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Archive for November, 2011

Model Trains, Drugs and Thanks for Michael Carnell

In the ever-transmogrifying world of social media, it takes a village to spread the word about anything. My blog lives because of its readers, and I appreciate every one of you. But, for the remainder of this week, I am going to thank some special people: my advocates. These people go beyond reading my blog and telling me how much they enjoy it. They share it with their friends and spread the word about it whenever and wherever they can. That I never asked any of them to be my advocate is even more humbling.

Michael Carnell asked me to bring him several things from my recent trip to England: magazines on model trains and model cars, another magazine on the MG and loads of Panadol, a pain killer that is only available by expensive prescription in America because it contains codeine. I sussed out the drugs without incident, but the journals proved to be another matter. Carnell, I am sorry to report that I never found the one on the MG.

Once ensconced on the train, I pulled out the magazines and thumbed through them. I almost had to pop several of the Panadol because 1. I did not understand what in the world could be satisfying about building silos for model train tracks out of plastic cylinders and miniature copper tube; and 2. it is clear that I have spent my entire life investing in the wrong things. How, HOW can a stupid model car from the 1960’s sell for thousands and thousands of pounds???

Still, caring about our friends means trying to understand what they like. Carnell took an interest in my writing a long time ago. It amazes me to go back to the early days of this blog and find his faithful, and often hilarious, commentary. He listens to me complain and kvetch and have attacks of insecurity about this whole writing thing more than just about anyone save MTM. Sometimes, he even says the hard things no one else will say.

Several months ago, he became a full-fledged advocate for my writing when he took it upon himself to get my Facebook Author page over 1,000 likes. It’s a process that is maddening and stacked to be hard. When he was done, my page had almost 200 new likers, the biggest jump from a single effort.

Writing is hard. It’s lonely. When trying to make the transition to being published or getting paid, it is vicious, demoralizing and demeaning. Over the past few months, I have fallen into the trap of wringing my hands and despairing over what I don’t have instead of counting my blessings.

Carnell is a selfless advocate. A few magazines I don’t really understand and some drugs aren’t enough to thank him for all the support to keep me writing. I hope this Fascinating Aida video I discovered while in the UK will add a bit of raunchy color and bawdiness to make you stop squirming while I say thank you, Carnell.

The Ghosts of Travels Past

Every place has landmarks. When I leave home, I don’t feel like I’ve returned until I round a bend on the interstate and see the river from the window of the car. Visiting my parents becomes real with my first glimpse of the house of my youth.

Cities have landmarks, too. I haven’t been to New York until I see the Chrysler Building. The Washington Monument means DC. John Hancock on the skyline says Chicago. They’re always random things, not necessarily the first marker that comes to mind for the masses. I’m ornery enough to trudge out of my way and rearrange a whole visit to see a touchstone. Every time. Otherwise, I haven’t really been there.

The first time we visited London, we checked in at our hotel and started walking off the need to sleep. It was March: grey, murky, rather unwelcoming. A dome peeked over the blocks in the foreground, and I said, “Let’s go see.”

We explored every available cranny of St. Paul’s Cathedral that day, from the echoing main gallery with its people frozen in stone to the observation deck around the dome to the creepy crypt in the basement. I fell in love with the space, and I arrange any visit to pay homage, in spite of knowing it by heart.

Last night, we met Kate and Phil Shrewsday at the place she selected, and, there on the skyline, my landmark glowed like the moon. She didn’t know how much I adore St. Paul’s.

Perhaps she read between the lines.

Thanks to Kate and Phil for meeting us on our whirlwind trip. You will always be part of St. Paul’s for me in the misty visits of my future, just as you have merged with the ghosts of travels past.

Do you have a favorite landmark in a certain place?

Inbreeding Run Amok

Last June, I spent two weeks in England on a Rotary Friendship Exchange. For today’s repost, to honor my latest visit to England, I offer one of the first blog episodes anyone actually read.

Can I Gnaw on That?

Okay. So. On this trip to England, I realized that Charleston blue bloods have nothing on the English aristocracy. While at my current hosts, I was treated to shaking a hand that’s touched the Queen (not carnally – that I know of – lest readers’ minds veer in that unfortunate direction.)

Prior to his arrival, my hosts were all a-twitter, explaining that he’d lived in the local pile for years before abandoning it in favor of his son. They went further to say that it was one of the best examples they could cite of inbreeding run amok. Back peddling ensued, such that I was imaging a cross between Jesus Christ and the Beast with Seven Heads and Ten Horns, if such a conjuring is even possible.

Aristocrat arrived, with American wife and dog in tow. He was tall, thin and about 75 years old, with old fashioned coke bottle glasses, greased unnaturally colored hair and a complexion that advertised inside-ness. Of course, russet corduroys, striped shetland wool jumper and tweed abounded. He shambled up and sat down across from a totally unprepared and unwitting me, who was innocently cutting up peppers for salad.

With every utterance, he mumbled intelligible things, occasionally managing to make clear a “sheep’s intestines are fine eating” or “pigs really do squeal the most when they die.” I blandly cut up my peppers and tried to keep my expressions neutral.

Until he asked me “Can I gnaw on that?” Truly, I didn’t know whether he wanted to chomp on my leg after all the talk of butchering and killing animals, or whether he was referring to something else innocently sitting around my area. Who asks someone if they can gnaw on anything? Gnaw? On? That?

He rooted through the pile of vegetable refuse I’d created and tucked into a stray sliver of pepper with copious seeds attached. He continued to mumble about dead and dying animals as he spat seeds and saliva in my general direction, cleaning up every single shard of garbage in the process.

A hand that shakes the Queen’s also gnaws on garbage. Hmmmmmm.

The Chicken or the Egg?

Slow internet connections, unfortunately, call for reposts. Elizabeth Yon inspired this one with her comment on my post yesterday. Enjoy.

I Did The Funky Chicken

Surely you recall that dreadful dance, Dear Reader? The funky chicken dance had to be devised by someone who was blotto, flapping arms and waddling legs an evidence of too much Everclear. Or Jack Daniels. All I’m saying is that grain alcohol had to be involved.

It is a dance that is beneath me. I have always been too hoity-toity to do it.

Until yesterday. I was slaving away at my desk and happened to look out my window. Behold! My urban back yard contained……live poultry. Squawking poulet. A FREAKING CHICKEN.

I’ve already squealed on my neighbors to all of cyberspace about their possibly illegal city-slicker hens. As long as they give me fresh eggs to keep me quiet, I don’t care WHAT they’re doing in their back yard.

But, that was before I discovered that chicken can fly. Or, they like to climb things, like my fence. I didn’t realize they became curious about their surrounding area and would decide to go exploring.

Once I saw the stupid bird, I couldn’t forget it. I tried to shoo it back to its own domain, flapping my arms and waddling my legs in tune with its ever-thrusting head. It looked at me like I had lost my marbles and tried to peck my foot, sending me screaming around the yard in a high lather of panic. “Who’s the chicken now?” it seemed to taunt me when I ran into the house and slammed and locked the door.

It was still OUT THERE, though, in the yard. Milling around and pecking things and generally harassing me. I had to GET RID OF IT. So, I did the only thing I could think of: I asked my friends on Facebook and Twitter how to catch a chicken. It was less mortifying than calling 911. Scads of ‘helpful’ commentary poured forth from my friends.

Bethany Vozel: Link sneaks up behind them and picks them up and throws them. (Great. Link wasn’t here.)
Brian PJ Cronin: Throw a towel over them. It confuses them for long enough that you can scoop them up. (But, what if it poops on the towel? Or on ME?)
Brett Myers: lol….. (Well, I’m glad SOMEBODY was laughing at my predicament.)
Karen Snyder: Ya’ gotta be quick. (I cannot be quick in a pink silk frock. Ain’t happening.)
Lou Mello: First, you have to cross the road. (Ah, Lou. You know me so well. You knew the only thing I would be capable of was RUNNING AWAY.)
Ginger Crawford Phillips: Where is that, in your backyard? Put out some scratch, or old veggies, oatmeal, something. Drop it out about 10 feet from you, then, a few feet closer to you, until it is right under your feet, then slowly pick her up. (The chicken already tried to EAT MY FOOT. I am not putting food next to any part of myself, thank you very much.)
Jackie Ng: Cuddle it. (Ew. EW. EWWWWWWWWWWW.)

Pretty much all of these comments have a common theme: the assumption that I will touch an actual live chicken. The very thought of having to touch the mangy thing caused me to have nightmares. I was fully awake, so I guess that means I hallucinated the Behemoth Bird Being. My ridiculous phobias left me with no choice. I had to call out the big guns.

Thank God, I slathered paint on my face yesterday.

I went outside and did my best impression of Southern Damsel in Heaps of Distress. My production caught the attention of one of the workers next door. He dropped everything he was doing and rushed over to rescue me from the Hideous Chicken Monster.

I don’t care that he called me a chicken over his shoulder as he walked away.

On the Art of Killing Your Own Turkey

MTM and I have a tradition. We do not spend family holidays with extended family. Thanksgiving always finds us in a random spot, scrounging for a repast that mimics the place. For Thanksgiving week, I will write a series of posts set in places we’ve visited to flee the obligatory family meal. Some fiction. Some true. A whole lotta gluttonous food. If this is your first visit to this series, please click here to taste the flavors from the beginning.

Of the many quirks and issues and oddities I have, few rank higher in MTM’s mind than this one: I absolutely cannot eat something if I’ve seen it alive. Normally, I don’t eat turkey on Thanksgiving, but you’d never find me wanting to pick out my own bird at the farm. Uh-uh. Yuck.

This is all the more preposterous because I love meat. I’m one of the biggest carnivores I know. MTM, on the other hand, is vegetarian. He eats fish, though, and bacon, a choice that he believes doesn’t disqualify him all together. In fact, he loves to go fishing and eat his haul, lovingly preparing it whole and baking in to perfection. That eyeball staring up from the plate? Deal breaker for me. I can barely eat my food when I see that glaring at me from his plate across the table.

Once, when we went to have lobster, MTM picked out two of them to gobble down in one sitting while I struggled to find one that I could eat. Every crustacean the very patient dude pulled out of the tank for me to evaluate seemed to stare at me pitifully, pleading with front claws extended, “Don’t eat me.” After rejecting about a half dozen of them, I went to a different line and ordered a lobster roll. Never mind that it was made of the same thing; I never saw that exact lobster staring back at me.

Choosing where and what kind of cuisine we’re going to have for Turkey Day is always an interesting exercise, as we don’t spend family holidays with family, other than each other. MTM has selected a doozy for me this year, a place called B.A.R.

I guess I will be eating salad for Thanksgiving this year.

Happy After-Thanksgiving weekend to all!!

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