Saturday, June 30, 2012

A Chick Flick with a Kick


A few months ago I watched a movie that a friend leant me called Fried Green Tomatoes. I had never seen it, nor have I read the book, which is a little embarrassing because my mother is a retired librarian and I worked at a bookstore for six years. But, oh well. I watched the movie and was stunned. I was expecting a chick flick, which it is, but with an extra kick. A chick flick with a kick.

So, tossing around for a good book to read to follow up The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society with, I started Ulysses (of all things!) and when I got tired of thinking so much I sat in my coffee shop shopping with my nook for another book. Nook's "Related Titles" feature has let me down on more than one occasion. I like it, but it offers a limited number of options and they're not always on the spot. Like with Guernsey Literary etc., for instance. I mean, the author's niece had to finish it up and she's listed as a coauthor, but the fact that I liked that book does not mean that I'll like the niece's books written for children. Not a good guess.

Then I decided to download the sample of Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fanny Flagg. I've been meaning to read it. I download many samples that remain samples. This book, however, was downloaded in full as soon as I reached the end of the sample. I just like the way she writes. It's a good story – this I already knew. But, aside from that its' just a pleasure to read the prose. The blurbs indicate that it's humorous, and I suppose it is. (I'm still reading it, by the way; I haven't finished it.) So far the humor is the subtle way she writes. I haven't laughed out loud so far, but I have desired to keep reading in spite of being hungry and in spite of the fact that I'm sitting in a coffee shop at 4:52PM and I'm supposed to be in Elgin – 30 miles away – at 6 and I still have to shower and change.

So, I have a challenge/request. If you are a woman who is in her 40's or 50's... oh heck, even in your 30's; if you are a man married to a woman in that category; if you know a woman who is over thirty please go to your nearest book place, virtual or physical, and read this chapter. This is going to be difficult because I'm reading it on a Nook and I don't have any way of knowing the page number in a book. The chapter is called "212 Rhodes Circle" but there are several chapters with that name. On my Nook it is on page 49. The subheading is "January 5, 1986". Read this chapter.

It's interesting that I started reading Ulysses, which is often compared to Mrs. Dalloway (I've seen several comparisons, anyway) and this chapter in Fried Green Tomatoes made me think of Mrs. Dalloway. The chapter is not the intense stream of consciousness that the other two novels are, but there is a striking similarity in the emotions that this chapter evokes and those that I recall from Mrs. Dalloway. I thought of Woolf's novel as soon as I finished the chapter; I just didn't connect the dots to Ulysses until just now.

So, gentle reader, please take a moment and read this chapter from this classic from the American South and see if you don't find just a tiny little inkling of resonance with your own life. And, see if the prose doesn't lift you off of your chair and carry you away for just a moment. Then come back and tell me. I want to know.

Waiting to hear from you,


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Pieces of my art


The other night I was sleeping. I had been reading and then got too sleepy for that, so I rolled over, turned off the lamp and that act woke me up just a little bit, so I settled in under my covers and relished how wonderful it was to be in bed when I'm tired and sleepy and wanting really to continue conscious for a while so that I could appreciate how wonderful it feels, but without realizing it I was drifting off to the pleasant thoughts of security and peace.

Then I was reminded that I own cats. The scream from the other room followed by, and overlapped by, the crash of something breaking on the tile floor jerked me awake and upright in bed at the same time. I've grown accustomed to them screaming at the cats outside the window after I'm in bed, but that is not generally accompanied by the sound of breakage. So, I got up and ran into the other room, because after all I do have neighbors upstairs and if I can hear every step they take I'm certain that they can hear my cats screaming at the tops of their feline voices and destroying everything I own. The thing was, the crashing and breaking kept going. It wasn't just one thing falling to the ground, it was a series of crashes. One of the cats came running past me into my bedroom with a plastic grocery bag following behind her as if it were chasing her the hell out of its territory.

In my room the cat (Raku) was under the bed, of course, so I had to pull it away from the wall to get at her, just to make sure she wasn't being strangled by the handles of the bag. I was only able to hold her long enough to get the bag off of her leg and make sure she was not dying, then she squirmed out of my hands and back under the bed. Then I had to find the other two and make sure they were okay. Carmela, the special cat, was watching with her crossed eyes huge in dismayed interest, standing – not sitting – with her nose in the air, looking around to see what was going on. Anastasia wasn't so easy to find, and honestly I don't remember where I did find her. But, she was fine and so it must have been only Raku who was having issues.

This is where it gets very confusing. I have no idea how all of this happened, even after I figured out what did happen.

My next job was to see what had broken. It was pottery, not glass. Good, less danger of sharp things to cut my feet. Then I just had to pray that it was from an artist who was still alive. (My cats have a fondness for breaking things that I can't replace.) I picked up the shards and collected them in my hand. They started on the other side of the living room and continued all the way to my bedroom, and there had been a couple of pieces in the bag that I freed Raku from. I recognized the art and the glazes, but it was late and I had been woken up and I couldn't figure out who it was. I was convinced that they had gotten into the closet and into a box and broken a Richella, but as I looked at it I realized that it – at least – wasn't one of hers.

Little by little I began to place the glaze with Michael Obranovich, a Dallas artist. It's from his Obsidian collection. I have a set of his plates and two coffee cups (had two coffee cups) and a few casseroles. I LOVE them. I could tell from the pieces of handle and the curve of the others parts that it was one of my coffee cups, though I could not for the life of me figure out how it got to a place that it could be broken. I'm certain that I did not leave it lying around in a plastic grocery bag. If it had been on the kitchen counter, how did the majority of the broken remains end up three feet away in front of the spare bathroom? I can tell why there was a trail of pieces across the room and why I kept hearing crashes. The cup was in the bag and as she ran it kept crashing against the tile floor, startling her even more. The bag was shredded and pieces were falling out as she ran. She must have screamed because the bag was attached to her and she couldn't get it off. But, where was the bag (I don't leave them around because cats can strangle themselves with them) and where was the cup and how did the cup get inside the bag?

Even having slept and looked at the situation from an awake state of mind I cannot figure it out. But, here are the pieces, next to its partner – still intact.

I'll write more later. Until then I remain,

Yours truly,


P.S. If you would like to see Michael Obranovich's work you can visit his website here.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Today I Am Sad

June 24, 2012

Today I am sad.

This is just a statement. It's not a complaint; it's not a cry for help. I am not fishing for attention – no more than usual, anyway. It really doesn't have much to do with circumstances, either. I mean, I can't say that if I had more money then I wouldn't be sad. If I fixed problem x then things would by fine. Things are fine and I am sad.

This is how it goes:

I got up yesterday and took my medicines. I drank coffee and then had a bit of breakfast. Then I putzed around the apartment a little bit, read on the patio while the cats played outside. Then I laid down for a "nap". Four hours later I woke up, and it felt like most of my Saturday was gone. So, this morning I woke up, took my medicines and went to a corporate coffee shop for morning coffee instead. That's when I noticed that I was sad.

As I've mentioned before, the meds I take have a certain side effect that kicks in when I eat or drink something other than water. (I have to take them on an empty stomach.) I made myself be out of the apartment when it hit, and that kept me from taking a nap for the rest of the day. But, it still felt strange. I don't quite know how to explain it. I saw a person drinking his coffee and I felt like I could feel how sad he was and that his whole life was futile. I felt very sorry for him. Then I felt very sorry for me because I live alone and don't have anybody to come home to in the evenings and don't have any prospects for finding somebody to come home to in the evenings. I tried to read a book called Room, which my little brother recommended as a feel-good book. Perhaps it is, but any book that actually has a plot inherently has a problem to work through, and the problem in this book made me feel very sad; it underscored how sad I felt, anyway. So, I put it down. I thought about rereading some of the letters from The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, but I could tell that wouldn't be a good idea.

So, I just decided to be sad.

I got restless so I picked up my things and left the coffee shop (where I'm currently writing, by the way) and started driving. I felt hungry, so I decided to eat something, because if I don't eat something then I become Very Angry Indeed, and that takes hours to get over sometimes, so it's best just to eat something. I had a couple of tacos at a place that's supposed to have very good barbecue and breakfast tacos, but I always think that their food is just so-so, but they were there and they have fountain drinks and it was sustenance.

I went by the Goodwill that I like, but they're remodeling. So, I went over to the one on Lamar and Koenig, next to a Half Price Books store. It turns out they don't open until 11 AM, so I went into HPB and spent some time. I picked up a copy of Guernsey Literary etc. and read some of the letters. They made me feel good, but they also made me cry. It's beautiful how the characters get to know each other, and that made me cry, and it also made me cry that I don't have anybody to write a letter to. I felt very lonely. So, I put the book down and looked around at the people milling about. Some people had healthy legs, some people had skinny legs and one person had legs that made me think he constantly struggled with his weight and always would. One scruffy-looking guy was looking around and I fell in love with him. For no particular reason. I just needed to fall in love with somebody and he looks like somebody who's been to the school of hard knocks and knows how to work. He actually looked a little out of place, but one doesn't judge in a bookstore. Another guy was there who looked like the stereotype of a guy you'd expect to see in a used bookstore. Goofy clothes and haircut, thick-rimmed round glasses, walking around with his nose slightly in the air like all of this was actually beneath him but he had to be here so he may as well look and see what the cretins had on their shelves.

When it seemed that Goodwill would be open I went over there. I wasn't looking for anything in particular. I had my eyes open for interesting jars for a project that my friend Tami has on her blog, but I'm always interested to see what treasures people give to Goodwill. In the past I have found hand-made pottery by artists that Nameless recognized and there are frequently good books. I didn't find any good jars, but I did see at least three of the people from HPB. The guy with the round glasses was there with a child. Another rather young guy was there and seemed to be flirting with me. Or, should I say fishing? He looked like he was interested in something, but probably not in getting to know each other, eventually buying a house and making a life together. The impression I got was that he was interested in a more ephemeral pleasure. (I've noticed that since I turned 40 guys in their early 20's are suddenly much more interested in talking to me than guys in their early 20's were when I was in my early 20's.)  Also, the guy I fell in love with was there; he was working – volunteering I think. Probably working off community service. If I had to guess I'd say it was a drug-related offense. (I set my standards high.)

After perusing the glass section 5 times and deciding that I wasn't going to find any interesting jars or Waterford crystal I got back in my car. I was heading home but it felt good to drive. Jack Johnson was playing on the radio and music is very soothing. I drove down Burnet to a junk store that I know about. The windows have the words "Antiques" and "Collectibles" in them. Mostly it's junk. Shelves and shelves of dusty junk higher than my head and a labyrinthine layout that has about 2 feet between the shelves in some places. It's fabulous. I stayed there for about 30 minutes. I didn't find any jars to buy, but I had a very pleasant time.

Driving home I left the windows of the car down and drove slowly. I have 3 weeks worth of laundry to fold (literally) and I have pictures to hang and carpet to vacuum. It's a beautiful day, even if it's a little hot. When I got home I let my cats run around outside a little and I talked with a friend on the phone while I watered the plants on my patio. I got some of the clothes folded and answered a few emails. I was less sad than I was when I was first drinking my coffee this morning and felt like everything in my life was futile and I would never be happy.

Now I'm sitting here back at the coffee shop writing about what it feels like when the medicines that save your life affect your mind. It's a dilemma. Clearly I'm going to continue taking the medicine that keeps me from dying, but I have to learn to live with these side effects. Any choice of medicines will have side effects and frankly, these are preferable to perpetual nausea and diarrhea. But, sometimes they make me sad.

I'll write more later.


Sunday, June 17, 2012

Review of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie SocietyThe Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book made me happy.

I was sitting around a coffee shop wishing I had a Very Good Book to read yesterday (or was it the day before, after work?) when I stumbled across this book on my Nook – not for the first time. It sounded trite and unbearable from the title, but based on the reviews I decided to read the sample. Then I had to buy the book.

Whichever day it was that I bought the book, today is Sunday and I haven't done very much this weekend. The book is not long, but I read slowly and I did have other commitments, like eating and sleeping. However, I did very little without longing to be reading this book. The further into it I got the more I wanted to do nothing but sit and read. (Granted, sitting and reading is a favorite pastime for me anyway.) So, I woke up this morning and put off all obligations and read. Then I got hungry so I went to the same coffee shop and bought a breakfast sandwich and a cup of coffee and read more. I had to back up a little and re-read some parts for a few reasons: 1. I didn't want to be distracted from my reading while eating, 2. I had read at night while I was incredibly sleepy and I might have not been paying as much attention as I could have and (most importantly) 3. I was getting dangerously close to the end.

This is possibly the worst review ever written, because so far it has been about me and not about the book. But, grant me that it has been about my reaction to the book.

Now, about the book. It is lighthearted. It is simple. It's a chick-flick in book form. It is very possibly predictable. If you know this going into it then it won't surprise you. I'm not generally a fan of chick-flick books but this one was different.

First of all it had many stark details of life in Great Britain just after the war. I cannot answer for how accurate those details are, but they felt real. Second, the characters are delightful, even the jerks. They're not two-dimensional; they are real people. The tight-lipped Adelaide Addison, who tries to put Juliet off of the Literary Society, is believable. She's not just an allegorical representation of prudishness. I could feel that there was something behind the severity – lack of opportunity to marry; a strict upbringing maybe. I wasn't without sympathy for her. And, the witty language in the letters (it is an epistolary novel) grabbed me from the beginning. My favorite character is the eccentric Isola Pribby who is spoken of as a witch (she does make potions), as somebody to be tolerated and one gets the feeling that people don't taker her entirely seriously. Her own letters demonstrate that while she might be an eccentric woman and oblivious to the way others feel about her, she is not without feelings and insecurities.

Quotes I enjoyed.

Perhaps there is some secret sort of homing instinct in books that brings them to their perfect readers. How delightful if that were true. (This is used to promote the book. One reviewer used it to demonstrate how poorly the book was written, but in context it comes from a letter written by a woman to a man so you have to take it for what it is. It's a pleasant turn of phrase.)

I laugh. (Written by the severe Adelaide Addison about the Literary Society. It's simple, but it expresses so much – absolute disdain wrapped up in a two-word sentence.)

I admit that Isola needs little encouragement to bang her hammer. (This is the first description of my favorite character – the beginning of her portrait.)

I deny everything! (I just want the opportunity to use this.)

Dr. Stubbins pronounced that you alone had transformed "Distraction" into an honorable word — instead of a character flaw. (I like that flaws can be honorable when given the opportunity to express themselves constructively.)

This book will not shake the world. If you want it to you will be disappointed. However, if you want something to hold your attention, make you think about what horrors people are capable of bringing upon each other, entertain you and make you cry (I admit that I was wiping tears from my eyes in the coffee shop this morning) then I do highly recommend you read this book. It was almost unfortunate that I had to go to a party this afternoon. I wanted to sit around and savor this book, to brood by myself about it. And I feel strangely compelled to write the author a letter.

Thank you for taking the time to read my rambling review. I hope you found it helpful.

e A r n i e

View all my reviews

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Hail Mary, full of grace

June 16, 2012

I have mentioned before that I am part of a choir at St. Thomas More Catholic Church here in Austin. Our choir director has decided that we take a summer vacation so we haven't had rehearsal on Tuesday evenings for 3 weeks. I feel like telling him how much he's wrecked my life by doing this, but I can't figure out how to do that without it seeming to be as pathetic as it actually is. I counted on those Tuesday evening rehearsals; they kept me going from week to week. I've decided that my life definitely needs structure or I lie morosely around my apartment or go out and spend unChristian kinds of money on food and drink – mostly drink.

It's just ironic that we were preparing for Easter at the same time that my CRHP team prepared for our retreat weekend, that I was working so hard for both of them and now they're both over at the same time. It would have been nice if they had been spread out a little.

Last Sunday evening Ren, the Muppet-like choir director, emailed us that one of our members passed away. It was such a shock; I kept rereading the email because I was certain that he meant that her mother had passed away and that I was simply misreading it. But, no matter how I read it, it always came out the same and I had to accept that one of my choir sisters was no longer with us. She was also a member of the funeral choir with STM and now they are going to be singing for her.

Ren wrote the email very late on Sunday and I read it Monday morning at work. I was a little numb for most of the day. I went by the church to talk to Ren and offer a hug, but he was off helping give mass somewhere. I felt lost, like I needed interaction. I told a couple of people and they were sympathetic, but somehow I needed something else.

So, I texted my CRHP brother, Bill, who is the facilitator for the new CRHP team going through formation. When I went through formation there were men who got together to pray the Rosary before our meetings and we began to make that an optional part of our meetings – come 30 minutes early and pray together. I had no idea that men liked praying the Rosary. I mean men in general. I would never have thought that it was something men did; I've always associated it with women.

I asked Bill if they still prayed the Rosary before their meeting and if I could join them. His answer was a simple "Yes and yes". He didn't ask why or question it at all; he just welcomed me to join them. Before we begin the leader always asks if there are any special intentions and I said 'for the repose of the soul of Regina'. A few people heard me and we discussed a little who she was, though none of them seemed to know her. But, we prayed. Over and over we prayed Our Father and Hail Mary and over and over men’s voices rose up in prayer asking Mother Mary to pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.

When we were finished Bill walked with me to the door. He asked what I was going to do for the evening. Of course I didn't know. Make dinner, go to bed. But, I told him why I had come and he listened and I thanked him for letting me join them. There is something comforting about being with others that you know and praying the Rosary together. That was what I needed, and this is why I'm Catholic.

Rest in peace, Regina.

e A r n i e

Monday, June 11, 2012

Ask the Editor

June 11, 2012

So, I was writing a letter, listening to music and periodically cleaning/vacuuming The Room. (It's really coming along, by the way.) Anyway, I looked up a word on Merriam Webster's site and there was a video of one of my favorite words.

This brings up many questions. Does having a set of favorite words make me a nerd? (Not the contemporary-chic/computer-programmer/rich kind of nerd. Just the good old-fashioned socially inept bozewad.) How about if I stopped what I was doing, paused the music and watched the video? Did anybody else even know that Merriam Webster has videos about words? It's called Ask the Editor. My favorite contributor is Kory Stamper, but I like all of them. (The other two are Peter Sokolowski and Emily Brewster.) (Does having a favorite Merriam Webster Ask the Editor host speak poorly of my social skills?)

Anyway, here's the video that stopped my activities and rocked my evening.

Have a good night.

e A r n i e

Saturday, June 9, 2012

A Succulent with Questionable Moral Character


When I first moved into this apartment a year and a half ago a friend gave me a random plant that she had, mostly because her porch was overflowing. I put it on my porch and didn't pay attention to it and it's been sitting there, not really growing but not dying and we haven't really thought very much of each other, this succulent plant and I. Well, spring has come for the 2nd time since I've been living here and now I believe that my succulent is behaving inappropriately. I do believe it has grown a phallus. Please see the set of pictures below.

On a happier and less disturbing note, the begonia that my precious mother gave me last year is blooming. Actually, it has been blooming and I think this is the tail end of it; but here are some pictures. I didn't get many pictures of the foliage, but it is very full and clearly this plant is happy on my porch in this very spot. (Clearly the succulent is happy where it is as well, but I refuse to talk about that.)

If you visit please ignore the miscreant back by the wall. You really don't want to encourage that sort of behavior.

Thank you.

e A r n i e

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Irrational Fear of Checking the Mail

Nameless told me that he had sent me something in the mail. I guess this means that I should probably check the mail today, so that tomorrow the mailman will have room to deliver it. I do believe it's been 3 weeks since I checked it last. And, if it weren't for this expected letter I would talk myself out of it for a while longer. Does anybody else have an irrational fear of mail? Is there a name for this? Is it an official phobia?

Yours very truly,

e A r n i e

Monday, June 4, 2012


So, I was staying the night on Friday night at Nameless' house, watching the menagerie. Nameless was in Dallas, and since I pay child support for most of these animals it only makes sense that I'd be the one to watch them.

Saturday morning I woke up and took my medicines. I vaguely noticed that the pills were still in the daily pill dispenser for Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and I thought that that would make it much easier to fill it up for the next week.

As the morning went on I began to be very angry at being there. I decided that it was probably just too soon after moving out for me to be spending time there. I was angry at everything he ever said or did to piss me off. I decided that I needed to head home, so I spent some times petting the cats and the dog, fed the whole crew and the feral colony on the front porch and headed out. Nameless had asked me if I'd give the dog a bath, but I decided that I could do it another time. I needed a cup of coffee and the Philistine doesn't even have a coffee maker in the house, much less cream.

As I was driving out of town I thought about filling up the car, but I was in too foul a mood to stop. Even at my favorite gas station on the corner of Main Street that sells the perfect Dr. Pepper. When I began to cry I had to really ask myself what the f***ing hell was wrong with me. How could I be so angry and so hurt about something that happened over a year ago and how could it still affect me so much? Then I started going over the morning's activities in my mind and I focused in on the pill dispenser. Like water running down the side of an overflowing glass it occurred to me that if the pills were still in the slots for Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, then I didn't take them on those days. This dripped into my consciousness slowly.

I've mentioned before which medicines I take; I won't go too deeply into it here. But, I did mention the anti-bitch medication that I take, and one thing about this kind of medication is that there is a certain level of dependence that develops. What I mean is that when a person stops taking them there is a withdrawal, beyond the recurrence of the bitchiness the diagnosis of which was the cause of the prescription in the first place. In other words, I was turning back into a bitch, but this time an irrational bitch going through withdrawal. (This doesn't even address the possible adverse effects of not taking the other medication, which is mostly the source of the bitch symptoms.)

I kept myself busy yesterday; I nursed a coffee at Starbucks. I went grocery shopping. I made a marinara sauce and invited a friend over who is going through a particularly difficult time (a legitimate one). I invited Nameless and was surprised when he decided to come. I mean, driving 3 hours back from Dallas, then to drive another 30 miles for dinner is more than I expected. Not that I wasn't glad to see him. We actually had a lovely time and laughed and I felt better and hopefully my friend felt better.

Then today I slept until 1pm. 12:30, really, but I didn't get up and about until 1. I actually got up before 7am and took my pills, fed the cats their moist treats and then went back to bed. What's strange is that I picked up with the dream I was having right where it left off. It was a kind of mystery novel and it was probably brought on by the book of Victorian ghost stories I'm reading, but it was actually kind of fascinating.

I didn't get better until this evening when I met with some other friends and had a couple of beers. If I had known that drinking would actually make me feel better I would have done so much earlier in the day. (I had a couple of glasses of wine last night.) But, most of today was a fog, and I feel like I didn't get the day off and now I have to go back to work tomorrow and it's not fair, really.

But, it will teach me a lesson about cleaning, because when I cleaned my bathroom last I put the pill dispenser in a drawer, which is why I forgot to take them. Out of sight out of mind. I feel like perhaps I shouldn't clean any more again. Ever.

We'll see.

e A r n i e