RADIO–LOCALLY SOURCED, PET TO TABLE DINING

 

This essay was recently recorded at WVTF, to be aired on NPR-member stations. You can read it below or listen here:

 

Growing up, I desperately wanted a pet. We lived in a tenement bordered by an asphalt driveway in the back and a concrete sidewalk in the front. Our apartment was so tiny that we needed only a cook stove to heat the whole place. Clearly, I faced limited pet options. However, being an optimistic child, I decided to ignore the reality of my situation. Against all odds, I begged my parents for a horse.

Of course, a horse never materialized.

Next, I lobbied for a dog. Someone had given me a giant book called something like Dogs of the World.  I wanted to both impress and persuade my parents. So, whenever we walked through town, I’d shout out the breed of a dog as I spotted him.

I’d yell, “German Shepherd!”

Or, I’d point, “Rottweiler!”

Of course, a dog never materialized.

One day, my father brought home two consolation pets: Corky the Circus Turtle and Nick the Greek, also a turtle. Have you ever tried to warm up to a cold-blooded creature? It’s an exercise in futility. Alas, they did not wag their little tails in greeting, nor did they snuggle up while I read a book. In fact, rather quickly they both contracted a reptilian pneumonia. Foamy bubbles oozed from their nostrils. They reeked, giving off an odor reminiscent of wet sneakers abandoned at the bottom of a gym locker. Then, at last, their little bodies became remarkably stiff.  We flushed them into the city sewer system. Don’t judge. We didn’t know any better.

At Easter, my father brought home dyed chicks. My mother, a meticulous housekeeper, detested the creatures, who routinely hopped out of their cardboard box and pooped prolifically.

One day, I brought them to show and tell at school. The kids liked them okay, but preferred my classmate Charles’s item, a box cutter he’d swiped from his father who worked at a factory. When the fire alarm went off, I remember being worried that the chicks would die of fright. They survived, but not for long.

A few days later while I was playing with them behind a chain link fence, Mika The One-Eyed Polish Cat (a feral beast who was always called by her full name), leapt over the barrier and gobbled down at least two of my pets.

The remaining chicks grew into chickens, as they are wont to do. I came home from school one day to find my pets missing from the apartment. I believe I was told that my beloveds had gone to live on a “nice farm.”

The next week, we visited Grandma Benedetta for a multi-course meal: Italian wedding soup with Acini de Pepe and tiny meatballs, ziti with homemade sauce and…. roasted chicken, which I gobbled down without a thought until my miscreant uncle pointed out their origin.

Yes, it’s true. In the sixties, my parents were pioneers of the Locally Sourced, Pet to Table dining trend. And, that is why I see a therapist to this day.

I currently own a legitimate pet:  Sadie, a slightly deranged golden doodle, who will never, ever wind up as an entrée.

 

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Radio–DON’T GRAB THE STICK

I just recorded this essay at NPR-member station WVTF. You may read it below or listen here:

.

 

Once, as I waited for my husband, Bruce, outside the door of a Trader Joe’s in Manhattan, a blond-haired man walked up and stood uncomfortably close to me, definitely well within my personal space. He looked as if he’d stepped out of a Brooks Brothers catalogue—collar turned up, arms of a cashmere sweater wrapped around his shoulders, khaki pants, loafers, no socks. He lit up a cigarette, then turned so he was mere inches from my face.  He smiled and blew smoke straight at me. I edged away, moving to the other side of the door.

Still smiling he asked, “Does my smoke bother you?”

I said, “That’s okay.  I’ll just stand over here.”

Not skipping a beat, he responded, “Why don’t you go—–!” His suggestion was both violent and obscene. His words stunned me.  And, I’ve seen Quentin Tarantino films, so takes a lot to stun me.

Just then, his girlfriend came out, shopping bags in hand. The couple walked off, arm in arm, happily chatting.  My husband came out the door right after her. I told him what happened. I wanted to chase down Mr. Brooks Brothers and demand an explanation.  My husband said, “Absolutely not.  Just let it go.”

My husband was right. (Yes, those words are music to his ears.) Any guy who speaks like that to another person without provocation or really, even with provocation, is not a man that I should try to engage in a follow up chat. Chances are that conversation would go downhill fast.

So, I heeded Bruce’s advice. I did not chase Mr. Brooks Brothers. Instead, I took a deep breath and let it go, although not completely. The man had shocked me and the event remained fresh in my mind for months. Later that year when I recounted the story to a friend, she agreed with Bruce. She said, “If crazy person waves a stick at you, DO NOT grab the stick.”  She went on to talk about various relationships in which she realized she needed to step back from an irrational or unreasonable person.

On the whole, letting it go, not engaging, is a good rule of thumb. And, while we’re at it, maybe the next step would be forgiving the offender. I don’t think anyone can completely let go of an offense unless that person forgives the offender. If we choose not to forgive, the memory and perhaps injury of the offense can still hold our hearts captive. Ann Lamott was spot on when she said, “Not forgiving is like drinking rat poison and then waiting for the rat to die.” Forgiving benefits the forgiver.

It is tempting to poke back when someone pokes you. However, I am going to try to avoid poking back. For example, the next time someone tosses a Shakespearian insult at me, as in, “You crusty botch of nature!”– I will restrain myself from shouting, “Away, you starveling, you elf-skin, you dried neat’s tongue, you bull’s pizzle, you stock-fish!”

Instead, I will take a deep breath and walk on by.

###

 

 

 

 

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Locally Sourced, Pet-to-Table Dining

 

Here is an essay that just appeared in the Sunday paper:

Growing up, I desperately wanted a pet. We lived in a tenement bordered by an asphalt driveway in the back and a concrete sidewalk in the front. Our apartment was so tiny that we needed only a cook stove to heat the whole place. Clearly, I faced limited pet options. However, being an optimistic child, I decided to ignore the reality of my situation.

Against all odds, I begged my parents for a horse. Of course, a horse never materialized.

Next, I lobbied for a dog. Someone had given me a giant book (2’ x 3’) called something like Dogs of the World.  I wanted to both impress and persuade my parents. So, whenever we walked through town, I’d shout out the breed of a dog as I spotted him.

I’d yell, “German Shepherd!”

Or, I’d point, “Rottweiler!”

And, when I wanted to show off, I’d differentiate within a breed, as in, “Oh look, that’s an American Pit Bull, as opposed to the Staffordshire Terrier!”

Of course, a dog never materialized.

One day, my father brought home two consolation pets: Corky the Circus Turtle and Nick the Greek, also a turtle. Have you ever tried to warm up to a cold-blooded creature? It is an exercise in futility. Alas, they did not wag their little tails in greeting, nor did they snuggle up while I read a book. In fact, rather quickly they both contracted a reptilian pneumonia. Foamy bubbles oozed from their nostrils. They reeked, giving off an odor reminiscent of wet sneakers abandoned at the bottom of a gym locker.  Then, at last, their little bodies became remarkably stiff.  We flushed them into the city sewer system. Don’t judge. We didn’t know any better.

At Easter, my father brought home dyed chicks. My mother, a meticulous housekeeper, detested the creatures, who routinely hopped out of their cardboard box and pooped prolifically.

One day, I brought them to show and tell at school. The kids liked them okay, but preferred my classmate Charles’s item, a box cutter he’d swiped from his father who worked at a factory. When the fire alarm went off, I remember being worried that the chicks would die of fright.  They survived, but not for long.

A few days later while I was playing with them behind a chain link fence, Mika The One-Eyed Polish Cat (a feral beast who was always called by her whole name), leapt over the barrier and gobbled down at least two of my pets.

The remaining chicks grew into chickens, as they are wont to do. I came home from school one day to find no poultry presence in the apartment. I believe was told that my beloveds had gone to live on a “nice farm.”

The next week, we visited Grandma Benedetta for a multi-course meal: Italian wedding soup with Acini de Pepe and tiny meatballs, ziti with homemade sauce and…. roasted chicken, which I gobbled down without a thought until my miscreant uncle pointed out their origin.

Yes, it’s true. In the sixties, my parents were pioneers of the Locally Sourced, Pet to Table dining trend. And, that is why I see a therapist to this day.

P.S. I currently own a legitimate pet:  Sadie, a slightly deranged golden doodle, who will never, ever wind up as an entrée.

###

 

 

 

 

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DON’T GRAB THE STICK

 

Once, as I waited for my husband, Bruce, outside the door of a Trader Joe’s in Manhattan, a blond-haired man walked up and stood uncomfortably close to me, definitely well within my personal space. He looked as if he’d stepped out of a Brooks Brothers catalogue—collar turned up, arms of a cashmere sweater wrapped around his shoulders, khaki pants, loafers, no socks. He lit up a cigarette, then turned so he was mere inches from my face. He smiled and blew smoke straight at me. I edged away, moving to the other side of the door.

Still smiling he asked, “Does my smoke bother you?”

I said, “That’s okay. I’ll just stand over here.”

Not skipping a beat, he responded, “Why don’t you go—–!” His suggestion as to what I might do was both violent and obscene. His words stunned me. And, I’ve seen Quentin Tarantino films, so takes a lot to stun me.

Just then, his girlfriend came out, shopping bags in hand. The couple walked off, arm in arm, happily chatting. My husband popped out the door right after her. I told him what happened. I wanted to chase down Mr. Brooks Brothers and demand an explanation. My husband said, “Absolutely not. Just let it go.”

My husband was right. (Yes, those words are music to his ears.) Any guy who speaks like that to another person without provocation or really, even with provocation, is not a man that I should try to engage in a follow up chat. Chances are that conversation would go downhill fast.

So, I heeded Bruce’s advice. I did not chase Mr. Brooks Brothers. Instead, I took a deep breath and let it go, although not completely. The man had shocked me and the event remained fresh in my mind for months. Later that year when I recounted the story to a friend, she agreed with Bruce. She said, “If crazy person waves a stick at you, DO NOT grab the stick.” She went on to talk about various relationships in which she realized she needed to step back from an irrational or unreasonable person.

On the whole, letting it go, not engaging, is a good rule of thumb. And, while we’re at it, maybe the next step would be forgiving the offender. I don’t think anyone can completely let go of an offense unless that person forgives the offender. If we choose not to forgive, the memory and perhaps injury of the offense can still hold our hearts captive. Ann Lamott was spot on when she said, “Not forgiving is like drinking rat poison and then waiting for the rat to die.” Forgiving benefits the forgiver.

It is tempting to poke back when someone pokes you. However, I am going to try to avoid poking back. For example, the next time someone tosses a Shakespearian insult at me, as in, “You crusty botch of nature!”– I will restrain myself from shouting, “Away, you starveling, you elf-skin, you dried neat’s tongue, you bull’s pizzle, you stock-fish!”

 

Instead, I will take a deep breath and walk on by.

 

 

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RADIO ESSAY–MAGICAL THINKING

 

 

Here is the radio rendition of MAGICAL THINKING (NPR-member stations.) Listen for me playing banjo. You can read below or listen here:

 

 

I am a big fan of magical thinking. The technique has carried me through many a rough patch in life.

Recently, I was having a bad day. They say bad events arrive in threes. That day, my bad incidents numbered nine. Nothing truly horrible occurred. However, if I ever wanted to write a country song, the events provided enough material to create four detailed stanzas.

Singing does make me feel better when I’m sad. Recently, I picked up my guitar again, trying to learn how to play the blues. I’ve spent hours watching YouTube videos on The Piedmont Blues, The Delta Blues and Blues Licks That Will Impress Your Friends. After a few months, I’ve mastered five chords: E, E7, A, A7 and B7. I can’t transition between the chords rapidly, nor can I fingerpick. I can belt out a sluggish version of The Folsom Prison Blues, which is a painful experience for my dog, Sadie, who leaves the room when I play.

Back to my terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. I’d heard about a weekly blues jam in town and had always wanted to visit. On the evening of that bad day, I figured I could chase away my blues by playing the blues with others.

Here’s where my magical thinking came in. Admittedly, I only knew five chords, so I hoped they would only play slow songs in the key of E. I also hoped that someone miraculously would call out the chords during each song. If worse came to worst, I’d just sit in the back of the room, playing air guitar and looking all bluesy.

When I arrived, I found lots of people jamming in the main room. I asked about the blues gathering and someone directed me to a tiny room where two men were tuning up. One of them was the leader and had been singing the blues for decades. The other, who seemed to be new to town, had played in blues bands in other cities. A prudent person would have backed right out the door and bought a nice, cold beer at a local bar. But no. A little thought wafted through my magically-oriented brain: “Maybe my luck is going to change tonight. Maybe they will spontaneously play lots of poky songs in E.”

The two guys could not have been more gracious and kind. And, they did try to accommodate my extremely limited guitar skills. To my credit, I managed to slip in a few strong “E” chords that sounded okay, except for when a song happened to be in G.

After about forty minutes of “jamming”, I realized that I needed to stop torturing these guys. So, I blurted out the first excuse that came to mind. “The sun is setting. I think I have a cataract developing in my right eye. I’ve got to drive home before it gets dark.”

Even I felt stunned by the bizarreness of my excuse. I wasn’t exactly lying. Theoretically, it is possible that any one of us could have a cataract brewing at any time. But still.

In the car, the absurdity of the situation struck me. I laughed all the way home.

To sum up, I played the blues with other jammers (sort of), which helped me feel better (sort of). So, for all you skeptics of magical thinking, I want to point out that sometimes magical thinking can be an effective coping tool.

So there.

 

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RADIO–To Charlottesville, With Love

My essay, TO CHARLOTTESVILLE, WITH LOVE, is on WVTF and other NPR-member stations. You can read below, or listen here:

 

One morning, as I drove down a narrow country lane in Charlottesville, I spotted an African-American boy, about eleven, perched on a bike. He sat in the middle of the road, precisely at the center of a blind curve.

I thought, If a driver speeds around that curve, the child will be killed. I need to tell him to get out of the way.

Racial tensions in our town have been high, which informed my second thought: Wait! He’s black. I’m white. Maybe he’ll think I’m harassing him.

But then, my third: Doesn’t matter. He’s in danger.

I pulled over to the right, off on my side of the road, and said, “Move! You’re going to get hit!”

The child smiled then dashed off onto a lawn on the left, away from my side of the road. Instantly, a car charged around that curve, then zoomed past us.

I drove off, thinking, “That was close. I probably saved a life today.”

The next day, as I headed past that same stretch, I re-played the incident, this time from the other driver’s vantage point. If I were coming around that curve fast and had a tree on my right, a child in the middle of the road, and a car facing me off to my left, I’d have swerved left to avoid the child. I’d have crashed head-on into the vehicle on the other side—the car with me sitting in it. In retrospect, the life I may have saved was my own.

The incident got me thinking. Straight out of college, I served as a Peace Corps/VISTA volunteer. My job was to “deinstitutionalize” teenage wards of the state. These kids were unadoptable and had spent their first seventeen years bouncing around: foster homes, mental health facilities, detention centers. When they turned eighteen, they would be placed on the curb by the state. My job was to equip them with the life skills they’d missed the previous seventeen years. Informed by ignorance and idealism, I attempted the task.

By the end of my stint, I realized my job was impossible. So, I sent around a proposal, asking for donations to fund a halfway house, run by me, a twenty-three-year old. No one gave me money. The kids wound up on the street.

They didn’t stand a chance. A couple died within a year or two. A few wound up in jail. I don’t remember what happened to the other kids. Nothing good.

Back then, the state I lived in did not invest much into their wards. Yes, a few people in power cared about the teens, but some did not, enacting policies that reflected that lack of regard. We failed them. Some came to great harm and some caused great harm. And, we in the community, one way or another, paid for our collective negligence.

We are all connected. What I do affects you. What you do affects me. That August morning, I chose to stop and warn a child. Most likely, my stopping shielded me from great harm.

Working to improve the lives of others will cost us in time, money and personal comfort. Yet those actions enrich our own lives and ultimately will create a better world for all of us to share.

Perhaps this year as we long for peace on earth, we can come closer to experiencing that peace by intentionally showing good will toward all people.

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RADIO–Ten Tips For When You’re Home Sick

 

NPR-member station just aired my essay. You can listen here:

Or, read it below.

 

 

TEN TIPS FOR WHEN YOU’RE HOME SICK

 

 

When you are sick, don’t watch the nightly news. If you do, in addition to your current illness, you will wind up developing an ulcer. Also, don’t view Stranger Things when you’re feverish. You will regret it, unless you are the sort of person who dropped LSD during college years.

 

Do watch The Princess Bride. Amuse yourself by shouting out the lines as the actors say them. Here are a few: “You’re trying to kidnap what I’ve rightfully stolen.” and “Mawage is wot bwings us togeder today.”

 

Don’t want to watch TV? How about getting yourself some finger puppets? They will provide endless entertainment. You can perform musicals and sing all the different parts. You can arrange various puppet tableaux (Puppets Frolicking at a Wedding Feast and Puppets in Antarctica, Observing the Ice Melt). And, if your fever gets high enough, those bits of plastic will begin generating their own dialogue, ushering you into completely unexplored territory.

 

No finger puppets handy? Draw a face on your knee. Place a cloth hat on it. Your kneecap will look like an adorable humanoid. Film your knee while singing, Way Down South in the Yankety-Yank. Watch the clip several times. You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. You’ll forget that you are sick.

 

Trouble relaxing? Go to YouTube and search for: delta wave, sleep music. The videos with “hypnotic” in the title are especially effective. Don’t worry about the ensuing bizarre dreams. Embrace them. Perhaps The Universe is sending you a message.

 

Are you on cold medicine or painkillers? Stay away from Amazon. Do not purchase big-ticket items while your brain is in an altered state. You will regret it, just as I am now regretting my BackJoy Trigger Point Massager.

 

 

Do you have a respiratory illness? Do your lungs need pulmonary conditioning? Get a kazoo and toot out camp songs like Kumbayah or If You’re Happy and You Know It. For a more robust challenge of your pipes, try playing St. Louis Blues on a trumpet.

 

When people ask how you’re doing, are you afraid of boring them? Bore them no more. Respond with a line from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Declare in a British accent, “I’m not dead yet!” Or, find a way to include these Monty Python quotes into your every day conversation: 1) Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition. 2) I’m a lumberjack and I’m OK. 3) Help! Help! I’m being repressed!

 

On the other hand, are you sad that no one seems to care how you’re doing? Pour out your soul to your dog or cat. They’ll never offer unwanted advice. But, don’t drone on too long or they may sigh and amble out of the room, just as my heartless golden doodle did the other day.

 

If you are the rare person who finds none of these tips helpful, perhaps you can avoid infection by wearing a Hazmat suit whenever you leave home. Regardless, as we all slog through this germy winter, I wish you good luck and Godspeed. May The Force be with you.

 

 

 

 

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TEN TIPS FOR WHEN YOU’RE HOME SICK

When you are sick, do not watch the nightly news. If you do, in addition to your current illness, you will wind up having to deal with an ulcer. Also, do not view Stranger Things when you are feverish. You will regret it, unless you are the sort of person who dropped LSD during your college years.

 

Do watch The Princess Bride. Amuse yourself by shouting out the lines as the actors say them. Here are a few: “You’re trying to kidnap what I’ve rightfully stolen.” “Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya.” “Mawage is wot bwings us togeder today.”

 

Get yourself some finger puppets. They will provide endless entertainment. You can perform musicals and sing all the different parts. You can re-enact violent rugby matches. You can arrange various puppet tableaux (Puppets Frolicking at a Wedding Feast, Puppets Camping among Buffalos on the Dakota Prairie, Puppets in Antarctica, Observing the Ice Melt). Moreover, you can enjoy this experience without leaving your couch. And, if your fever gets high enough, those bits of plastic will begin generating their own dialogue, ushering you into completely unexplored territory.

 

No finger puppets handy? Draw a face on one of your knees. Place a little cloth cap on it. You will be amazed by how much your kneecap will look like an adorable humanoid. Film your knee while singing, Way Down South in the Yankety-Yank. Watch the clip several times. You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. You’ll forget that you are sick.

 

Trouble relaxing? Go to YouTube and search for: delta wave, sleep music. The videos with “hypnotic” in the title are especially effective. Don’t worry about the ensuing bizarre dreams. Embrace them. Try to discern if The Universe is sending you a message.

 

You might not want to relax. You might need more energy. Eat lots of chocolate. Remember, you’re in the middle of a medical emergency, therefore, it’s okay to binge on another family member’s private stash. (I’ve heard about a mother who went so far as to eat all three of her son’s chocolate Easter bunnies during a bad bout with a spring cold.)

 

Are you on cold medicine or painkillers? Stay away from Amazon. Do not purchase big-ticket items while your brain is in an altered state. You will regret it, just as I am now regretting my BackJoy Trigger Point Massager.

 

 

Do you have a respiratory illness? Do your lungs need pulmonary conditioning? Get a kazoo and toot out camp songs like Kumbayah or If You’re Happy and You Know It. For a more robust challenge of your pipes, try playing St. Louis Blues on a trumpet.

 

When people ask how you’re doing, are you afraid of boring them? Bore them no more. Respond with a line from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Declare in a British accent, “I’m not dead yet!” Or, find a way to include these Monty Python quotes into your every day conversation: 1) Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition. 2) I fart in your general direction. 3) I’m a lumberjack and I’m OK. 4) Help! Help! I’m being repressed!

 

On the other hand, are you sad that no one seems to care how you’re doing? Pour out your soul to your dog or cat. They’ll never offer unwanted advice. But, don’t drone on too long or they may sigh and amble out of the room, just as my heartless golden doodle did the other day.

 

If you are the rare person who finds none of these tips helpful, perhaps you can avoid infection by wearing a Hazmat suit whenever you leave home. Regardless, as we all slog through this germy winter, I wish you good luck and Godspeed. May The Force be with you.

 

 

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If you like this essay, please check out my audiobook, FIRST KISS.

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Movie Review: THE DRESSMAKER

 

                 The Dressmaker is a viewing experience you may want to miss. I normally love weird and quirky films, but this Australian movie ventured into the nether regions of weird and quirky, and not in a good way.

Kate Winslet plays Tilly who, as a young girl, supposedly kills the neighborhood bully, after which she is banished from town.  Many years later, after training as a seamstress abroad, Tilly returns home but does not receive a warm welcome. Judy Davis plays Tilly’s mother, Mad Molly, a crotchety hellion who starts out crazy, but then miraculously recovers her sanity mid-movie. Liam Hemsworth plays the hunky boyfriend who bears the unfortunate name of Teddy McSwiney. Yep. Maybe not so bad as, Teddy McPiggy, but close.

Let’s start with the good points. Viewers are treated to lovely shots of the Australian countryside. We get to watch Tilly sew a beautiful array of 1950’s dresses. And, the camera frequently lingers over Liam Hemworth’s spectacular abs.

Now the bad points: Except for Winslet, Hemsworth and Davis, the rest of the acting is grind-your-teeth terrible. Also, the screenwriter couldn’t seem to decide what kind of movie she wanted The Dressmaker to be. A comedy?  A drama?  The movie vacillated from “please take me seriously” to “if you believe that, I’ll tell you another.”

SPOILER ALERT

            Do not read on if you want to be surprised by the ridiculous plot twist that occurs in the third act of the movie. If you still are reading, don’t blame me for ruining the surprise. I warned you.

 

            At some point, Hemsworth shows Winslet that she did not murder the bully. The bully killed himself.  He made  little finger horns along both sides of his forehead then ran headlong into a brick wall which resulted in him breaking his own neck.  (Please stifle the urge to giggle.)

This revelation lifts the weight of shame and guilt from Winslet’s shoulders. Hemsworth declares his love and proposes marriage. After the couple engages in a little nooky, they retreat to the top of a silo. Perfectly normal, right? That’s the first place I’d think of to go.

In any case, we viewers are lured into feeling calm and peaceful, wrongly believing that this train wreck of a movie is chugging toward its home station. But no, Winslet can’t help herself. She declares she’s cursed and can’t marry Hemsworth. In response, Hemsworth says that he is going to jump into the silo to show that she is not cursed. Yes, the logic of that thinking escaped me, too.

As Hemsworth makes ready to jump, my husband and I feared the worst. We shouted at the handsome, but profoundly stupid Hemsworth, “Don’t jump! Don’t do it. We want a happy ending, dammit!”

Our fears were not unfounded. In fact, they were founded. We did not get a happy ending. However, the scene did engender the best line of the movie, which was, “YOU CAN DROWN IN SORGHUM.” What the heck is sorghum? Not sure, but I now know NEVER TO JUMP INTO SORGHUM!

Should you watch this movie? I can imagine that if someone were drunk or high or if their minds were altered in some other way, that person would get a kick out of the film. I watched it stone-cold sober and later wished I’d spent the evening cleaning the vegetable drawers in my refrigerator.

I know. I’m being a little harsh. And probably this movie was meant to be ironic and the irony went straight over my head. I could be completely wrong . Who knows, you might like it. But definitely, for the love of all that matters, remember to STAY AWAY FROM SORGHUM!

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RADIO-I SEE DEAD-ISH PEOPLE

 

Here is the radio rendition of my essay. You can read below or listen here:

 

In this age of alternative facts, whom do you believe?

Once, when talking on the phone with my 104-year old grandmother, Benedetta , she mentioned that had seen her 100-year-old baby sister, Israela at the nursing home that day.

Did Great Aunt Israela still inhabit the land of the living? I’d lost track of her years ago and didn’t think so.

During our next call, Benedetta said that the two of them had gone to a Bingo game, but Israela acted grumpy and refused to play. I live in Virginia and my grandmother was in Connecticut, so I couldn’t establish the accuracy of her sitings. I assumed that, finally, at age 104, Benedetta was experiencing space and time in a more flexible manner.

But then, my cousin drove down from Vermont and discovered Israela, in the flesh, rooming near Benedetta. How did that happen? No clue. Unlike her older sister, Israela was not at all oriented in space and time and couldn’t tell us.

Here’s another story. When traveling last fall, a storm delayed my flight. I wound up landing in Charlottesville about 3:00 a.m. I staggered through the airport, dragging my suitcase. People rushed past me toward door. Clearly, in any survival of the fittest situation, I’d die first.

By the time I arrived at the curb, the last cab was leaving. The driver rolled down his window, “Sorry, I’m full. But there’s a fellow…” He pointed to a figure in the shadows. A stout man emerged, looking at me with red-rimmed, unusually bright blue eyes. “Need a ride?”

I didn’t see a cab. “Where’s your taxi?”

“Yonder.” With his shoulder, he pointed back into the darkness.

I felt bone tired, too tired to figure out an alternative way home. So, I followed the man. Sure enough, I saw a taxi, battered and old, but a taxi nonetheless. As we drove down Earlysville Road, the man told me he’d spent much of his life in a cab. His father before him was a driver and as a toddler he’d ridden along. Now he often slept in his cab. When he slept, he had prophetic dreams. Once, he dreamt about his uncle, whom he hated. When he next visited his mother, she greeted him at the door saying, “Your uncle is dead.”

Right about then, we were cruising over the bridge by the reservoir. Eager to change the subject, I said, “You must meet some interesting people.”

He laughed, “Well, I’m never lonely, that’s for sure.” He paused. “My father rides with me. We have some good conversations.”

“That’s nice. He’s stopped working?”

“Hell yeah. He’s been dead about ten years. But he shows up and rides along now and again.”

The hair stood up on my arms. It was three in the morning and we were driving past that wooded area by Ivy Creek. To my credit, I did not jump out of the moving cab. Instead, a few minutes later, when we pulled into my driveway, I handed the driver some cash, snatched my suitcase then ran into the house, lickety-split, hoping the guy’s dead father would not follow me in.

So, in this age of alternative facts, whom do you doubt? Whom do you believe? The possibly104-year-old woman? The possibly normal cab driver?

As they say, “The truth will out.” And over the years, I’ve come to learn that if you keep your eyes open and your mind alert, the truth usually does emerge, even if it’s not at all what you expect.

 

 

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