Wednesday, June 24, 2015

He Who Would Be King

On October 20, 2007, I cast my electronic ballot for Bobby Jindal to become Louisiana's next governor. The following day I wrote a post about that vote, the iffiness of it and the hope behind it. That post included these words:
I made a huge leap of faith when I pushed that button yesterday, and I pray to God I didn’t make a mistake. If time proves that my faith wasn’t justified, I hope you’ll all remind me of that–-mercilessly--before the next major election.
Well, folks, I screwed up. If you want to heap scorn upon my head, I'm ready to stand here and accept it. Voting for Jindal isn't the stupidest mistake I've ever made, but it's the stupidest one I've ever made public.

In the beginning I was encouraged. Early in his first term we had Hurricane Gustav, and Bobby Jindal showed himself to be far more adept at crisis management than his predecessor, Kathleen Blanco, who was notably inept during Hurricane Katrina three years earlier. There. I've given him credit where he deserved it. That's the last thing I remember liking about him.

It is perhaps a fault of mine that I'm overly impressed by intelligence. Jindal is bright; there's no question about that. I have tended to equate intelligence with logic and open-mindedness, but I've learned from watching our governor that I'm wrong about that, that those traits don't always go hand in hand.

I've also learned that naked ambition trumps intelligence when it comes to making decisions in the best interest of the citizenry. (And speaking of "trump," the Donald's naked ambition is brazenly obvious, too--but that's a subject for a whole 'nother post.)

I don't think Bobby Jindal has ever cared one iota about the State of Louisiana except as a stepping stone on his path toward the presidency. If he believes every single piece of right-wing propaganda he's spouted in the last eight years, then, in my opinion, he's dangerous to a free society. If he doesn't really believe everything he's said, then he's such a suck-up that Tea Party bigwigs must have permanent hickeys on their behinds. Either way, polls indicate that seventy per cent of this red state's population are disappointed in his performance.

Why am I bringing all this up today? Because Bobby Jindal is expected to announce his candidacy for president at four o'clock this afternoon. What an ego! What a loser!

I'd say, "What a joke!" but I'm not laughing.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

For Charleston, Where "Hate Won't Win"

This brand-new song is "All Good People" by Delta Rae.
Thanks to Delta Rae for writing it, recording it, and posting it on YouTube in response to the slayings at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The Beat of a Different Drum

I wish I knew what goes on in Gimpy's mind. When the dogs start from anywhere in the house to go outside, they have to pass between the dining area and the kitchen, go into the den, then turn left to go out the door onto the patio. Three of the four do it just that way. Gimpy, however, skips that first left turn, runs straight ahead to pass between the futon and the cedar chest, steps up twelve inches onto the hearth, then turns left, steps down, passes by the large dog crate and turns right, ready to burst out the door. He  doesn't choose this crazy path always, but he does the majority of the time.

Here, I drew this floor plan of my (overcrowded) den for those of you who prefer pictures to words: 

He also has his own convoluted route to get back inside from the backyard: 

I"m pretty sure I know the reasoning behind his chosen path in this instance: anole lizards hang out on the patio furniture. They're only there in warm weather, but Gimpy does it this way in winter, too, just in case. (Sometimes he shortcuts under the table.)

(Speaking of convoluted, those little squares placed in odd positions near the round patio table in the second drawing represent chairs positioned just where we like 'em. I like to sit in one chair and prop my feet in another one, symmetry be hanged! We don't arrange them nicely unless company is coming.)

Gimpy's eating habits are peculiar, too. We separate the four dogs at feeding time because Lucy is greedy, doesn't take time to chew, and doesn't mind eating out of someone else's bowl. She and her bowl get locked in the hall behind a gate until Levi and Oliver are finished. Gimpy eats in the crate with the door closed. The gist of the long story behind that is that before we got him, he shared a home with his Golden Retriever father, who intimidated him and wouldn't let him eat. He was getting skinny. Here, closed in the crate, he can feel safe that no one will interfere with him during his dinner. That worked fine for a long time, but he's been taking things a step further recently. Now, when I put him and his bowl in the crate, he faces away from the bowl, lies down and waits. Only when the three other dogs have all cleaned their bowls and have gathered around his crate does he stand up and begin to eat. He does it very slowly, as if he's relishing every bite, and he glances up now and then to make sure the other dogs are still watching him. I'm pretty sure that if he could talk, he'd be saying, "NA-NA-na-NA-na-na."

I love Gimpy. He's funny, the most clownish of the four dogs, and the cuddliest, most affectionate, too. He gives far more chin licks and tail wags than the others do. He also happens to be the most jealous: if one of the other dogs is getting hugs or skritches, it's only a matter of seconds before Gimpy shows up and squirms into the middle of the action. It's sweet and funny when it happens, but we all know jealousy isn't a particularly good trait. He's sneaky, too. If I tell Levi to stop licking or scratching, Levi stops it. If I tell Gimpy the same thing, he gives me a dirty look, then gets up and goes around the corner where I can't see him.

I love him even more for his weirdness.

Monday, June 15, 2015

What I've Been Reading

It seems like forever since I've posted about books, and a search just now proved that it's actually been seven months--way too long, for sure. Since I don't actually review the books here, these book lists and links probably don't help you much. (You can count on the fact that I rarely read anything that doesn't have at least a four-star rating among Amazon's customers, and if I really dislike a book, I won't even list it. So who needs my opinion anyway?) Nevertheless, these posts sure make it much easier for me when I'm considering a book and can't remember if I've already read it. That happens more often than I'd like to admit, especially when I'm reading a lot of books by the same author.

I knew that someday I'd get back to book lists, so I've continued to save an image of each one as I've read it. Boy, have I built up a backlog! I'll try to put up a reading post at least once a week until I catch up.

Here we go, starting way back where we left off in November:

Under the Sassafras
by Hattie Mae

Huntress Moon
by Alexandra Sokoloff

The Lost Saints of Tennessee
by Amy Franklin Willis

The Beans of Egypt, Maine
by Carolyn Chute

A Will and a Way
by Nora Roberts

Jubilee's Journey
by Bette Lee Crosby

Blood Land
by R. S. Guthrie

A Girl Named Zippy
by Haven Kimmel

The Girl Who Came Home
by Hazel Gaynor

Harbored Secrets
by Marie F. Martin

To read a description and reviews of any of these books,
click on its image above.

Okay, I will give one brief review:  The Beans of Egypt, Maine is a well-written, good story, but it depressed the heck out of me. When I think about it--and I still do--I wish I could unread it.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Sooey, Pig, Pig, Pig!

At the end of May I saw this Facebook conversation between my sister and an old family friend:

I wanted to get in on that conversation, but if I'd posted there, I'd have felt obligated to acknowledge forty-some-odd other posts by "liking" them, and I just didn't have the energy. I decided to put in my two cents here, where things are quieter.

I'm pretty sure the wild hog incident occurred in 1958, the second summer we lived in Texas and our second visit to Keith's parents' camp at Cow Creek. As former city girls, this was as close to roughing it as my sister and I had ever come, but nothing had prepared us for the wild hogs. I say "hogs," but they were pigs, really--big enough but not yet full-grown. And I say "wild" because they behaved wildly, even though it turned out they belonged to someone.

It was early summer, a month or two before my little brother was born. I was 15, my sister Judy was 11, and I believe Keith would have been about five. Here's a photo of Mother and me at the camp. Click on the picture and look how pretty she was, all happy and expectant. (She was 34. I was excited about the idea of a new baby in the family but embarrassed because people would know by Mother's obvious pregnancy that she'd been having sex at her advanced age.)

We didn't know that marauding pigs had invaded the camp while we swam and played all afternoon in cool, brown creek water. When we climbed up the bank at the campsite,  they greeted us, oinking loudly, racing here and there, rooting around in our overturned ice chests in search of one more morsel of food. They had already eaten everything we'd brought. (I think Judy was right about the number of pigs, but the way they were running around, it's easy to see why a little kid like Keith might have thought there were more of them.)

With dusk approaching and nothing left to eat for supper, the men talked each other into catching one of the pigs to roast. They found some rope and, through trial and error, eventually set up a respectable snare. They had plenty of time to work on it; the pigs didn't seem to be as afraid of us as we were of them and continued running around, making serpentine paths through the camp area. It didn't take too long before one pig stepped into the noose, and Judy or Keith or somebody pulled the rope and caught it, by one hind leg if I recall correctly. One of the men struck the trapped pig with an axe, and the other pigs went nuts.

You never heard such squealing.

That's when the men shooed us women and children away from all the unpleasantness. We didn't want to be there anyway while they finished killing the injured pig, then butchered it. I don't remember seeing the sheriff Keith mentioned, but I do recall encountering the old farmer as we walked down the narrow dirt road away from camp. He wore overalls, a long-sleeved shirt in spite of he heat, and a dirty, floppy hat. He had a shotgun propped over his right shoulder. He looked at us suspiciously as he passed by, striding quickly toward the camp, but he didn't say a word. Neither did we.

We didn't walk much farther after that, just stood around and toed the loose dirt while we speculated about what was happening between the men and the farmer. By the time one of the dads walked close enough to see us and shout for us to come back, the farmer was gone and so were the pigs, except for the one that was just being hoisted over the fire. Later that night I heard some talk about money that had changed hands: the agreed-upon market price of one half-grown pig minus the estimated cost of the groceries they'd consumed.

It would be another 14 years before Deliverance would come out in movie theaters, but I've seen that film half a dozen times since then, and the old man in it has always made me think of the scary-looking old farmer we met the day of our wild pig adventure. I've never forgotten the chaos or the squealing or the creepy feeling of waiting on that dirt road while the sun sank lower and lower in the sky. I remember that captured pig, too. I didn't intend to eat a bite of it, considering its unfortunate demise and the fact that I'd never before eaten meat that I'd met personally in its live form. It took a while for the pig to cook, though, and hunger, along with a sensational aroma, overcame my convictions. Best pork I ever ate!


If you can't see the Deliverance video below, click on Watch on YouTube. (And don't worry, this is the Dueling Banjos scene where the old man dances, not the horrible "pig" scene.)

Thanks to Floris Verschuren for posting the video on YouTube.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

The Most Beautiful Moon

It was the summer of 1959 or '60, and we were on our way to Kentucky, driving in our unair-conditioned car at night to beat the sweltering daytime heat. Daddy (my stepfather) was driving, and Mother was in the passenger seat with my baby brother, Joe, in her lap. (There were no child safety-seat requirements in those days; cars didn't even have seat belts.) My sister, stepsister and I were too close for comfort in the backseat.

Slumped low next to the right-side window, I could see over the front seats just enough to view the night sky through the windshield. What I saw was a dark orange moon that hung just above the horizon and looked as big as a wagon wheel. In the quiet of the car I leaned forward and spoke loudly enough for everyone to hear: "That is the most beautiful moon I've ever seen in my life!"

Mother, turned her head sharply toward Daddy and responded with a sneer in her voice: "Oh, Gawd!"

Daddy looked back at her, gave a little chuckle, and turned his eyes back to the road, the smile still on his face.

That was the entire conversation.

I leaned back in my corner and thought to myself, well, I guess I was being kind of overzealous and dramatic, but I didn't know I sounded that stupid. I made up my mind right then to curtail that kind of enthusiasm in the future. I was almost grown and certainly didn't want to be thought of as silly.

For more than thirty years--nearly forty, now that I'm doing the math--I thought of that incident every time I looked at a beautiful moon or, for that matter, at anything else that tempted me to speak effusively. I always tried to tone it down.

My stepdad died in 1996. One day a year or two after he passed, I sat on the sofa in my mother's East Texas home and listened while she talked about her two marriages. Paul, my biological father, had been a womanizer. She appreciated that Tommy, my stepfather, had not been one.

"Tommy never cheated on me," she said that day. "He came close to it once when I was pregnant with Joe. He'd gone to the boat club, and it was late, and he hadn't come home. I went down there and found him sitting in a car with some woman. He'd had way too much to drink, and all he kept saying to me was, 'That's the most beautiful moon I've ever seen in my life!'"


My stepsister and I talked on the phone yesterday about those days when we all lived together, and we talked for a while about our assortment of parents. It was the first time I'd ever remembered to tell her this moon story. She laughed hard at the end of it. When I spoke of my astonishment upon realizing that the two words mother uttered that had impacted my life for decades had had absolutely nothing to do with me, she laughed again. "And now," she said, "do you know what I'll think of for the rest of my life when I see a beautiful moon?"

That's what we storytellers do. We break our lives into bite-sized pieces, then we feed them to others and let them chew on them awhile.