Relative or Whore?

When I was twelve years old, my grandparents moved from San Francisco to Joshua Tree, California, which is a little village in the middle of the hot Mojave Desert. My grandfather, who always wore a white dress shirt, an undershirt, a pocket protector, black-rimmed glasses with a strap running around to the back, a money belt, navy dress slacks, and running shoes, now changed his uniform entirely to something that he formerly would have considered "underwear": running shorts and an undershirt, tennis shoes, glasses. The change in climate was the culprit. He also took to wearing two cans of Mace clipped to his belt, a beebee gun, a hunting knife, and a big stick. All of this was quite practical, wild dogs being what they were back then. Nevertheless, for me, it took a little bit of getting used to.

His new friends in this hot climate ("this god-forsaken place," as my grandmother often called it) were similarly offended by any actual clothing. One of his hiking partners that he introduced me to, a woman, only wore shoes, a sports bra, and shorts, and she also carried a stick. She was always dressed like that, as were all of the few other people in the Polaroid pictures that Grandpa stuck into his photo album, the one with a San Francisco street car on the cover.

Grandpa was always a very physical guy. In his youth, he had been a professional boxer, a wrestler, and then later, before it was cool and then not cool and then cool again, he took to running fifty or more miles a week. In spite of being incredibly athletic, he was always old. I don't know how that works. Don't ask. But everyone who ever knew him said he was already old when they met him. And this was his favorite thing to say: "I'm getting old, you know."

I can't quite pinpoint when it happened, but there was a point in my life when my grandpa seemed to think it was okay to talk to me about matters sexual. "That woman at the Circle K approached me again. She things I will give her money. She's a whore, you know. Of course, I'm completely impotent." He was careful, when he said this, to say it when my grandmother was out of hearing range (or so he thought- she heard everything he said) because he didn't want to offend her. I was offended that he should share his impotence with me, but I held my tongue on that, although I asked,

"What? Are you sure she was a prostitute?"

"Oh, yes, yes, I'm sure. You don't believe me, honey, but you don't know."

A few years later, I asked him about his old hiking partner.

"Oh, I don't like to associate much with her anymore," he said. Not waiting for a reply, he continued, "Yes, I used to be quite close with her, and then I found out she was a prostitute! Yes, she and her husband. You don't believe me, but it's true. They invited me back to their house."

"But- they didn't invite you back to their house for that? Maybe they were just being friendly?"

"Oh, no. They were quite clear."

There was never any arguing with him. It was sort of amusing and puzzling and infuriating to me, all at once.

Then, when we got to talking about the forties with him, the war, how his brother was a swinger with a new girlfriend every week-end, in addition to his wife, and (as if that weren't enough, to have the world's first swinger in the family,) apparently a family friend,

"...was a whore. You see, her husband only gave her five dollars a week to live on, and no woman can live on five dollars a week. She just couldn't do it! So, she found other means. She had to."

"You're sure she was a prostitute? Really? I mean, it seems like you know an awful lot of prostitutes."

"She gave me her business card! It was at the Christmas party. I got very embarrassed, you know. I didn't know what to say! She said if I ever needed anything, just call her. "

The only women whom Grandpa never suspected of being working girls were those who were related to him. It didn't have to be a close relative, thank goodness. You could be related by marriage, or even by divorce, and still be chaste in his book. Those women not related, however, were clearly suspect.

Grandpa was very athletic. I wonder if women found him attractive and made passes at him, but he just never quite took it the right way? Perhaps he was supremely modest, and didn't understand that they weren't asking for money. Or perhaps Joshua Tree, California, is an especially attractive local for certain specialty industries. It's just hard to say.

I Heart Reading Posters: Zombie Librarians!

I had an incredibly eventful day at my job today as a substitute teacher. I was subbing for a middle school computer teacher, and the network went down about half-way through my day. The result was that, after working diligently the entire class period, when the students tried to save or print their papers, the computer immediately (or, in some cases, very slowly) erased them. There were about five different ways it happened. My personal favorite was when one girl tried to print her paper, and the screen simply went white and then all programs immediately shut down and would not open again- this way, there was no decision involved. My least favorite antic of the evil network was when the computer showed the evil hourglass of doom indefinitely. There were many other modes of electronic sabotage, but whatever. You can imagine the mayhem which ensued when a motley crew of twelve year olds realized that all was lost! I was accused of... well, some completely unjust accusations were made. And then I met the World's Saddest Janitor*. My, my was he sad. I must move on, though, because of my number two rule of substitute teaching:

2. Forget about the bad, remember the good.

The good thing is that I found another reading poster! Zombie librarians?Are they trying to get kids to read more books about zombies? Well, okay. Why the heck not? And, apparently, this poster has been working its magic, because I was shelving books in the library, and a book about the origin of zombies** had just been returned.

* I always make friends with the janitor. Remember "The Breakfast Club"?
** Originally I said this was a book about the origins of the zombie "myth," but my dear and wise husband corrected me on this matter. Zombies is fact, baby!

Movies that are like oatmeal: "Fearless Freaks"

This is a documentary about the Flaming Lips. Before I saw this documentary, I was a moderate Flaming Lips fan. After I saw this movie, I was a fearless freak myself. Yes, it changed my life.

Okay, not that much, but it did, in some small way, change my outlook a little bit. These guys are:

1. Cool.
2. Hard Working.
3. Caring.
4. Living in a very bad neighborhood.
5. Overcoming severe drug addiction.
6. Constantly coming up with the most bizarre stunts imaginable.
7. Very humble.
8. Totally radisson!
9. Completely fearless, and, yes,
10. Really good musicians!

Follow Wayne to the former Long John Silvers where he worked, supporting the band, and he shows you where the stick up happened... or watch Wayne mow the lawn... or wash his shirt... or tell you-- oh, crap, I'm making it sound really boring. But trust me, you have to see this movie! It's incredibly entertaining.

Here's the Long John clip:

We are all Obama!

I got kind of silly with this web site.

Monkey Business

I made this wall hanging for Gina's birthday. Now that she's received it, I might as well show you the picture I took of it before I mailed it:

It's made mostly of recycled fabric, plus a few fabric scraps I had laying around. Obviously, an old pair of jeans was used, but not so obviously, Monkey's shirt is the outer lining of a cloth diaper I made- I liked to make the cloth diapers look real snazzy! Anyhow, I thought the diaper was good because it looks good, but also because Gina's blog is called "Poo Corner," so what could be more appropriate?

I fell in love with the monkey a bit before I mailed him. I know it's wrong, but how can something so wrong feel so right?

On personal hygiene and political giants...

I watched the inauguration on an internet live feed while listening to it on the radio- and while watching Zelma, of course. (Someday, she can say she saw it happen.) My Grandpa used to watch baseball games on the television with the sound off, and listen to them on the radio, because the commentary was so much better on the radio. It was kind of like that. I was essentially watching MSNBC and listening to Amy Goodman and Alice Walker comment on the events. Very interesting, to say the least! And inspiring, and joyous, of course, but I'll spare you my trite political commentary.

What I did notice on the visual was that, at the lunch afterwards, President Obama kissed all of the women he encountered on the cheek. I wonder how many of those important Washington ladies, deep inside, were thinking, "OHMYGODOHMYGODOHMYGOD!!!! He kissed me! I'm never washing my face again!" Dianne Feinstein*, I'm looking at you, honey! You know it! That make-up is so not coming off tonight!

* I think Dianne Feinstein was Mayor of San Francisco when I was a kid, and she had this crazy helmet-like hair with a widow's peak.

Movies that are like oatmeal: "Harold and Maude"

Earlier, I accidentally posted this without any text. Whoops! Sorry!

I like this movie because it is so refreshing. I've loved it since I was a teenager. It's about this teenaged boy, Harold, in the sixties, whose favorite pastime is faking his own suicide for dramatic effect. He falls in love with a seventy-nine year old anarchist, Maude.

Cat Stevens did the sound track. There has been many a time in my life when I felt like a freak (probably because I am), and then I heard Maude in my mind, singing, "if you want to be free, be free..."

A teenaged boy falls in love with a woman four times his age! What could be better than this? In addition to being sweet and making me hopeful for life in general, this movie is hilarious! My favorite scene (although it's hard to pick a favorite) is when Maude throws Harold's ring into the bay, so she'll always know where it is. Ah. Maude.

Really, we liked our old nanny

Check out this nanny listing that my husband found on Craigslist! Holy crap! I would be quite fearful to work for these people. If you had all of those qualifications, really, why be a nanny for them? I'm surprised they don't require you to donate an essential organ.

I Crocheted This Pigeon

I got the idea from Gina. She crocheted a few things for Zelma (Wonky Steve and a skeleton ball, which both totally rock).

Zelma loves this book, "Don't Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late," by Mo Willems. It's about this pigeon who doesn't want to go to bed. He gives a million excuses. "Can I have a glass of water... Studies show that pigeons hardly need any sleep at all... My bunny wants to stay up, too. You can't say no to a bunny, can you?" Zelma smiles. The funny thing is, she generally just goes right to bed, no problem.

And, yes, that is some bitchin' wood paneling in my house, now, isn't it?

Wicked Cold

The forecast:

Tonight: Bitterly cold. Partly cloudy skies. Dangerous wind chills may approach -40F. Low -17F. Winds NW at 10 to 20 mph.
Tomorrow: Bitterly cold. Mainly sunny. Dangerous wind chills may approach -35F. High -3F. Winds WNW at 15 to 25 mph.
Tomorrow night: Bitterly cold. A mostly clear sky. Low -19F. Winds W at 10 to 15 mph.

For our non-U.S. readers: - 40 Fahrenheit and -40 Celsius are the same temperature. In these low registers, the two meet.

A story of non-questionable origin (a.k.a. my Dad said so!)

I was the child of two hippies in San Francisco in the early seventies. There were a few houses in The City* where most hippies ended up renting a room at some point in time, if they lived in The City long enough. Janis Joplin was a hippy. My parents were hippies. And so it happened that I, as a baby, lived in the same room where Janis Joplin had once lived. My Grandma, who is very religious, prayed over that room. Generally, Grandma Ruth did not approve.

Over a beer once, a few months ago, I shared this little tidbit about myself with my good friend, Kirk. He's a big Janis Joplin fan.

"That's not true," he said. "Your dad made that up." I couldn't believe him!
"Of course it's true! Why would my dad make something like that up? It's not that unbelievable! Janis Joplin had to live somewhere!"

A little argument ensued. He still doesn't believe me.

I have Janis Joplin on my ipod. I like her music a lot. Ever since that argument with Kirk, though, whenever a Janis Joplin song comes on, I think to myself, "I can't believe that bastard doesn't believe me!"

* Everyone from the Bay Area calls San Francisco "The City".

I Heart Reading Posters: Second Installment

Here's Bucky Badger telling us to read:

When we first moved here, I used to laugh every time I saw Bucky Badger, but now I have become desensitized. I still appreciate certain images, however, like this one. Badgers can't read, silly!

Movies that are like oatmeal: "Lars and the Real Girl"

There are a few movies that I think about from time to time well after I've seen them. They have this stickiness to them, like oatmeal. They stick with me.

One such movie is "Lars and the Real Girl." Someone mistakenly listed it as a comedy on Netflix. It's a funny premise: this guy orders a blow-up doll on the internet tubes, and passes it off as his real girlfriend. It does have its moments, but mostly, it's terribly sad. Who could be so lonely? Lars actually believes this girl of his is real, too. So, the movie becomes, not a situational comedy, but a movie about how everyone in this town where he lives (this Northern Canadian town) tries to help Lars become better, mentally. They try to help him by also pretending that this blow up doll is real. "Lars and the Real Girl" becomes about love and community. And yet, it's so bizarre! I love this movie. It's the feel bad movie of the year.

I think that living in a cold place also makes me think of it often. It captures winter well.

Walter is feelin' the love.

Walter is, of course, Zelma's orangutan. Notably absent are Wonky Steve and the teddy bear with the striped scarf, both of whom are in bed, protecting Zelma from possible monster invasion. (Brobee is a monster, perhaps- but he's not one you need protecting from. He eats his veggies, after all! "There's a party in my tummy, so yummy, so yummy...")

I Heart Reading Posters

I took a picture of this beauty when I was subbing today:

(click for larger view)
I cut off the backdrop of Denver below him. It was hard to get someone so tall into my tiny little cell phone.
It was over a window, so all that white you see to the right of Yao is snowy Wisconsin.

The Madison Radisson

When I was a kid... I mean, uh, when I was twenty-nine, and I moved to Madison, I actually thought-- okay, this is a little embarrassing. I'm not quite sure how to phrase this.

You know that "Radisson" hotel chain? Well, I hadn't really heard of it before, (or paid attention to it? I don't know,) and I actually thought that it was unique to Madison, and it was called the Madison Radisson because it was so, like, rad. The Madison Radisson. Because Madison isn't just "rad," it's "radisson."

Dumb Question

Okay, as a professional educator, I'm supposed to be all, like, "There are no dumb questions". But I have a dumb question. How do you follow blogs (blogspot blogs) that don't have that little "follow me" sticker on the sidebar? (I know it's possible, because someone follows my diet blog, and I didn't put anything like that on my diet blog.) There are a few blogs I might like to follow, but I don't know how.

This one is especially fantastic. I love the dude ice fishing on someone's chest.

Livermore, PA: Urban Legend of the Living Dead

This is a follow up of a previous post, wherein my Uncle Rick took me, as a child, on a short road trip to explore the place where "Night of the Living Dead" was filmed. An astute (and mysterious) reader pointed out that I was most likely writing about Livermore, PA.

There are many things of interest in this Wikipedia article about Livermore. One thing is that it is, indeed, close to Saltsburg, which explains why Rick and I so narrowly escaped ending up in Saltsburg*. To summarize a bit: The town of Livermore had some horrible floods, and in 1936,""The Great St. Patrick’s Day Flood" submerged the town under 18 feet of water, sweeping away the bridge spanning the Conemaugh and fourteen buildings, while others were ruined or severely damaged." After the flood, the town was razed, and a damn was built which flooded it, but saved other, more populated places from flooding more.

The thing that surprises me is that the town was actually demolished before they flooded it, because I have this memory (false memory?) of actually seeing some rooftops just under the water. (We stopped on a hill overlooking the area, and got out to look.) It was probably just my overactive imagination, perhaps encouraged by some suggestive hints from my dear uncle.

So, was "Night of the Living Dead" filmed there?

Wikipedia saves the best for last, "Several urban legends surround the former town... Another belief is that George Romero’s cult horror movie Night of the Living Dead was filmed at the Livermore Cemetery. While the cemetery scene takes place at Livermore, the movie itself was filmed in Evans City, Pennsylvania, more than 60 miles from Livermore.[12] The site is nonetheless considered haunted, and the stories primarily center around the moving of graves that occurred when the town's cemetery was required to be moved to higher ground."

The whole story about FDR seeing the floating bodies from his train must have been part of the whole "urban legend" about the cemetery being moved to higher ground. I feel so special for having been the victim of an urban legend! It's like I belong, somehow, to the greater community of gullibles**.

Thanks for finding this, beananimal!

* I have a tourist's knowledge of Saltsburg. Saltsburg celebrates Canal Day each year, and they of course put a banner up over the main street that says, "Canal Day". One year, the "C" fell off of the sign.

** Did you know that Webster took "gullible" out of the American English dictionary? Apparently, it was offensive, because a Miwok tribe leader was actually named, "Gullible," and he didn't want his name to mean that.

New Year's Resolution Number 34

This year, I will play the piano at least five minutes every day (as long as I am anywhere with a piano).

Small, I know. I read this book, and I feel really good about making small goals.
I highly recommend it.