Sunday, July 27, 2014

Quite a Year for Plums and Other Personal Tidbits

I have reread Quite a Year for Plums by Bailey White. It was actually shorter than I remembered. There's a lot that's different from what I remembered. A rather melancholy scene in the first quarter of the book was fixed in my mind as the ending. In reality, it cheered up and ladies were giggling with each other by the end of the scene. All differences aside, the book fulfilled every need that I brought to it. Southern life, older women fussing over young men, worried about when they'll settle down and with whom; people who are slightly askew in their rockers and one or two who are completely off them; cooking... and Vidalia onions. (My recent obsession with Vidalia onions is related to this entire project, and has led to other misadventures on my part, not the least of which was trying to make a Vidalia onion pie.)

With regards to the people in the story who are a little touched, I thought that it maybe was a little overdone. I mean, not EVERYBODY in the story can be crazy or it doesn't work. Not all of them were actually crazy, but pleasantly eccentric counts, and most of them were at least that. I guess at the heart of it was Roger, who was the most doted on by the older women of the story. He was the one true stable person in the story, with the women worried about him and fussing over him and taking turns having him to dinner or tea. And, of all of those women, Eula seems to be the grounding point – Roger's ex-aunt. (It's a long story, but her neice's decision to leave Roger did not diminish her affection for him.) It was also her sister, Louise, who was at the opposite pole – convinced that if she arranged letters just right the aliens would finally come down.

Amidst all of it, though, are plants. Flowers in gardens, farms of peanuts, onions. These people knew their plants. Roger, especially, but the women were no strangers to seeds and dirt. The outsider, an aviary artist named Della, even demonstrates a bit of knowledge, though her experience doesn't seem to have been first-hand when it comes to propagation or gardening. There are roses of every shade, a remnant of a garden on the property of a house long-since burned down. Proper flower gardens with garden parties and haphazard gardens planted without regard for aesthetics or societal norms.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I recently moved into an old house that sits on two acres. There is plenty of space for flowers if one were interested. There is also years of growth that would need to be cleared – part of it anyway. It's not that the entire property is overrun any more, but there's just a lot to do. My point is, I spent yesterday morning and part of the afternoon working in the yard and I'm not used to this. I was hot, I was exhausted and I was irritable. I didn't get to anything that I actually wanted to do. I "trimmed" a bush, which is to say that I cut off three quarters of a bush that was taller than the house. Now there are leafless limbs sticking up out of the ground that will once again be a bush soon. I all but cut down another tree – the trimmers I was using can only do so much. We'll have to go back with a saw or else it will come back again just like the bush, and we don't want a tree right there. It just blocks the window and it was a volunteer to begin with. I have dreams of planting flowers, but it will take weeks if not months to get to the point where that is even an option.

There was clean-up. We had to put all of the limbs etc. into the truck bed to haul to the back of the property. There was one large pile and a couple of other small piles. When it came time to load the first of the small piles I thought it would be best to get the key to the truck and drive to each pile, rather than schlepping branches across the yard to the truck. After a while, though, I went to the one furthest away and dragged a limb and a handful of twigs/leaves with me to the truck. It was like taking a break. Just walking slowly back and forth, not really exerting myself. Especially the limbs that I could drag. Armfuls of small limbs/twigs/leaves would be more work, but dragging a limb or branch was like resting after all morning of working in the heat.

Then there's the maintenance. I told Nameless to figure out what he wanted me to keep up with, then show me how to do it. I can mow, but he's inordinately fond of mowing a lawn. (He told me on the phone once while he was working that he was going to "take a break" and mow. It was over 100° outside.) I've never been exposed, really, to yard work, so it will take some time for me to get used to it. I figured if I had one task that I could own – a chore, we would have called it when I was a kid – then I could begin to learn and get used to working outside.

What does all of this have to do with a book review? Just that the nostalgic feeling I get when reading about people with gardens and homes and who cook and generally are responsible homeowners has a rude awakening when it comes to actually being one of those people. I'm not opposed; I don't feel that the work is beneath me. It's just that it's not the same in real life as it is in my imagination. When reading, it all seems so much easier. But, the flowers don't plant themselves and weeds grow unless you pull them. Just like if you cook dinner, there's a some cleaning up to be done. There is a lot to be nostalgic about in Quite a Year for Plums. Perhaps a hardened homeowner would read it differently than I did.

e A r n i e




Sunday, July 13, 2014

New Read

I'm sitting in Corporate Bookstore drinking coffee. I don't have my laptop with me; I'm writing on my phone so it will be quick.

Having visited my family recently - and particularly one niece and her children - I felt the need to re-read a book. Having just moved back in with Nameless all of my books are packed. However, I just discovered I don't own the book I want to read anyway. I own Sleeping at the Starlight Motel. What I want to read is Quite a Year for Plums. Both are by the same author, Bailey White. She's from South Georgia and I don't suppose it gets more Southern than that.

I've already started the justifications in my mind. I'll take three books tho the Salvation Army in exchange for this one. And I've started reading it, though I could feel the atmosphere in my head - I've been feeling it for weeks.

So I shall go make my purchase. Maybe I'll do it before Nameless sees me. I don't suppose it could surprise him much at this pointn though.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Glo Pigeons


Glo Coason's pigeons look down on me from atop my bookcase while I fall asleep.
It's like having my friend watch over me.

-- e A r n i e


Sunday, March 16, 2014

Give Me Back my Mind!

I sit here in Corporate Coffee Shop with a friend. My friend and I aren't seeing eye to eye at the moment. We look at each other across the table warily. I don't trust her, and I can't figure out exactly what she's feeling. There is still a mutual need between us that keeps us tied to each other, but our relationship has been a little rocky lately. Nameless tells me that she is trying to come between us. He might be right. (Though I could and have said the same for some of Nameless' friends as well.)

I've named my friend Miss Marple. Literally. I went in and programmed the name. My friend is my Samsung Galaxy III smartphone. I just now picked it up and checked a website. In my car outside of the coffee shop I checked all of my notifications for Facebook before I turned the engine off. Is this healthy? Nameless accuses me of being addicted to it. Is he right?

When I first got the new phone my neck started aching from looking down at it. It was a new toy and I was looking at it constantly. I played the games and got bored with them. I downloaded the Nook app for it, so that I could read anytime, anywhere. I love having a camera and phone in one device. (These cameras are incredible.) It has my calendar; it has my address book, the internet, maps. It is superbly useful.


One of Nameless' friends – the one I took issue with earlier – is the TV. He has it on at all times. It's background noise for him, which I can understand. I generally keep music going for the same reason. However, I find it difficult to be in the presence of a television (one that's turned on) and not stare at it. It sucks my brain out. Even commercials. Especially commercials, I'd say. Those people know what they're doing when they make them. Somebody can be talking to me and I hear nothing of what they're saying because I'm looking at the TV and my mind his held hostage. I don't turn my TV on at home; I don't like the way it makes me feel. It's too much background noise; too much going on. It raises the anxiety level and I can't pay attention, even if it's in the other room. Nameless will have a dinner party and if the TV is on in the next room I find it difficult to pay attention to what people are saying.

I've noticed something about me and my phone. It involves the coffee shop, which is why I came here to write this. I used to sit here and read. I'd get to know some of the people who come in regularly and chat a little. I eventually bought a Nook eReader. That was a step up technologically. (There's not much more room in my apartment for books.) Lately, however, I've noticed that I don't read as much as I used to. Not just in the coffee shop; I just don't read as much. It started when I got my smartphone. The other day I left my phone at home when I went to work. On my way home I stopped at Corporate Coffee Shop because I had my Nook with me. I didn't read, though. I stared at people and not in an interesting way. My hands felt like they wanted to reach for something. I'd read half a page and I'd look up. I couldn't get lost in my book like I used to. What has happened to me? Is my smartphone as big a brain-sucker as the television? Or bigger, even? I mean, it doesn't even have to be making a noise or showing anything and it has half of my attention. The smartphone doesn't have the moving images of the TV shows or the conversations and sound effects of commercials. (It would if I'd let it, but I never do.) But still, it sucks me in. I might go to it to look up a word, and I notice that I have an email and facebook notifications. Before I know it, I've put the phone back down 10 minutes later and I never looked up the word I like I started to. If I pick up the phone again, it will all start all over again. I might never learn what that word means.

There is a difference between my smartphone and a TV, though. The smartphone is useful.  I need a phone. I like having the calendar and camera on my phone. I could downgrade, but the calendar wouldn't sync with my Google calendar; the camera wouldn't be as good. I wouldn't be able to use it as well to listen to music, which I'm doing right now because the noise here is getting a little out of hand.

Maybe I can retrain myself. Maybe with effort I can learn to not look at Facebook so frequently, and other social media outlets. It would take more than that. I would have to learn to not WANT to look at those things. I would have to learn how to HAVE a smartphone and not feel the NEED to LOOK at it. This runs counter to everything that smartphone programmers are working toward. Of course they want us addicted to our devices. of course they want us to always be looking at it. I would have to be fighting against what Very Intelligent People are doing to get my attention. I would do this because it is a very useful divice to have. It is phone, calendar, texting, camera, internet, social media. All of those things are good. All of those things are healthy. They are fine, taken in moderation. But, can I do it? I have counted 6 times that I've picked up the phone since I started writing this. And writing it has been agony. Words are not flowing; Ideas are not taking shape as easily. The smartphone knows what I'm doing and it's fighting me.

I think I can do it, though. I miss the eArnie that read on rainy days. I miss the me that had a book and read it in the coffee shop without half of my brain wondering what other people were doing in Facebook, etc. Rather than give up the things that are good about it; I will try to take back control of my device. I will keep it in the pocket of my messenger bag. It will take a while. In less than a year my brain is acutely atuned to seeing tiny cues as notifications from Facebook, email and other social things. But, there is too much good to be had with this device to give it up for the sake of some of the vendors that I've invited into it. Dark Side vs. Light Side.

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. Written in 1953. How accurate it was.


Saturday, March 8, 2014

Growing old

Today I got lost in the supermarket. I don't know why I go there when I'm feeling dizzy, except that I needed groceries and things, it was morning and it makes perfect sense to get up, drink coffee, have breakfast and then go to the store. I should know that being dizzy makes it more difficult. But, if I go home, then I'll just go back to sleep for hours and that won't do anybody any good.

While I was at the store I saw a man, an older man... a very older man... he was looking at light bulbs. My heart went out to him; I don't understand light bulbs any more, either. I sometimes feel like I'm not a part of my own world any more, then something in my mind taps me on the shoulder and reminds me that I never really was part of it to begin with. It's just that sometimes I do a better job of impersonating a normal person than other times.

On NPR the other day I heard a discussion about light bulbs. Frankly, I'm frightened. I can't keep up. Just when I've resigned myself to using florescent bulbs, I'm now being told that I'm a bad, ignorant person if I do. Granted, I did read that they contained mercury and I hated that the world was turning to them, but I'm not the one making the calls here. I'm just trying to keep up. LED lights seem to be the new way to go. Or was it halogen? Maybe halogen was two generations ago...

Not too long ago I took my father shopping. His vision has failed – irreparably it seems – and he needs a ride to the store, to the doctor, etc. He can see a little, especially if the light is bright. But, it's a challenge for somebody who lived for 75 years with relatively good vision to adjust to this limitation. We went around the store; he knew the layout fairly well and was able to get most of what he wanted with minimal assistance. He didn't ask me to grab anything for him; he just took his time looking at things right up next to his face until he found the ones he wanted. My father lives with my sister; he has a little room with a bathroom, small refrigerator, coffee pot and other things so that he can have his own space. Even in the main kitchen he knows his way around. He can cook if he wants to, or make a sandwich. When he stayed with my brother for a week his handicap was rather accentuated. He doesn't know that kitchen or house; so he's not as self-sufficient.

So, back at the supermarket and me passing by in a dizzy spell, glancing at an older man looking – with his face very close to the products – at light bulbs. Incandescent light bulbs have been around since around 1870. Imagine going through the depression, battling for work, for money, for food. Having been through the war and ration stamps. Having raised a family, made a home, your kids grew up to raise families of their own, giving you grandkids and then the grandkids growing up and beginning lives and families of their own. All through this, the most you've though about light bulbs is either not having light in the depression, or screwing a bulb in. And for over seventy years your most common concern with light bulbs is turning the light switch on. Then, in your retirement age when you're either becoming more dependent on the younger generation, or that dependence looms over you, suddenly you don't know squat about something you've taken for granted all your life – not only something you've taken for granted, but something of fundamental importance that you've taken for granted. And, not only do you not know squat, the rules are changing almost as soon as they are written.

I'll admit that I don't keep up, but the last time I checked incandescent bulbs were still on the shelf at the store. But, what frightens me is ending up like that man I saw, or like my father. I don't have children to come take me to the store. I never got around to children. (I can hear my Catholic friends chiding me about the importance of family, and all I can say to them is that if I HAD had children, they would have hated me and our combined incomes wouldn't be enough to cover the cost of the psychologist bills for them and for me. I don't think I was ever father material. Uncle, maybe. Father, no.) So what's going to happen when I'm old and unable to walk very far or see very far? And then suddenly somebody changes all the rules on me. I will be like my father in my younger brother's house. I won't know my way around and I don't know that I will have it in me to keep up. Hell, I haven't kept up this far. I go to the store and people look at me like I'm demented as it is. What am I going to do when I actually AM demented? If something as simple and fundamental as turning on a light switch isn't safe from the winds of change, how will I fare when I'm too frail to fight?


Sunday, February 23, 2014

Books I've Read


February 23, 2014

I love finding a good book. Not just any old read, but a book that I can spend time with, get to know, take to coffee, snuggle up with on the sofa. A book that captures my mind and leaves me feeling its lack while I'm at work, that distracts me when I'm hanging out with friends. A book for which I will steal away during a dinner party for a few covert pages.

Sometimes I find myself looking at used books. It might be at a used bookstore, or a thrift store that sells books. I might be glancing at titles in a garage sale or coveting novels on somebody's bookshelf. I'm glancing through the shiny dust covers and something catches my eye – something different, something interesting. Something promising. Like the furtive eye contact made from across the room with a stranger. Something in their eyes says that they, too, are looking for something. Maybe you're looking for the same thing - be it romance, lust or just to get the hell out of there with somebody and have an intelligent conversation. Maybe what you're longing for doesn't correspond with their needs; maybe you'll never even know. But the spark happened and it will not be ignored. This first contact stirs something in the belly, and I felt this the other day as I was looking at the hardcovers on top of the bookcase in the mass market paperback mystery section of a used bookstore. Between the garish and tawdry dustcovers a trade paperback in a matt, darker-color was tucked in, with typeface that called attention to itself by being subtle – a lighter color on the darker background – along with filligree in just slightly darker shade than the type. This could be my next romance. Something just felt right in the second that my eye passed over the spine. A couple of seconds later, though, I realized that I already knew this work. We had already spent our time together on the sofa, in the coffee shop and even – dare I write it here – in my bed. I had held it in my hand as I talked with friends, so that I could feel its presence even when I wasn't able to read its pages. Indeed this one was special; the design on the cover did not lie. Our affair was intense and lasted longer than most of my other affairs. But, it had already come to its inevitable end, and oh, but it's sad when a love affair dies – as the song says.

It's too soon yet, Meaning of Night. Maybe someday we will revisit our romance, but for now, love, let us keep fond the memories we have of each other.




e A r n i e