that may have weighed 3 pounds, but 1/2 of that weight was hair! It was the smallest poodle... no, the smallest DOG I've ever seen in my life! He made a chihuahua look big!  She put him on her lap, but he turned to look at me and he smiled! Dogs have always liked me. Then he jumped off her lap and walked across the banquette, sat down along side of me, looked straight into my eyes, and smiled again! I picked him up and put him on my lap, and it was like picking up a dandelion tuft! He was happy. He didn't seem to want my food, he just wanted to rest a while on my lap.

Now, we are Old English Sheepdog folks. Ragland T. Tiger would have weighed out at about 80 pounds, Clancy weighed a perfect 88 pounds, and Oliver Hardy was a chubby 101 pounds. The vet said that he was just a "chub," and like people, some are slim-ish and some aren't. This dog on my lap, though, was just a wisp of the wind in weight!

About 10 minutes later the lady realized that her dog was missing, and I told her what happened, and she took him back. She was going to put him in her purse, but decided that her lap was a more perfect place. Her purse... really?

(Terry, this is a boring story, and no one cares... What's the point???) I thought everyone knew that it was against the health regulations to have dogs in restaurants! BUT, I found that it was soooo much nicer to share the seating with this little, smiling dog than it was listening to that lady screeching at her family during our entire lunch.

Cows, of course, are different animals altogether than dogs, big or little. And they eat in pastures, and sometimes cornfields when they aren't supposed to! I know this because my first time ever on a farm was nearly hazardous to my health... I think...

I was spending a long weekend at the farm of my college roommate in Nebraska City. I'd never been on an actual farm before, and this one was just what I'd hoped it would be like. Coming from big cities in California, Texas, and Connecticut, too, I couldn't believe that people could really own all the land that you could see from the farmhouse to the top of those hills! And this farm was on the smallish side, I was told.

As Sallye walked me around to the barn so I could see the calves that had just been taken from their Moms, we heard her Dad call us to come help. It seemed that the cows had "gotten into the corn field!" That didn't sound like an alarming thing to me. I thought "field corn" WAS cow food! Guess not...

Mr. Benecke yelled for Sallye to come help him get the cows out of the field, and she ran over to help. I sauntered over to lean on the fence and watch this... cooool! The cows started to rush out of the break in the fence towards the narrow dirt path between the fences. Coooool! Oops, I mean! That's where I was standing!

"Terry! Terry! Head 'em off! Head 'em off towards that other path on the left! TERRY! HEAD 'EM OFF!"

Who ME??? Cows are BIG... really, really big... well, bigger than I am... They have big, big brown eyes, and they were all trotting towards me, and they looked sort of dumb (no offense, cows, but it's true) and scared, too! The only time I'd ever seen cows being manuvered was on TV, and there were cowboy movie actors on horses doing it.

I pressed so hard against the fence as they all ran past me that I had to pick out splinters from my back later that night. It was a very quiet night around the dinner table, too. It was the first and only time that Mr. Benecke was angry with me. Do people actually "turn" 15 full-grown trotting cows being chased away from "off-limits corn" by just standing in front of them and waving their arms??? Not me... They looked just about as dumb as I was! Sallye said that they would have turned, but I said that they'd never met me, yet, so...

The next day Sallye said that I should try meeting the calves again, the ones who'd just been taken from their moms. They were about 4 days old, and they were lots smaller than those brazen, corn-stealing cows the day before. Well, calves are soooo cute! 

"Do you want to feed them, Terry?"

"You bet I do!"

"Here's the nipple-bottle bucket, and it's all filled with his mom's milk. Just let him suckle."

Sounded easy, so I did. The bucket was weird, though. There was a big metal hook on the back side of the bucket... hmmmm... I held the bucket to the calf's mouth and he glommed onto the plastic nipple and began to suck. That little baby 4-day-old calf was so strong that he actually pulled the entire bucket out of my hands! It crashed to the hay-strewn floor of the barn, spilling his mother's milk all over everywhere. Then he looked up at me, and HE bawled!

"Terry, next time we come to the barn to feed the babies, we're going to hook the bucket onto the fence with that hook, get me?"

Forget "turning" cattle running amok along a path... I couldn't even feed a 4-day-old calf! The humiliating part of the whole experience was that Mrs. Benecke had to explain to me, a college girl, about why the cows give their milk in the first place! You see, I thought that female cows gave milk PERIOD! They grew up and they just started giving milk for the rest of their lives so little children everywhere could have milk to drink. I thought they lived a sort of nun's existance in a convent-like barn... I thought they were milked twice a day, and that was their job, sort of like teachers going to work everyday. Actually, I realized finally, I had never given much thought to cows at all.

"Terry, sit down! You have a LOT to learn! You see, Mike, the bull over there in that field..."

"C'mon, Mrs. Benecke! I know about males and females and stuff and... WAIT! You mean that they have to be pregn... OH! OH! OH! No one ever told me that before... You mean... And that's why milk cows have to have babies..."

Luckily, I wasn't signed up for classes at the ag campus... I would have flunked out of university the first month!