Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Flying the Jolly Roger

It's hot. The garden is withering despite my best efforts to drown it with hose water. The geraniums, contrary beasts that they are, are thriving. No fruit, no special scent, but their peach colored blossoms give me pleasure.

So why fly the Jolly Roger? We bought the flag on an impromptu trip to Chincoteague Island, home of the wonderful "Misty" books. Sometimes you shouldn't visit places where a book is set. Chincoteague, however, is unassuming, quiet, and just the right place for a children's story. The Jolly Roger brings back happy memories of pastel-painted Victorian houses with rickety shutters and barren lawns, and an un-hurried life.

This heat slows us down. The dog and I pant our way through our early morning walk. I dread braving the hot car after an hour of its broiling in a parking lot at the grocery store. By flying the Jolly Roger, I'm taking life down a notch. Slowing it down. Letting the fan lift the hair from my neck as I drink lemonade. Summer's a scorcher this year.

Monday, June 14, 2010


The rant has been building since Saturday. I braved the heat to mail some books, and for my efforts, encountered the typical line-out-the-door at my local PO. (I apologize to Eudora Welty for thinking of her cleverly funny short story every time I use "PO.") Saturdays are a nightmare, more so than the usual daily line at the counter, because only one person is working.

An elderly gentleman on a cane, obviously in discomfort and finding standing in line painful, was behind me. The man in front of me in the line had lost the one clerk (who disappeared into the nether recesses of the back room, not to reappear for over 15 minutes or more), when I asked the elderly gent if he'd like to step in front of me in the line. He accepted gratefully.

More minutes passed. No solitary clerk. Was she taking a smoke break? Who knew? Finally, the older man handed me a small manila envelope and a couple of bucks, and asked if I'd mail it for him. I agreed, telling him to sit in his car and I'd bring him the change. No, he said, he couldn't stand it any longer, he had to leave. Okay, I understood. We were ALL sick of standing politely in line, although several of us were becoming good friends, chatting about builders and law suits.

When I finally reached the counter and the lone clerk, who was none too happy from the expression on her petulant face, I explained I was mailing the envelope for the elderly man who wasn't able to stand for long. "ell," she snipped, "I can't accept that because you don't know what's in it!" I fingered the envelope and replied, "It's clearly paper." "No," she barked, "I can't accept that. It could be hazardous!" So I opened the envelope (committing some sort of crime, I'm sure, except it wasn't licked shut, just latched with one of those little metal clasps), pulled out a letter, and showed her the dangerous contents of this little manila envelope. Sniffing haughtily, she accepted the man's money and stamped it. Phew, mission accomplished. I escaped the depressing PO about an hour after I crossed its portal, promising myself to never return. At least not on Saturday.

Our branch PO has removed all the stamp machines, the gizmo where you can weigh your package yourself and affix postage, and every other vestige of do-it-yourself postal supplies. We're lucky if two clerks work the four-clerk counters, and if both of them are working the counters at the same time, it's a major miracle. Do you want to know why the PO is losing money by the bushel? Take a look at my branch PO. Staff cuts and do-it-yourself resource eliminations. From now on, I'll order books on the Web and have them shipped directly to my giftees. No going to the bookstore to handpick a selection for birthdays and Christmas. I'll do ANYTHING to avoid the post office.

To think that, once upon a time, I thought the PO was one of the coolest places on earth. I loved mailing boxes and overstuffed letters to friends and children, imagining their surprise when they received them. No more.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

UFOs and Other Weirdness

Before I lay it out here for all the world (well, the few of you who read this blog, thanks girls!), I'm not a UFO enthusiast or nut. I'm a healthy sceptic, with a dose of "prove it and I'll go along for the ride" thrown in there. Just so you know, I'm not a huge fan of little green men.

I've seen a UFO. Long story short, our girls fenced once a week in a local fencing club. Their dad and I agreed it was a good idea for them to learn to stick sharp, lethal objects in anyone attacking them, and they developed into pretty nice epee fencers. Their club met once a week, and since the sessions could run a couple of hours, we often drove home in the dark.

One night, when the air was warm with coming summer, we saw a huge circle of inordinately bright lights hovering low over the road. This is a four-laned, busily traveled highway. I was sure there was a logical explanation, until the hovering object moved up vertically, then turned at a 90 degree angle. The girls and I stared hard, discussed the object, and decided that yes, indeed, we'd been initiated into the UFO club. Very cool. Nothing earth-shattering, but extremely interesting.

I was surprised no one wrote in the newspaper about the flying object. Nor was there even a whisper on TV news until the next evening, when a newscaster reported multitudinous reports of an unidentified flying object. He also reported that no one from the airport acknowledged ownership of this object. Then he smiled, a tight little smile that said he knew more than he was reporting, and skipped on to another story.

The newscaster disappeared from the local broadcast stage not long afterwards. We stopped talking about the UFO.

I wonder if we're limited to one UFO sighting per lifetime?

Red Apples

They're after me. I kid you not. Big red apples are stalking me.

It all began when I walked the dog this morning. In the middle of the road reposed this huge red apple, probably a Delicious, waiting to be smushed by a car. Hmmm, I thought, wondering who tossed this lovely fruit of the poisonous tree in my neighborhood. Dog sniffed. I mused on the theme of the Garden of Eden. Stupid story. Dog and I continued our walk, or shall I shall, pull and jerk. (The squirrels love to tease her and she takes the bait every time.) Everything is normal, until . . .

Another apple. Floating in the middle of the creek that flows not far from our house. The creek is normally a sluggish affair at this time of the year, but we've had some abnormally heavy rain last week, and it's doing its best to pretend it has rapids. The big red apple must have been hung up on some flotsom, because it bobbed in the middle of the creek, mocking me. You can't escape the Garden of Eden, it warned.

Pshaw to that. Baloney and more baloney. God never made temptation and woman is not cursed. Dog and I walked on, both of us with our tongues hanging out at this point. The humidity has already hit 90 per cent. I'm wondering if I'm giving the neighborhood a wet T-shirt show, when yes, there it was.

Another big shiny red apple. Posing at the base of a line of wild cherry trees that rim a yard not far from mine. Nonchalantly reclining against the trunk of one of the trees, the apple is practically sticking its tongue out at me. You will not escape me, it chortles. Original sin is here to stay and you can't avoid it.

To which I reply, phooey and balderdash. Picking up this most mocking of fruit, I heave it into a trash can that's been left curbside. That's exactly how I feel about the notion of original sin. Nothing but trash.

The red apples can't beat me. No matter how hard they try to rattle my cage, I'm not biting.