Monday, September 5

Everything I Really Need To Know I Learned in Maine

Okay, so this is something that I wish I didn't get.  Does that still count?

Caution:  Cynicism ahead.  (oh, like that's something new)

So here it is.  Remember, way back when, there was this hubbub about this thing called "Everything I need to know I learned in Kindergarten" (or something like that)?   It was all the rage.  Posters, mugs, even a book, as I recall.   Saw it posted on the back of bathroom stalls a couple of times (I mean, if that's not evidence that you've arrived, I don't know what is...that's one of my dreams, to have my writing adjacent to the Hiney-Hider logo, which you should know about because what else do you have to do while you're on the pot rather than read the logo on the stall door lock--other than text or read email on your cell phone, that is, ugh, man, is nothing sacred anymore?).   Never bought any of 'em (kind of surprising since I was a preschool director at the time), never was a particular fan, but some of it was cute (cute being one of my least favorite words of all time--right up their with "pus"--but it is the right word for this list).  Honestly, I don't remember most of the things on the list, but any one of us can probably figure them out.  They're about the regular stuff:  sharing, making friends, listening, being fair.  You get the idea.

Well, as of this weekend, I am seeing that period of time, which I think was sometime in the late 80's or early 90's (yeah, I could look up the publication date of the book, which sounds just like what I would normally do for the blog because I'm a nut for veracity, but I'm just too lazy.  I've been driving all day, gimme a break) as a social marker of sorts.  You know how something happens, and in retrospect, it is a historical turning point, an event that, for better or worse, marked a shift in consciousness or in social trends?  Well, that's what I'm talkin' about.  I am now realizing that that book (and poster and mug and accompanying hubbub) was a harbinger (I like that word).  They were--for those of you who prefer sports analogy--a penalty flag to alert us of the coming shift. 

There is the Victorian Age.   There is the Age of Reason.  There is the Hippie (once and for all, it's' spelled "hippie", NOT "hippy", which is an adjective describing a certain endowment around the hip area, NOT people in tie-dye clothes, love beads, and long stringy that major annoyance out of my system, spelling snob that I am) Era.   There is the Disco Era.   And now this.

When I was in grad school, I took a class on creativity, which turned out not to quite be about creativity (at least in my book), but which was really interesting anyway.  In that class, we talked a lot about the phenomenon of "co-incidence", which is a fancy (i.e. academic, cuz it's important to say things in grad school that no one who was not in grad school would understand, you see, gotta separate ourselves from the riffraff.)  way of saying "in the right place at the right time with the right skills or talents".  Well, that's what I think happened here.

That guy, I think he was a minister, came out with that list of all things that he learned in kindergarten.  It's really a list of how to be a civil human being.  Everyone raved, nodded, clucked knowingly.  Murmurs of "that's right" and chuckles of recognition were heard in every tzotchke store in the land.  And why?  Because on some level, we all knew it.  This was the beginning of the end.

Just for today, I'm blaming it on technology.  I say just for today because I think it's right, but I might change my mind tomorrow, and I want to keep my options open.  You understand.

So where did this particular rant originate, you may be asking?  Where did she go?  What did she see?  What thoughtless oaf did she meet?   I'm glad you asked.

First, the factual answer.  I went to Bar Harbor, Maine (lovely place, a few too many tzotchkes, probably sold many copies of that poster back the day, maybe adorned with lobsters and blueberries) and Acadia National Park. Never been before.  Beautiful and peaceful place (although---more cynicism alert--the overwhelming degree of hubbub about it's gorgeousity leaves me wondering if folks have been to Yosemite, or Glacier, or Waipio Valley--not that it's valid to compare, but still, if you haven't been to those places, you definitely should go).  Much of the park, blessedly, is without cell phone signal or (gasp) wifi. 

No, people were really quite friendly.  It wasn't a hotbed of people who missed civility training (or kindergarten).  But it was a place where there was an overabundance of Oblivious.  And Oblivious is where the whole technology thing comes in.

People walking down a crowded sidewalk staring at their cell phones or texting away kind of  Oblivious.
People who sit (and sit and sit) in their car at a stop sign (probably doing something on their cell phone) while cars line up behind them kind of Oblivious.
A family of five that pulls their bikes up and parks the bikes, standing alongside them, effectively blocking a 15 foot wide walkway that is the only entry way to restrooms, for 10 minutes kind of Oblivious (humility alert:  there I was, thinking "only Americans would do this", and it turned out they were German, which was an interesting, though not irrelevant twist).
A person who is finished drying her hands at the only dryer (paper towels are out) in the bathroom and chooses to stand in front of it and rearrange the contents of her purse as multiple people hover with dripping hands kind of Oblivious.

I know what you're saying.  Geez, here you were in this beautiful place, and you're focused on all of the irritating parts.   The whole glass half empty kind of thing (which I don't really get, since half empty and half full seem like pretty much the same thing to me, half is half, but that's another post for another day).  I hate to disappoint you, but...not really.  It was really more of an observation.  I'm  like that.  I was really struck (not irritated) at how many different languages were being spoken in the park.  I was amazed at the incredible strength or determination (or both) of those who ride their bikes in this mountainous park, and watched with wonder as I drove carefully around people who cycled up steep roads alongside the crashing ocean...beautiful.  I noticed that almost none of the people on a steep hike were carrying water (which made me feel better because I didn't have any.)  And I noticed that there were a lot of people who were Oblivious. 

Here it is:  I predict that this period of time---the early part of the 21st century--will come to be known as The Oblivious Age.

You heard it here.

Now put down your smart phone and make some eye contact for a few minutes.   Just like your kindergarten teacher said.

Sunday, September 4

You've Heard of Bigfoot....

I've always been gullible.  And when I say always, I mean always.

I believe people.  So shoot me.

But when you're the kind of person who drives miles out of your way to sit on a huge sturgeon with a saddle,  or to visit the Jello Museum, or to pay your respects to the guy who came up with the idea of putting holes in donuts (as I did on this very day!), well, you're probably a bit more inclined to believe silly things.

And sometimes, just sometimes, it probably makes you a bit more inclined to be duped.

My friend who owns a small dog who convinced me that she had a herd of Great Danes can testify (among others).

What can I do.  I'm like that.

[Notice to friends reading this:  This is NOT, I repeat NOT, an invitation to sell me a piece of swamp land or convince me that you have alligators in your damp basement.  You're on notice.]

Well, it happened again today.

I think.

Maybe not.  Maybe I just wasn't looking in the right place.

See?  See how persistent it is?  The lingering "hey, it's possible!" has its own special force.

Lucky for me, I got a picture of the guy.  Here he is.

I ask you.  Doesn't that look like the kind of place where you could gain valuable information about local scenic attractions?  Right!  I thought so too!

So there I was, sitting in front on that very same bench, proudly displaying (and drinking) my old fashioned tiny ice cold bottle of Coke (mmmm), right within spitting distance from...well, we'll call him the POI ("person of interest"), not to be confused with the taro substance, please.

So we gets to chattin', the two of us.  He asks if I'm on vacation.  I tell him I'm on my way home.  He asks if I've been over the new bridge (which is effin' spectacular, btw).  I say yes, on the way there, and I'm just about to go over it again.  He says I could go up in the observation tower.  I ask him if he's done that.  He says "three times".  It all sounds good so far.  There is a new bridge.  It does have an observation tower.  See?  It's not like I don't check people out or anything.

Then he says that when I go over the bridge from this direction, I can see (and possibly photograph) the giant football.    (do I have a sign on my forehead that says I stop at and photograph ridiculous things?)  I got excited, real quick.  "Where?"  "Where can I best see it?"  "Is there room to pull over?" "Is it possible to take a picture?"  (Answers:  On the other side of the bridge, look "up there".  At the end of the bridge.  Sure, if there's no cars behind you.  Yup, if you have a red light." (See?  There WAS a stoplight at the end of the bridge!  And it WAS red!  See?  He's telling the truth!)

He says "You've heard of Bigfoot.  Well, we have a Big Football."  I laugh.  (I still believe him)

He says that a guy came through on a motorcycle, and he told him about the giant football, and the guy on the motorcycle didn't believe him, but then he went across the bridge and he saw it and he took pictures and he came back to say that he actually saw it, even though he hadn't believed it.  (See?  Testimony!)

He says that he hopes more people photograph it, because one of these days, with the weather and all, it's not going to be there anymore, and it's good to have proof that it was there.  I nod, thinking that's true, it's important to preserve all weirdness, and also thinking all the while that this is my big opportunity to provide a new entry for Roadside America, the website (and app!) that guides oddball travelers to...well, sturgeons and giant strawberries.

Summer 2010 - Strawberry Point, Iowa
Roadside America calls them "offbeat tourist attractions", which makes the folks there the kings and queens of euphemism, but to me, they're the gods of such things, so they can call 'em anything they want.  (See?   If there are giant strawberries, why would you doubt giant footballs?)

So.......across the bridge I went (though not before shaking the hand of the POI, since it is important to properly thank anyone who provides you with valuable travel information).  I looked "over there" and "up there" (wishing I had asked for a bit more detail).  I pulled over (there was a place).  I stopped again at the red light.  I looked around.  Trees.  Granite.  Bridge.  Water.  View.  Football????

Alas, dear readers, I fear I have been taken for a ride.  (or again, maybe not, maybe I just missed it.  Hey, it's POSSIBLE!).

Wait.  I figured it out.  Maybe the football is only visible if you go up in the observation deck of the bridge.  Hmmmmmmmm.  I'm going to do a little googling.  (yeah, it's a verb)

Well, gosh.  THERE it is.   I don't know how I could have missed it.  Musta been the angle.  Or the treeline.  Or something.  Wow.  Nice football.

Look for it next time you go to that part of Maine.  It's big.  You can't miss it.   If you do, ask the guy at the Fort View Variety store, he'll tell you.   Spread it around.  Tell people it's real.  Take it viral.  Make everyone going across that bridge look for the giant football.  This is America.

One more thing.  Now you know.  If you're ever thinking of going on a road trip with me (I love me some road trips), you now have fair warning.  This is what my road trips are like, whether they are two days or two months long.

I chase goofy stuff.  I believe people.  And I love stories.

Don't say I never did nothin' for ya.

Saturday, September 3

Just in case....

I was here.  I'll be back.  I don't have much of a connection, and my iPhone is older than God, so it isnt so swift for remote blogging.   If I can squeak it in tonight,  I will. 

Friday, September 2

Hearses in South China


This is where I'm staying tonight.  No.  Really.  

Here's how it went (more or less):

Me: "Do you have any rooms still available?"
[insert mandatory relevant Larry tone, heretofore referred to as MRLT] "For one night?"
Me: "Well, either one or two nights"
[long pause]
MRLT (but a wee bit slower and a bit more monotone):  "Well, I have a room for tonight.  It's late so there's not much"
Me: "I understand.  So you only have a room for tonight?"
MRLT: "Well, I have a room for tonight. have a room for tomorrow night.  But no two nights. I can't switch people around"
Me: "So we could switch rooms tomorrow?"
MRLT:  "I don't know"
Me:  "But we could check in about that in the morning?"
MRLT:  "Yeah.  You can check with my brother Glenn.  He'll be here from 8 until 10.  Then my brother Chris will be here, and then [insert female name that I can't remember] will be here.  You can ask them."
Me:  "Great"
MRLT:  They have [insert name of my bank] around here now?  
Me:  No, I just used to live in a different place.
MRLT:  Yeah, well this credit card machine isn't like at McDonald's.  It takes a while.  The people from Europe, those ones with Ing cards and stuff, theirs seems to go faster.  Yours too.  Maybe because it's from a bank that's out of state."
Me:  "Wow.  Maybe."

There's more to tell, but I don't want to infringe on your overactive imagination.  Go right ahead, take it to the next place in your mind.  You're probably right.

Oh, and about the hearse thing.  I don't know.  I just don't know.    I mean, last night, a friend asked me I was feeling morbid, and maybe this is just the karmic detritus from that conversation.   Or maybe I really did watch Harold and Maude too many times (No, I'm not saying how many times.  Suffice it to say I've seen it more times than you have.  By a lot.  Yeah, I'm sure.). 

You tell me.
Why would a highly polished new-ish hearse (no casket) with Rhode Island plates be barreling along on the highway in Maine, headed north?    Yeah, a real hearse.

And why, once in Maine, with said hearse left behind hours ago, would I suddenly encounter a yard (one that appears to be a makeshift auto repair yard) with three, count 'em, THREE, black hearses in front (and two stretch limos, one up on blocks, but now you're just getting picky)?  What's with the hearses?  

It was quite a day. 

My one regret is that I didn't stop for a bite at the China Dine-ah.   It's clearly the place to be (situated as it is between Paris, Norway, and Palermo).  I did pirate a photo though, so that counts.  Maybe next time.

I hear it's the dining spot of choice for hearse drivers, who seem to be drawn to it like moths to a flame.  Go figure.

Thursday, September 1


So, about that photo yesterday.   I just want to say that I, too, was cool.  I had a corn cob pipe (well, that's what it looks like in the picture, anyway).  I had several actually--you know, in case I misplaced one.   Don't you have multiple corn cob pipes--say, in your kitchen drawer?

They looked pretty much like this one:

I know, I know.  What?  You, the most vehement anti-smoker gal that anyone has ever had a bevy of pipes?  When?  Where?  Why?  How? 

Well, I had a mom that was a teacher at one time. Never during my lifetime, but at one time.  Unless you consider someone a teacher whether they are employed as a teacher or not, which I do, which would mean that my mother was a teacher during my lifetime, and remains so to this day, which kind of negates the whole "at one time" thing, but you get my drift.  And what that meant, that being-been-is-a-teacher thing, is that there were always what we'll call "materials".  Things.  Objects.  Paraphenalia.  Stuff to do stuff with.  Art supplies.  Toys.  You name it.  It wasn't all out, but it was all there, and I knew it.  

So, in one of the many drawers, there were corn cob pipes. I bet they're still there.  I never associated them with smoking.  I barely knew that was what a pipe was for, even though my uncle, who visited sporadically, smoked a pipe, which I gotta say smelled great, not like the stench of cigarettes or cigars. I just didn't put the two things together. 

No.  I wasn't stupid.  I was a child.

That was one of the beauties of a childhood that was genuinely a childhood, so unlike many childhoods these days--it carried with it an entirely shameless naivete.   So many folks these days, when they talk about how "I had a water pistol or a toy gun, and it didn't hurt me none, I didn't grow up to shoot people, it's so ridiculous when parents these days don't let their kids play with toy guns, they've lost control of their senses, they're helicopter parents, blah blah blah".  No.  That's not it.   In addition to an arsenal of water pistols, I had a hefty toy gun, a big green scuffed plastic toy gun (wait, I'm going to ebay right now to see if I can find one like it).  It clicked when you pulled the trigger, and it had a whistle where the little doohickey that you pull back to "cock" a gun would have been located. This one is kinda close, except it was green, not blue, and it didn't say police on it, and it was scuffed, not shiny, and, like I said, mine had a whistle (I know, I said that twice, but how cool is it to have a whistle on it?  I can still remember the taste of the plastic.)  But still.

Yeah.  Me.  The rabid "don't let your kids play with guns" person.  I had one. Well, actually--and now I'm a little embarassed--when i was searching for the cool green whistle gun on ebay, I found this one, 

which I also apparently had.  Hell, maybe i had a whole arsenal and I'm just in denial about it.  Anything is possible.  

Okay, so I had a whole mess o' guns (or two, anyway).  But most especially that green one.  I loved it, and yeah, it didn't hurt me none, I didn't grow up to shoot people or even like guns.  But here's the rub:  I didn't know ANYTHING about real guns.  I didn't see them on TV, except in westerns, which were okay, but I didn't exactly identify with the characters.  I didn't know anyone who had a gun, other than my dad's non-operational German gun in a leather holster that was a souvenir from his service in World War II, which was kept in his bedside table drawer for my entire childhood.  I knew it was there, I saw it, I held it--for all intents and purposes, it was indistinguishable (other than by weight) from my green plastic toy gun with a whistle.  It was an item, with a label, but it had nothing to do with bullets, nothing to do with harm, nothing to do killing...I didn't even know of such things.  Under these conditions, playing with a toy pistol is a whole 'nother ball 'o wax.  If you're young, and you weren't around during the 60's, you're just gonna have to believe me.  We just didn't see people shooting people on TV--real people, I mean.  It wasn't like that.  Context is everything.  

So plastic guns were for chasing people around and pretending to shoot them without any awareness of what shooting was.  Candy cigarettes--which are still sold, and which I also think differently of now (there were no health warnings on cigarettes way back when)--were for pretending to smoke to look cool--they didn't turn me into a smoker, either, maybe because I had no idea that those people who were putting those white sticks up to their mouths were inhaling smoke.  I thought they were props.  Mine were.  And corn cob pipes*?   They were for blowing bubbles.

You soak 'em in some dish soap (hot tip:  Dawn is best for this) and water, and then you blow bubbles to your heart's content.  They're not like the kind of bubbles that float through the air (even though that's what it looks like on the youtube videos of fancy schmancy bubble pipes).   They're the kind that just grow and flow and cascade over the side of the bubble pipe, landing on your red rubber toed sneakers, soaking them in soapy suds.  So cool.  

I bet that's what General MacArthur did on his time off.

*Given my stream of consciousness style, I want a little bit of credit for not blathering on about how i don't get how anyone would come up with the idea of turning a corn cob into a pipe anyway, because frankly, when I eat a yummy ear of corn, the last think I think about is "how could I hollow this out and stuff something inside it and smoke it".  But hey, that's just me.

Wednesday, August 31

I Can Take A Hint

"Age wrinkles the body.  Quitting wrinkles the soul."

Yeah.  That's what I said.  I can take a hint.

Now, I'm not saying that when I take a hint, I act on it right away or anything.  I'm just saying I can take one.   Kind of like a nap, I'm thinking.

Wait.  Nothing like a nap, because it is well known that I cannot take a nap.  Bad analogy.  Oh man, and that's even the part of the SAT that I aced. 

By saying this, I don't want to imply that this is the first hint I've had, the first tug, the first nagging pointed finger in my back telling me to start blogging again.  But this one, well, it's a doozy (is that how you spell doozy?  doozie??).

It's not like I haven't been lonely.  Or missed writing.  Or reading.  Or all the ridiculous reading and linking and tagging and networking that leads to blog readership which in turn leads to motivation to keep writing.  Okay, I haven't missed that last one, you got me there.

It's been a long time, hasn't it.  Yup.  It has.

It's a common malady.  I'm seeing that.   As you know, I was all gung ho there for awhile.  And then it died out.   Or my life changed.  Or something.  As I've been considering coming back, I've meandered around the web, visiting some of the blogs that I loved and frequented during my gung ho days (which should be distinguished from my Gunga Din days, which are a completely different thing, though they do both involve a fair amount of carrying).  And, well, a lot of them ain't what they used ta be.  I'm pretty sad about that--they were great reading.  Some have just grown sparse, bare around the edges, while others have disappeared all together.  I guess what I'm saying is that I feel like I'm in some pretty damn good company (in the disappearing if not in the returning).  Hey, it's a first step with that loneliness thing, right?

But this isn't about going away.  It's about returning.  Again.

Believe you me, I'm asking the questions.  Why am I back?  Why am I trying to do this again?   Why say so, rather than just starting again?  Huh?

Well, first, because I can take a hint.  I told you that already.

Second, because the other night, I found myself watching Julie and Julia again (on TV this time--with ads, which I do NOT recommend, which is why I only wound up watching part of it).  I liked that movie.  And I remembered going to see it with friends--back in the day before they had a child and could do things like see movies--and smiling and laughing knowingly at her talking about doing a blog, getting comments, having "readers", and finding a construct that would move her to write daily rather than whenever she felt like it, which is really important because, as we well know, in today's ADD world if you don't have a structure for doing something all the time, it often doesn't get done, which is what Julie knew and so she decided to work her way through Mastering the Art of French Cooking.  I remembered how much fun it was, how much work it was, how it represented a tiny leap of faith that took place every single day, when I pressed "Publish", sending my words out into the middle of nowhere and everywhere, with trust.  It was a big deal.  I remember that now.

(by the way, Julie Powell's last blog post was more than  year ago (unless she's moved somewhere else, I'm lazy tonight so I'm not doing much digging).  So there.)

And third, because (this is a secret...shhhhh), well, I never stopped.  Yeah, I know that it looks like I stopped.  And I can't prove that I didn't, because there's no secret place --or worse yet, another blog, which would just be like infidelity, that would be wrong--where all the writing I did while I was stopped is located.  But I did write.  Every day.   Sometimes multiple times a day.   I even stayed on topic.   I wrote about the things I didn't (don't) get.    The trick was in getting them to come out the tips of my fingers.  Just wasn't happenin'.

So there I was, watching Julie and Julia and trying to keep track of the couple of hundred blog posts that were written in my head, or at least trying to get myself to stop writing them if I wasn't actually going to write them down, you know?, and then I got an email.  Because way back when, when I needed the structure that Julie Powell had (at least in her fictional persona) I found it in Nablopomo.  Write every day.  For a month.  Who can't do that?  It's 30 days, give or take a couple.  Sheesh.  If I can't do that....well then.  I have friends who do Nanowrimo, ferevvinsakes (and god bless 'em).

Yeah, that's who sent the email.  Nablopomo.  Because every month, they send a cordial little note saying what the theme for the upcoming month is, just in case you want to jump back on board (how nice of them!).  You don't have to follow the theme, it's just a crutch, in case you can't figure out what to write about, in which case you can write about the theme, which always seems harder to me than writing about something else, but there ya go.

So there they were.  In my mailbox.  And what did they say the "theme" was for September?


Get that.   Like I said,  I can take a hint.

And so, as they say, I shall.

30 days.  Returning.   I can do that.