Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The New Car

We just picked up our new car and left our fourteen year old car at the car dealership. I know that it will probably be auctioned off or dismantled and pieces sold off. It was a simple car that didn't have any connections for electronic gear. You couldn't plug in an IPod, or have a Bluetooth connection for your phone.

The manual weighs a lot because it takes pages and pages to tell you how to use all the items on your dashboard. Our mirror tells us the direction we're heading. I have enough trouble finding my way somewhere without wondering whether I should be traveling SW or NE. This evening I discovered that a trip to the local Thai restaurant is SE.

When you go into reverse a camera on the rear of the car gives you a rear view of what's behind. But the manual cautions drivers to be aware least three or four possible scenarios. If you go through a car wash and the camera is doused with too much water it may become water logged and then it may malfunction or even overheat and cause a fire. If the snow clogs your camera use care or additional dire things will happen.

Now when it snows or when your car is encased with ice the manual suggests gently place a warm poultice on the camera to gently melt the ice.

Simply moving the seat means recalling whether pushing forward makes the seat go forward, backwards, up or down. Then telescope the steering wheel and don't forget to adjust for your back with yet another button.

What happened to roll up windows?

But the car does ride smoothly. I guess the best thing to do is put the manual in the glove compartment and hope that all those little chips stay healthy.

As for the rear view camera--I'm thinking of a knitted bonnet.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012


I've watched clips of the destruction Sandy unleashed and I'm stunned by the severity of the storm. I don't know if the warming of the planet plays a role, but it is a topic for serious consideration. Why do we politicize the question?

Monday, October 29, 2012

Just a Matter of Time

Our lights have flickered and gone off three times and then come back on.The trees are swaying more and the wind is audible.

We went out early this morning for a Starbucks and a Subway Veggie Delight for lunch. We left the sandwich in the fridge hoping that the electricity would stay on until lunch.

It's gray outside and feels as if something will happen soon.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Tagine for Two Days

After listening to the news and watching clips of people shuttering their windows, stacking sandbags, evacuating low lying areas, and hearing of crews coming from as far away as Texas to help with power outages, we opted to return to the grocery store.

Three cans of tuna, a bag of ginger snaps, three boxes of cereal, vegetables for a seven-vegetable tagine, dried apricots and walnuts—

Then add the tagine to Israeli couscous and we're set for two days.

This afternoon we went to the library to take out additional books. Suppose I don't want to read one of the books I've already taken out?

We've plugged in all the pluggable electronics— put batteries in the radio, put batteries in the clip-on light for reading.

School's been cancelled for tomorrow. I wonder if the local coffee shop will be open tomorrow morning?

Perhaps the storm will veer out to sea?

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Comfort Food

This is the quiet before the storm. It is the time when the weather people start revving everyone up. In no time at all the shelves will be clean of batteries, flashlights, water and bread. Sometimes it seems as if the hype is larger than the storm—but this time it appears as if all the experts agree—"big storm."

Our governor has declared a state of emergency. Anyone living close to the coast has cause to be concerned because of the high surf and beach erosion.

We're concerned about four trees which look as if a high wind could topple them—or at least break off limbs.

Today we bought water, bread, batteries and chicken.

Why chicken? It's soul food, comforting food. And my grandmother always cooked chicken whenever someone was ill or when you needed some extra loving or when you celebrated. Chicken, dressed up or dressed down, did it all.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Advice to Myself

I think I've finally come up with a protagonist for my November Novel—or at least a character of interest. Now all I need to do is outline some scenes before the first of the month. After that it's sit down and begin typing.

• Stop for a moment to prevent rigid fingers

• Don't hunker over your keyboard

• Take some food breaks and short walks around the room


• Keep at it until the day's worth of words sits safely in your computer

• Save to a variety of places because I can't imagine losing any words.

• Accept the fact that as you go along you may lose the thread of where you're headed


Thursday, October 25, 2012

Alphabet Soup



Writing is just about putting all the letters in some sort of order —word after word, sentence after sentence, page after page until you arrive at the last word.

So why is it so difficult?

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Who Are Our Bedfellows?

"COLUMBUS, Ohio — The warden of the prison where Ohio puts inmates to death says the state’s execution table can easily hold a condemned inmate who has argued he is so big it might collapse." Boston Globe

Perhaps  the condemned man has pulled out his last possible straw hoping for a stay of execution. If his over four hundred pound weight makes it dangerous for the state to attempt the process does it mean that he will be forced to diet? 

Imagine dieting until you're of a proper weight for death?

All this seems rather macabre. Perhaps we should reconsider the entire process.  How many other democratic countries still have the death penalty? And of those that still have it on the books when was the last execution?

We stand alone when we compare ourselves to other democratic countries. Even those that haven't removed the law haven't put anyone to death in years and years.

In 2011 over seventy people were sentenced to death in the United States.

Perhaps we need to spread all the statistics out on giant spreadsheets and really take a look at our bedfellows. 

As for the obese prisoner—they can always build a support for the table and cut back on carbs.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Seeing What's There

I often see something that makes me want to stare—not to be impolite, but because I am fascinated. I do make a distinction between people and events that are off limits.

Once I stood, along with a number of other people, and stared at a man who carried a porcelain toilet bowl into the middle of a street and proceeded to flip pennies into the open lid.

I couldn't help eyeing a woman who parked her bicycle, took a bottle of soap bubbles out of her basket, sat on the wooden bench in front of a small town city hall, and blew soap bubbles.

I can't help eyeing people with placards— and then reading all the small and large print, but turning down the accompanying literature.

You never know when one of the things you see—people or objects or occurrences triggers an idea for a story.

When I watched a woman take out a bundle of letters and place each one lovingly into the mail slot at our postoffice she became a character in a story about a woman who collected pen pals. My character wrote long letters and kept a small notebook of when she sent the letter and the response.

When she discovered that one of her pen pals enjoyed a particular author she read that author's books. And on and on—

And the story started because I watched this woman lovingly place letter by letter into a mail slot.

Monday, October 22, 2012

You Can't Hold Back...

Sunday, October 21, 2012

An ABC Sleuth

Too bad I didn't think of it before someone else went ahead and wrote the book. Of course I did allow myself to wonder about creating a mystery series with a teacher as the prime sleuth. But I couldn't envision too many murders happening in the close vicinity of a school or in the school. Then again we have murders solved by the owners of tea shops, coffee cafes, and bookstores.

Certainly the reader suspends disbelief when reading about the twelfth murder solved by the proprietor of an inn or when a ranger who always happens to be in a park where some heinous deed occurs. So why not a teacher.

Every time I tried to come up with crimes in school I retreated into my own unsolved mysteries. One year I purchased a five pound bag of hard candies and stored them in my bottom desk drawer. Yes, that represented a lure for some with sugar cravings.

I began to notice that the bags bulk kept decreasing, but it happened slowly. Then one day only the bag remained. Every strawberry, grape, orange, and lemon flavored candy disappeared while several green hard candies remained in the drawer. The culprit when emptying the bag possibly discarded those pieces as unsuitable. Not favored favors.

I promised immunity to anyone who confessed. I offered a reward to anyone who gave me information. Nothing.

I wanted to shout: Open your mouth and stick out your tongue.

I held myself in check and said, " I'm disappointed." Actually that was a ploy. I hoped to get someone to experience guilt. Instead they held firm and suggested an outsider as a culprit.

Then I recalled the incident of the moving bulletin boards. Two sixth grade teachers, sticklers for an ordered classroom, bulletin boards and classroom walls were hit by the movers.

All papers were arranged in a military like formation and thumbtacked to the board-- nothing out of line. The movers attacked with precision and turned papers upside down, arranged them in a zig zag pattern. They then added torn bits of colored paper, streamers of colored tissue paper and pictures from magazines to the bulletin boards.

The Wildlife calendar, when turned upside down, featured a stalking lion with his paws in the air. Within an hour the entire seventh grade knew of the work of "the movers".

Lips sealed, snickers held in check when interrogated, the case turned cold and was forever unsolved. The " movers" gained a modicum of respect for their bravado and even the teachers unaffected by the brazen attack applauded the sheer bravado.

The other unsolved crime involved a teacher who lifted weights and ate tuna for lunch everyday along with a handful of desiccated liver tablets. His arm muscles bulged beneath his sports jacket.

A student author used the bathroom wall to scrawl the following two foot high magic marker words : Those aren't real muscles. Mr.B stuffs his sleeves with cotton.

You'd think Mr.B could let it go but he set out to solve the crime while wearing a short sleeve shirt.

Good luck to the teacher detective.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

What Word Begins With...

Crossword puzzles are addictive. Once I start one I'm not content until it's finished . I find myself talking to the creator, " That's a ridiculous clue, " or " how clever."

I guess the epitome is solving the Sunday Times massive crossword puzzle. Anything else is the climb up the mountain.

The question, is it more satisfying to fill in all the little boxes or a smattering of boxes?

According to crossword pundits  Arthur Wynne created the first crossword puzzle in 1913. It was " initially called word-cross and was diamond-shaped. The name later switched to cross-word, and then as a result of an accidental typo the hyphen was dropped and the name became crossword."

Check out this site if you're interested in constructing crosswords.


Friday, October 19, 2012

Indian Summer on the Way

Tomorrow the meteorologists are promising mid-seventies. What is there about warm weather when you least expect the warmth? It's a gift and warms the bones.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Book Club

Tomorrow I'll lead a discussion at the book club—the one that's been around for thirty years.

Too bad we didn't keep a list of all the books we've read over the years. Too bad we didn't write reviews, rate the books—hand out stars.

Too bad we didn't keep a list of all the snacks. Years ago there were chips and candies which turned into cheese and crackers and seltzer.

Grapes are important instead of chocolate covered peanuts. Is this age or is it that we've all become more health conscious?

I'd like to revisit the old snacks—just for one evening.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

One Way To Look at It

How much money is spent printing catalogues? I once bought an all-in-one veggie cutter, peeler, and strainer and even though this was years ago I keep getting catalogues from odd little places with odder merchandise.

No, I doubt that I can use a hurricane lamp that also doubles as a door stop or a knife that looks like a Samara sword.

When I ordered a health letter I didn't know that every natural health practitioner would buy my address and send me a partial catalogue. Page two tells me how to cure arthritis, but in order to read the entire article I need to buy the book or subscribe to the newsletter. For a mere $12.49 cents a month I am guaranteed of living a longer more satisfying life—free from all the ills that attack mankind.

One doctor who roves all over the world tracking down natural cures offers me a discount on his newsletter—if I sign up for two years. If I sign up for three years I will get sixteen booklets outlining his cures for all the diseases that are so prevalent.

But on the positive side all that mail helps the post office with its financial difficulties.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

On What You Don't Know

I have a camera sitting in a box in my kitchen. All I've done so far is charge the battery.

When I peek into the 140 page manual that came with it, I am astounded—so much information crammed on a small page and in small print.

There are warnings—don't force, don't overheat, beware of entering a warm environment with your camera when you've been outside on a cold day.I assume they mean winter cold.

Stay away from magnets. Keep your fingers away from the sensor.

Set the date and the time—how do you wish to read the date and time? I'm surprised that there isn't a setting for longitude and latitude.

When Alhazen (Ibn Al-Haytham) invented the first pinhole camera— Camera Obscura— round about 1000A.D. he only worried about upside down images.

The first camera I owned after the Kodak Brownie was a Used Bolsley—a rangefinder camera. And with that camera I always worried about things being in focus. Who could have envisioned autofocus?

Perhaps tomorrow I'll start at page one and work my way through the manual—

Monday, October 15, 2012


Pithy sentences are like sharp nails which force truth upon our memory.
—Denis Diderot

hit the nail on the head
tough as nails
for want of a nail the shoe was lost
go at it tooth and nail

nail it
it's a nail in the coffin

If you only have a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.
—Abraham Maslow

Painting is a nail to which I fasten my ideas.
—Georges Braque


Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand instead of a million count half a dozen, and keep your accounts on your thumb-nail.”

Henry David Thoreau

rem acu tetigisti

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Standing on the Stone

In the 60’s the art scene exploded with a colorful splash—inventive, pushing at the boundaries and confines of went before. But isn’t this true of every movement that’s intent on discovering a new way of looking at the world?

I went to an art exhibit confined to the art of the 60’s—groundbreaking at the time.

What’s new is a stone to step on—

We adjust and learn to interpret what the artist has done.

Today I read an essay that’s a patchwork, a potpourri—a potluck of genres. The lyric poem combines poetry and prose. The lyric essay clamors for our attention by making leaps from one thing to the next—one idea triggers another and the writer is off in that direction, but always paying attention to the lyricism of the words. Someone referred to the lyric essay as the braided essay—each strand separate, but entwined together to make a new braid.

I look for the abstraction in the reality of the landscape. The melding of shapes and colors to create another definition—another dimension—another view.

I found this weathered abstraction behind a train depot and titled it Waiting for the 7:46

In time continual peeling may reveal another dimension, another interpretation.

For now I touch the anonymity that often accompanies waiting.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Breakfast While Watching Planes

At least twice a year we go to a cafe at a small airport, eat breakfast and watch the planes taxi down the runway.

The cafe breakfasts are delectable—omelets that ooze with fillings and cheese, pancakes with hidden fruit, and cinnamon-raison bread.

This morning I watched a woman walk by the cafe windows pulling a bright red helicopter— on a dolly. Only when I left the restaurant and read the sign—helicopter rides with Ellie— did I realize that her promenading the helicopter past the glass was a way of advertising.

She even gives helicopter lessons.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Once Layers begin They Proliferate

This reminds me of years. Before you know it you've accumulated years.It just seems to happen. You go along working, traveling, loving,creating and you accumulate "stuff": the Moon Snail and the Widows Purse, a piece of lava from Utah's Capital Reef, books waiting to be read, wood letters from the Type Store in Bernard, Maine.

I first went into that small wood building built right on a wharf because I read about their collection of wood letters. A retired couple ran the store. They had been collecting type for years and turned a hobby into a small business when they retired. She made type collages and he looked through heavy lenses and told stories of the type—where it came from and what it might have printed.

"Soon it will all be gone—stored in someone's collection or thrown out."

Year after year I visited their store and made small wood letter purchases . One year only the man appeared—his wife had passed away. He created a zen sand garden in her memory. The store remained for a few years and then it went through a series of layers—first the astronomer took over and then a book store and then a wedding chapel.

Layers of time—one on top of another.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

National Coming Out Day

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


Ever noticed how nothing is simply single faceted—everything has layers. The past is configured into the present.

What I read or hear adds loft to what I think or think I think.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Time Travel

Whenever I walk into the Egyptian section of the Museum of Fine Arts I am immediately sent backwards in time. Not all the way back to Egyptian times, but back to the time that Karen, a fellow teacher, went to New York to see the King Tut exhibit.

She returned to school laden down with books, postcards, a copy of an amulet, and her name written in hieroglyphics. Since the sixth grade curriculum included the study of Egypt she was well prepared with visuals.

After one creative and spirited lesson that culminated with the students creating their own cartouches one young man asked, "Did your parent's write in English or only in hieroglyphics?"

Monday, October 08, 2012

On Scanning

No more paper hanging out of every drawer, no more three-ring binders stuffed with papers, no more scraps of paper—I'm into scanning.

Now files proliferate on my computer. Files sit inside files: Classes has six subdivisions, each with its own file and within those files there are additional files.It"s all terribly organized, I think.

The scanner only takes loose paper—it's not a flatbed scanner. Part of its appeal —the size. At barely twelve inches long and a little over an inch wide my scanner takes up a tiny bit of desk space. It's only an arm's length away.

Now I save news clippings in files and that's an organizational dilemma. Again nesting files—

Do I file by particular newspaper and then categories or do I eschew the particularly paper and go right to categories?

This morning I scanned two hymns I liked, the front page of a memorial service, and an article about invasive plants.

Sunday, October 07, 2012


I love doing crossword puzzles, especially those that have clever combinations of questions and answers.But there are some puzzling things that escape me.

Why does cottage cheese have the name of an abode in its name?

What happens to my socks in the washing machine—two in and one out?

When is a gurgling in the bathroom pipes something more than a simple sound?

How do I eat a pomegranate without splattering the seeds everywhere?

Where does time go when I think I have more time then exists?


Saturday, October 06, 2012

It's Too Early or Is it Too Late

My local all purpose, a little bit of this and that store, has put out their Christmas decorations. Halloween and Thanksgiving occupy a small space compared to the shelves of red and green trinkets and gifts.

Will people soon be blowing up a huge inflatable Santa and tethering him down on the lawn?

Will ghosts and pumpkins share space with prancing reindeer?

Where are we galloping to and what have we left behind?

Friday, October 05, 2012


It's dangerous not to know history—even when it's uncomfortable, or ugly. When anyone steers away from such knowledge it is tantamount to acquiescing to making that history invisible. What's invisible can easily crop up again.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Having a Goal

Picked up the paper this morning and read about a fellow who decided to run the Boston Marathon twenty-six weeks in a row. A friend joined him and another friend drove the two of them to the starting line, followed behind with water and "snacks", and then drove them home.

I'm impressed. I try and walk two miles before breakfast— up and down small hills and then chickened out today because of rain—

In the dead of deep winter I settle for the treadmill before breakfast.

But his attention to completing the task has rejuvenated my resolve—unless the rain is a deluge and the snow is over my boots.

Writing a 50,000 word novel that makes some sense in thirty days is a goal. Two years ago I had to give myself a pep talk before sitting down at the computer.

"No revision."
"So what if it's banal and boring—it's all about the word count, isn't it?"

This time around Ill have an outline and I really hope that the story progresses —I do have a story I want to write. I'm looking at this as an opportunity to write a sloppy first first draft.

And I really want to buy one of those neat sweatshirts and I loved the certificate that attests to my completion of the novel writing goal.

When I was ten I did get a Duncan Yo Yo patch—not one of those given to Regional Champions. I had, after all, practiced Walking the Dog and Around the World, for hours.

My guess is that the two men running the marathon for twenty-six weeks don't need a certificate or a tee shirt, or a patch.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

I'm In

In 2010 I entered the insane "write a 50,000 word novel in thirty days" . In 2011 I opted out knowing how much time it took. But this year when the email arrived announcing the 2012 challenge I decided to go for it—

This time I'll prepare an outline—something I didn't have last time. So as of the end of October I'll only write sporadically on Marginalia.

This is exciting.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Seeking a Record

The story in the paper was about a man with the largest biceps in the world. We know that's true because it's attested to in the listing of Guinness World Records—actually it will be in the next edition of the book.

His biceps measure thirty-one inches. I checked out a film clip and they are really huge— really huge.Just plain huge.

How does that compare to the world's largest collection of sneakers? I guess it depends on what you value.

If I wanted to attempt a world record I'd have to find a subject. I once collected matchbook covers and since I didn't smoke I depended upon others. As people stopped smoking my collection withered until I threw it out. My grandmother collected rubber bands and created a ball of rubber bands. At its largest it equalled a medium sized grapefruit.It can't compare to the rubber band ball created by Joel Waul. Imagine an eight foot high ball made out of 700,000 rubber bands and weighing in at 9,400 pounds?

My grandmother's grapefruit sized rubber band ball wasn't in the same league and judging by some stories there are a number of folks out there ready to eclipse Joel's record.

My mother collected thimbles—a practical collection since she sewed. At the acme of her collecting she owned about twenty—a paltry sum.

Donna Decator has close to 5,000 thimbles in her basement.If she wore a different one every day she'd need thirteen + years to get through the collection.

My father collected hand rolled handkerchiefs.Actually he received them at Christmas time from his students. My mother ironed them perfectly and he placed one in his pocket every day before going off to school.He usually had a dozen ironed handkerchiefs in his drawer.

When I looked up largest collection of hand rolled handkerchiefs nothing came up —save where to buy them. Now there's a possibility for a record.

Monday, October 01, 2012

A Public Forum

A nother political debate
       A nother chance to diss the other
           A nother talking over one another
                A nother maneuvering around questions