Wednesday, December 29, 2010

a post written by one of the newest residents of the state of Maryland

New residents of Maryland are given sixty days to switch over their car registration, title, license plates, and driver's license. This seems like ample time to me, allowing for the myriad other things folks are doing when they move to a new house in a new state. I wish I would have had that much time to get all those things accomplished, but I didn't. As you may know, I celebrate my birthday pretty much right after the first of the year. So, instead of having sixty days, I had thirty. Frankly, that was barely enough time.

I didn't work on car stuff too much the first couple of weeks we were here, but I kicked it into gear around mid-month. The Maryland MVA (Motor Vehicle Administration) has one of the most confusing, difficult-to-navigate websites I have ever tried to use. I'm sorry, but that's just the truth. It reduced me to frustrated tears more than once. But with Ben and Julie helping me along, I began to understand the steps I had to take and in what order I had to take them.

I called two different service stations to schedule an appointment to get the MSI (Maryland State Inspection) done. Neither of them provided that service and they directed me to locations in other cities that I hadn't even heard of at that point. I ended up calling the Toyota dealership about a mile from our house and was able to schedule an appointment there. Everything went like clockwork until the service manager came and sat down by me in the waiting area to tell me that my car had not passed the inspection. I basically needed new brakes, front and back. Well, you can probably imagine the cost, but the dealership, and the service manager in particular, were stellar, and at the end of the next day my car was delivered to me along with the state inspection certificate I needed.

I had to gather documentation to proof that I was indeed who I claimed to be and that I lived where I said I did. Proving my identity was fairly easy - I needed my social security card and my birth certificate. Check. Proving that I do indeed live here in Maryland was a little more difficult. Most of the bills come to this address in Ben's name. I filled out an application for a voter registration card at the library, but learned that takes six weeks to arrive. I didn't have six weeks. Hm-m-m. I had a bill from the Baltimore Sun. Would that work? I had bank statements from two different banks. I could use a cancelled check, I learned, but who gets back cancelled checks anymore? One of my banks provides a printable copy of my cancelled checks, however, and when one finally came back, I printed that up. I felt pretty confident that my papers were in order.

The next step was to find the nearest MVA office. We live in Baltimore County, but the Baltimore County office is in Essex, so that seemed farther than we needed to go. We considered going to the Baltimore City office, but got horribly lost trying to find it. Ben knows his way around Glen Burnie a bit from the three months he lived there this fall, so we were off to Glen Burnie. The office there was easy to find and huge, actually, so I resolved to go there the following week. Unfortunately, the day we chose to go, the office was closed. I don't know why it didn't occur to us that that might be the case. Ben had the day off, so it wasn't unexpected that the employees there would, as well. But, even so, we didn't expect it.

The MVA website had warned that Mondays and Fridays are bad days to go, and that one shouldn't wait until the end of the month either. Well, I was pretty much out of options, so Julie and I drove to Glen Burnie yesterday. And, I have to tell you, it went off without a hitch. We were done in under two hours, and my little Toyota now sports Maryland Chesapeake Bay license plates with a heron on one side and a blue crab on the other. How cool is that? That's right, pretty damn cool.

Friday, December 10, 2010

a good murtle, a good book - life is good

Julie came down to spend some time with me the other day and we went on a murtle. (sp?) The Mancine family lexicon is rich with words that are either re-purposed, mis-used, or just plain made up. "Murtle" is one of the latter, and it means, roughly, to wander about, when used as a verb, or an outing, when used as a noun, as it is here. Anyway. We wanted to drive down to Catonsville proper to find the local yarn shop, Cloverhill. We found it easily enough, and were pleased to find it bustling with customers who were both buying yarn and sitting and knitting.

We were delighted to find that there is a downtown Catonsville with shops and restaurants and off-street parking. Definitely something to explore another day. We were most excited to find the local public library, and, in fact, Julie pulled in the parking lot so we could check it out. We found it to be architecturally reminiscent of the Elyria Public Library on Washington Avenue. A large one-story box of a building with a local history room in the basement, the Catonsville library is actually a branch of the Baltimore Public Library System. This is exciting to me because it means I have that whole system to draw from.

I went to the reference desk to apply for a library card and was delighted to find that with the proper identification (which I had) I could get my card right away instead of having to wait for mail to arrive at my new address. So I got a library card! And I checked out a book! Yes, it's all that exciting to me. And it was not just any book that I checked out - it was a book by my favorite mystery writer, Carol O'Connell, that I had not yet read.

Carol O'Connell is the author of the Mallory books, a hard-boiled detective series set in contemporary New York City. I love everything about that 9-volume series (all of which Ben gave to me one Christmas) except for the fact that the ninth book, Find Me, seems to be pretty clearly the end of the series. O'Connell also wrote Judas Child, a stand-alone book that was so compelling and so incredibly well-written that as soon as I finished reading the last page, I flipped the book over and read it all again. I almost never do that.

This is all prelude to saying that the book I checked out of the library the other day is another stand-alone entitled Bone by Bone. O'Connell's books are not for the faint of heart - not so much because they are violent or gory, which they sometimes are - but because they are so heartbreaking. The author deals with "the damage that humans can do to each other" as the Library Journal says in its review of this book. O'Connell's characters are badly damaged, but, for the most part, manage to function in spite of that, frequently in ways that will break your heart.

In Bone by Bone, a man is summoned back to the small resort town where he grew up - a town he has not seen in the twenty years since his teenage brother disappeared there. His brother is returning home, "bone by bone" and the protagonist must determine why. There are perhaps too many suspects and too many red herrings, but having read all of O'Connell's other books, I just sat back and enjoyed the ride. This was a book to be read slowly and carefully, and now that I have finished it, perhaps for a second time. Yes, it's that good.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

here we are now

So, first of all, yes, we're here. We're all here. Lucie and Rufus are asleep on my bed as I type this. I am equally glad to have Lucie, Rufus, and the bed here. I don't think I could have "slept" on that air mattress for one more night. There's just something so depressing about an empty room with a blanket-covered mattress on the floor in one corner.

Everything has been going pretty well so far, although when I came in from the backyard with the dogs this morning, Ben announced that smoke was coming out of all the registers, and indeed, it was. He immediately turned the furnace off and started making phone calls. Even though it's not snowing here like it is in Ohio, no heat in December is still an emergency situation. There is a BGE van in front of the house right now, and Ben and I are just hoping the home warranty will cover this service call on a Sunday afternoon. This whole scenario feels remarkably familiar to me, although I can't remember which of our previous houses it happened at. Maybe Tom or Julie could remind me.

I went to the grocery store by myself this morning and found every single thing on my shopping list. Finding some place to put it all in our severely storage-challenged kitchen was not so easy. We did it, although finding it when we need it again will be the next challenge.

We have a two-page (and growing!) list of items we need from Bed, Bath & Beyond some time soon. That big wad of coupons that I kept in the kitchen drawer will come in handy for that. It's a little hard for me to believe that with all the stuff we brought with us, we still need a great deal more. And, of course, there's the stuff already here that we are getting rid of. I already went through the house and took about half the curtains off the windows. I am not a fan of curtains, but my blue and white toile valances look just as lovely here as they did in my room in Kent.

It looks like we won't have time to make a shopping run this afternoon - to B, B & B or to Lowe's or Home Depot or Best Buy - all places we need to visit soon. We have to get everything we want done around the house before 8:00 so we can kick back and watch the game. The Ravens are playing the Steelers tonight, you know.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

it's just another day

So I'm sitting here at my computer like it's any other day, working on this post. It is not, however, any other day. The movers have just arrived, and they walk in and out of the house, laying down mats to protect the hardwood floors and bringing in big stacks of collapsed cardboard boxes that they will fill with all our earthly belongings. They have already complained to us about how narrow our street is and how much stuff we have to move, so I am on the defensive and feeling a little irritated with them. Probably better that I just stay in my room and type.

Lucie and Rufus left yesterday. Julie and Andrew took them to their apartment in Maryland, where they will stay until we are more or less settled in our new house. I cannot begin to tell you how much I miss them. As irritated as I was with Lucie a couple of weeks ago, I desperately want her with me now. But I know it is absolutely for the best that she and Rufus are not here right now, as the movers go in and out and all over the house.

As if moving halfway across the country is not stressful enough, we really don't know when this house will be emptied out or when everything will arrive at the new house. Our understanding had been that they would come today and box everything up, then load it on the truck tomorrow. However, the huge truck is here now. We had been told we couldn't stay here tonight, but now the movers tell us we can. I am doing my best to go with the flow, something you all probably know I am not very good at. But I know that the big machine has started up and it will just keep grinding away until Ben and I and Lucie and Rufus and all our belongings are safely at our new home. By this time next week, I tell myself, we'll be all settled in. And, you know, we will.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

over the river and through the woods

As I have mentioned before, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. When I was a kid, we used to go to my Aunt Louise's house. It was a big deal. I knew that because we all got new outfits. My mother would bake pies - pumpkin and pecan - contributions that would travel well, as we had the farthest to go.

As we drove along country roads, we passed an old stand-alone silo with "Fresh Cows" painted down the side of it. (Always a mystery to us kids, and I am still not exactly sure what it means.) We passed the prison farm, where on summer days we would sometimes see the inmates playing baseball or sitting on the bleachers cheering each other on. We saw cars pulled off the side of the road, and sometimes, we would see the hunters who had left them there heading out into the fields and woods. We drove through tiny crossroad towns with names that we loved: Erhart and Mallet Creek and River Styx.

My dad avoided the highways, so it took us a little longer than it might have, but when we finally arrived, we headed straight for the warm, fragrant kitchen. Aunt Louise would open the oven door so that we could see the huge turkey that seemed to fill the whole oven, already golden and glistening. I was instantly hungry, even though it was hours until dinner time. I still don't think anything compares with the aroma of a turkey or a chicken roasting in the oven.

As much as I loved the holiday meal, it was being with my extended family that made it a truly special day for me. We weren't a very big family, really. My widowed grandmother (my grandfather had died when my dad was only a child) my two aunts and their families, and the five of us. My dad was quite a bit younger than his sisters, so our cousins were all older than us. I just adored my older cousins, and they loved me right back. I hung on every word they said, and when I was very young I literally hung on them.

There wasn't enough room at the big oval table in the family room for all of us, so of course we sat at the kids' table. The problem with that was my brothers and I were the youngest kids, so it was just the three of us. It wasn't much fun to sit only with each other, as we did every day. One of our kind-hearted cousins, Butch or Greg, would come and sit with us, however, and I immediately felt included again.

It was dark and cold outside when we finally left, and sometimes my brother Bill would fall asleep on the way home, his head resting heavily on my shoulder. Truth to tell, sometimes I fell asleep, too. It's kind of funny. We spent our Thanksgivings there for maybe five years in a row - I don't know why we stopped going, I do know my aunts never liked my mother - but those five or so days are some of the best memories I have of my childhood.

I don't think my own kids have ever liked Thanksgiving all that well, and I am sorry for that, but it doesn't change how I feel about it. Everyone is on their way home to me today, and I couldn't be happier. I am glad we will celebrate the holiday here one last time before we move. It feels right to me.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

this could be the last time

I have been trying very hard not to think in terms of "this is the last time I will do x" but the situation presents itself with increasing frequency these days. I don't know why I'm trying not to think that way because, really, that's how it is. Yesterday I took the dogs to the groomer's for the last time, as you know, but I also got my own hair cut here for the last time. I guess that's what started me thinking along these lines.

Going in to work for the last time was difficult, and I really hated taking the shop keys off my key ring and leaving them on Judi's desk. It made me feel a little better that she hated it, too. I haven't been back to the shop yet for my "last time" - perhaps I will do that while Julie is home for Thanksgiving.

I have read my last Record-Courier, the truly awful local newspaper. For the last few weeks, it has been arriving too late for me to read as I eat my breakfast, so Ben cancelled it. No great loss, I assure you. Cancelling the Plain Dealer, however, will be more difficult for me. I have been reading that newspaper my whole life, and it is hard to imagine starting my day without it. Hope I like the Baltimore Sun.

I also realized yesterday that there are some "last times" that I will be happy to observe. This thought came to me as I was trying to carry the dog crate out the front door, and the storm door slammed shut on my heel, as it frequently does. It was not quite as painful as it is in the summer when I am wearing sandals, but since I always wear clogs in cooler weather, it still clipped my heel a good one. Won't miss that!

There are some last times that don't even bear thinking about, so I won't. Having dinner at our favorite sushi restaurant. Walking around the campus together. Saying good-bye to the friends I've made here. Driving away from our little house for the last time.

Okay, I don't know about you, but this is bringing me down, and that's not the purpose of this blog. Next post: things I am looking forward to. ;)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

checking one more task off my list

The doggies are going to the groomer's today, and, boy, do they need it. They have needed to go for a while, actually, but Lucie got a bad ear infection, and I have been treating her ears with yucky medicine for more than a week. The medicine looks like Elmer's glue, but it is slimy instead of sticky. Twice a day, I have to squirt the medicine in each of her ears, then massage the ear, making sure it makes the correct squishy sound as I do so. I find that if I put Lucie up on the kitchen counter, she doesn't have any traction and can't get away from me.

Her ears look so slimy and awful that I tried giving her a little spot bath last week, but the dog shampoo that I have didn't even touch the greasy mess. I am pretty sure that whatever the groomer uses will take care of it, though.

I don't know who hates the trip to the groomer's more - me or the doggies. When we get there, Rufus hides behind my legs, and Lucie, whom I am carrying, tries to crawl up my front and sit on my shoulder. I have to be careful to wear a top that covers my neck and throat so that she can't claw me (she has drawn blood in the past) and it has to be a fabric that she can't snag. Hoodies work well.

I hate leaving the dogs there. They are so pathetic and resigned - well, Lucie tends more towards frantic, I guess. But I am always so happy to receive the phone call that they are finished and I can pick them up. When I get there, they come prancing out of the back room, looking just great. The are usually wearing seasonal bandanas, which they don't like, and I don't either, actually. What I love is when Lucie has a little bow on either side of her head. She just couldn't be cuter. I bundle them into the car, and get them back home as quickly as I can. They want big drinks of water and an immediate trip out back when they get here.

Going to the groomer's is an exhausting experience for Lucie and Rufus, and, safely home, they really just want to snuggle up next to me on the couch and sleep for a few hours. Which, I must say, dovetails nicely with my plans.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

saying good-bye to all sorts of things

Y'all know I am not a great outdoorswoman, like Sarah Palin or something, but, I tell you, I could not stay in the house today. I kept finding reasons just to be outside. I blew the last of the maple leaves out of the back yard that fell from our sad, old maple tree. Ben and I did all we could for that tree, but it was dying long before we moved here. A previous owner had built a ring of stones around the tree and filled it in with about a foot of dirt. I find it quite attractive now, with the myrtle we planted there, but all that dirt packed down on its roots started killing that tree right away. Now it looks like all the other trees in the neighborhood - leafless. We won't be here to see it leaf out in the spring. Nor anything else, for that matter.

I knew I would miss many of the good people I have met here over the past ten years, but I didn't realize it would be so difficult to leave all our plantings behind, as well. I thought about that as I swept oak leaves off the front deck today - something I do every day this time of year. Just in the front yard, there are the holly bushes we planted several years ago on either side of the garage door, for example. For some years, we had filled the big tubs the previous owners left us with geraniums and trailing vines, but it seemed we could never water them enough, and we had to buy new plants every year. When we planted the tiny holly bushes, I didn't realize that one would grow so much faster than the other, and I have spent the intervening years trying to even them up. They look just about even now, and their bright red berries are a harbinger of the coming winter.

All the leaves have fallen off the redbud, but the seed pods are still holding tight to the branches. I remember when we bought that little tree at Walmart (when we still shopped there) and Tom pushed the sapling around in a shopping cart as we made our other purchases. It was no bigger round than my thumb, and less than four feet tall. Ben and I argued about where to plant it, of course (I always want to plant things too close) and I think it is in the perfect spot now, so I probably won that argument. We planted a redbud at our old house, as well, and when we drive by there, it takes up the entire front yard. This tree will never do that here (the yard is bigger) but it is probably ten feet tall now. As I stroked its rough bark the other day, I thought that I will never see the delicate pale flowers appear on its branches again.

I won't see the wysteria bloom again, either. Ben bought that plant for me maybe the first spring we were here as a Mother's Day present. He planted it at the foot of an old pink dogwood at the corner of the front yard. We thought the dogwood was dying, but that it would be a good thing for the wysteria to climb. The wysteria has, indeed, been very happy to wind itself around the old tree, and I think it has actually been good for the dogwood, as well. All the water and fertilizer we lavished on the wysteria helped the dogwood, too, and we had beautiful pink flowers on it each spring. The dogwood trunk is totally hollow, now, though, and I suspect the sturdy wysteria entwined around it is now helping to hold it erect. There was no killing frost this spring as in past years, so we had more beautiful hanging wysteria flowers than ever before. The vines were so heavy with blossoms, they bowed down to the ground. That is how I will remember it.

I can't forget the little yellow rose bush that never quite caught on beside the front steps. This was a particularly difficult year for it, as the contractor building the deck stepped on it repeatedly until I asked him quite politely not to do it anymore. The primroses will be a colorful surprise for the new homeowners next spring. I wouldn't have thought I would like their garish colors of magenta and yellow against the vivid green leaves, but, you know, I quite do. I remember the year Julie revived them from the dead with gentle care (and lots of water). The clematis Ben and I planted several years ago hasn't really had enough time to make much of an impression, but I think it will be beautiful with its large, plate-size white flowers.

All this is just the front yard, folks. Perhaps another day we'll take a walk around the back yard. It was a big, empty box when we first moved here - just like our new yard will be. I can't wait to see what we'll plant there. It will be different from here, of course, but that's okay. That's good, in fact. It's time for a change, and I'm ready to embrace it. But first I have to say good-bye.

Monday, November 8, 2010

turn, turn, turn

I don't know why, but we have never liked the people to whom we sold our houses. We were happy in our first little house - the one we brought our babies home from the hospital to - but we quickly outgrew it. We found some buyers for it fairly quickly, and that was a good thing, but they really raised my hackles. The man pretty much told us that he was hiding from the company in Chicago where he had formerly worked, as he was perpetrating insurance fraud. His wife seemed to me to be functionally illiterate, and certainly had never graduated from high school. She was coarse and furtive in her ignorance. But they loved that little house, and, in fact, he told us it was his "dream house." How nice to be able to achieve that.

We raised our kids in the house in Eastern Heights, but when they grew up and went away to college, I just didn't want to live in that empty house anymore. Again, we sold the house fairly quickly, to a young family with four small children. I couldn't imagine that many kids in the house, but I was just happy to sell it. Even though Ben never met them, he had reservations about the buyers from the beginning, especially the man. We're going to have trouble with him, Ben kept saying, and, you know, we did. He started sending us strange, rambling letters not long after we moved, demanding that we pay for extensive repairs he felt the house needed. When we ignored his letters, we received a summons to appear in small claims court. The jerk was taking us to court! He lost, of course, didn't get a penny from us, and had to pay court costs. I remember the magistrate asking him, did you look at the house before you bought it? Did you buy it online? It would have been funny if Ben hadn't had to take time off work or we hadn't had to drive back to Elyria for the day.

All this is prelude to saying that we met the buyers of our current house yesterday. We are so pleased with them. They are a young, engaged couple (got engaged two weeks ago, we learned when I asked them) and they just kept telling us how much they loved this house. We knew right away, they said. That did my heart good, as Ben and I, too, knew right away about this little house. We put in an offer the day we saw it. It's nothing fancy, mind you. Those of you who have seen it know that. But the house has been just right for us, and I think it has blossomed under our care. And now that we have met Ben and Kara, I am reassured and happy to turn our home over to them. It is just right for them, too, and they will take good care of it. Again, I don't know why, but that matters to me.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

a ghost story for an autumn evening

Spoiler Alert: I read The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters last night. Eventually, I will be reviewing it here. If you haven't read it yet and are thinking about reading it, you may want to skip this post. I am giving it all away.

I have always been a mystery reader. Like most kids of my generation, I raced through the Nancy Drew books and my brother's Hardy Boys mysteries. Probably unlike most other children, I went on to read my father's Fu Manchu books, which for some inexplicable reason were stored on a low shelf in my bedroom closet. Next was his big book of Sherlock Holmes, which was more to my liking, and I have been reading mysteries pretty much ever since. Murder mysteries, police procedurals, cozy mysteries, ghost stories - I like 'em all. I like mystery series a lot, too, if I manage to get in on the ground floor and read the series straight through.

The pleasure for me, and I suspect all mystery readers, is to figure out "who-dun-it" before the author reveals all at the end of the book. It's a delicate balance. If I figure it out too soon, I feel the author has not done a clever enough job. If I don't figure it out at all, I'm a bit frustrated. I like my mysteries to be pretty formulaic. A crime is committed. Leads are pursued by one sort of detective or another. The guilty party is discovered. I don't like ambiguous endings. And when the author resorts to a clever trick like the unreliable narrator, I find that particularly infuriating.

The first time I ran into that particular literary device was in Agatha Christie's The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, one of the first books I read by the renowned mystery writer - and also the last. As I read the book, I picked up the clues the author placed for me, like Hansel and Gretel following the bright pebbles back out of the forest after their first successful foray into the darkness. I was so engaged, so trusting. Imagine my surprise when I realized that the author, whom I trusted absolutely, had deliberately led me down the wrong path. It seemed so unfair. It seemed like cheating. I was done with Agatha Christie, and have tried to avoid stories told by unreliable narrators ever since.

So, to review: no ambiguous endings, no unreliable narrators, oh, and very important, no harm to animals, especially dogs. I don't care what kind of murder and mayhem may rain down on the humans in the story (I watch SVU and Bones, remember) but I cannot bear to read about or think about harm to innocent creatures. The book I read last night turned out to have all three. Who knew?

It started out well enough. Set in post-WWII Britain, the author's story of a great house and a great family in decline are familiar enough territory, but she does it well. She takes her time setting the stage, which I like. I became concerned, however, when the first ghostly "incident" involved the beloved family dog. This better not be headed where I think it is, I thought, but it was. I soldiered on, skipping several of the worst pages, and managed to put that behind me. I realized fairly quickly that my narrator was not to be trusted, so I was on the lookout there, but I honestly did think the author would tell all in the end. She did not.

Oh, she left enough clues so I could figure it out to my satisfaction, but I was disappointed that here, too, she took me over such well-travelled ground. Bad things happened to people when the narrator was asleep (think Morbius and his raging id in Forbidden Planet or the Johnny Depp/John Turturro character in Secret Window). Eventually, the narrator has his heart's desire - not the girl, but the mouldering great house he had violated as a child and never forgotten. I have to say, I was very satisfied with the way the author bracketed the rest of the book with scenes of the narrator wandering alone in the huge, old house.

To tell the truth, I realize that I enjoy thinking back on the book more than I enjoyed reading it. Perhaps that's not so bad, as it will surely stay with me longer that way. It would have been nice to have both, though.

Friday, November 5, 2010

wheeling and dealing in the real estate market

If the housing market is still tanking, it's not my fault. I feel that we have more than done our part to aid the economy. In the past couple of months we have: sold our house, sold my dad's house, and bought a new house. It's weird how things time out like that. I mean, of course, after selling our own house we damn well better buy a new house pretty quickly, but to have sold my dad's house as well in the same time period is a little, well, it's overwhelming.

The sale of my dad's house turned out to be the easiest in the end. It sat on the market for six months with lots of viewings, but only one offer, which was so low as to not be taken seriously. That was partly our fault, as we priced the house too high initially, but I feel our realtor has to take most of the blame. We had no idea what a little Cape Cod that had been neglected for 35 years might fetch in today's market. Neither, as it turned out, did he.

I started to panic as our own house sold and it became clear that I would be moving before the end of the year. How could I sell my dad's house from out of state? Then, one day at work, I heard a woman discussing how her mother's house had been auctioned off and they had donated all the furniture. That's it, I thought. We could either just donate the house - something my dad had already suggested - or auction it off. Accordingly, I contacted the realtor with those suggestions. He was appalled at the idea of donating the house. You'll only get a tax write-off then, he told me. But we can auction it off for you. Would you like to do that?

Would I like to do that? Yes! As soon as possible. And that was all it took. One of his co-workers who is also an auctioneer contacted me about a month ago and assured me the house would be sold by the end of October. He also told me he could probably get us the asking price. I was thrilled and gave him the go-ahead.

I walked through the house the day before the auction. It was cold and empty and dirty, and I hated the house that day as much as I ever had. What an unhappy home it had been for my parents and my brother. I silently wished the new owners well, and walked out the door for the last time. The house sold the next day for $2,000 less than our asking price, which, really, we probably would have negotiated away in a regular sale. Less than a week later, the money was deposited in my dad's account. What a load off my mind. I can only hope the rest of our transactions go as well. Stay tuned.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

star gazing

I saw the Big Dipper this morning. In these last days before the time change, it is still quite dark outside when I shuffle out in my pajamas and sweatshirt to collect the daily newspapers. I saw dozens of stars, and the moon, as well, but right above our house I recognized the stars that make up the Big Dipper.

I stood there in the driveway for a while, gazing upward and remembering the first time my dad pointed out the constellations to me. Our family was visiting one of his fraternity brothers, and while the wives and the other kiddies stayed in the house on that warm summer night, I only wanted to be outside with my dad and his friend as they smoked their cigars and reminisced. We sat in lawn chairs in the back yard as the sky darkened and the stars appeared. It must have been darker there than I was used to because the sky was just full of stars. My dad pointed out the Big Dipper and the Little Dipper with the North Star at its tip.

I was fascinated. So much so that I went home and memorized a poem from a reading book my aunt had given me. She was an elementary school teacher at the time, and the book must have been from a series they were no longer using. I loved that book and read it from cover to cover many times. I knew right where to search for it in the attic today, and when I found it, the book mark I made probably fifty years ago was still marking this poem.

The Man in the Moon

The man in the moon as he sails the sky
is a very remarkable skipper,
but he made a mistake when he tried to take
a drink of milk from the Dipper.
He dipped right out of the Milky Way,
and slowly and carefully filled it.
The Big Bear growled, and the Little Bear howled,
and frightened him so that he spilled it!

And yes, I wrote most of that from memory. I am amazed at the things I can't remember from day to day, and equally amazed by what remains. I'm going to read my book now. Reading Today Series: Stories Old and New...

Thursday, September 30, 2010

the elephant in the room

It's here with me right now. It's always with me, really. I haven't been able to escape it for more than a month now, much as I long to do so. And I can't write about it here, which I am surprised to find makes it much harder to cope with. It is both the blessing and the curse of the internet that everyone has access to, well, everything, and this is not something I am ready to share with the whole world.

So, it's not that I don't want to blog anymore, it's that I can't. And if I can't talk about this huge change in our lives, nothing else really seems worth talking about. Sorry.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

the miracle of modern telecommunication

I just got off the phone with my friend, Joany. So what, you say? You can chat with your chums on your iPhone® any time you want, you say? That's true, but Joany is on a train on her way to Rome right now. And that's a first for me, for sure. It amazes me, you know? My voice in an Italian train car, speeding towards Rome. (Insert joke here about the trains always running on time, or about where all roads lead.)

My grandparents owned the first telephone in their neighborhood, probably because my grandfather was a landscape gardener and needed to have a phone so that his customers could contact him. My mother told me that she remembered neighbors coming over to use the phone for emergency calls. My mother and several of her sisters had jobs as operators at the local telephone company, which makes me wonder, when was the last time I talked to an operator? When was the last time I dialed (pressed) 0 for operator? I don't even remember.

The first phone I remember using is the heavy black desktop phone that the the local telephone company loaned us. It always sat on the bay window behind the couch. For a long time, we only had that one phone, so there were no private conversations in our house. When my dad started traveling more, we got an extension upstairs in my parents' bedroom for security. That was a great place to take private phone calls. I can remember snuggling into my parents' bed on cold winter evenings while I gossiped with Judy, or took the rare call from a boy I was dating. And I could always tell if someone picked up the extension.

I still don't have my Star Trek communicator, but if I flip my cell phone vigorously, I can make it spring open like James T. Kirk used to do. And I can talk to Joany as she speeds towards the Eternal City. Some days, it feels alot like the 21st century.

Friday, September 3, 2010

fool me once...

Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger

I hesitated for a long moment when I realized who the author of this book was, but I brought it home anyway. My bad. I hated the author's huge best-seller, The Time Traveler's Wife, and only finished it because much of the story took place in the Chicago neighborhood where Tom and Kristy were living at the time. Well - no surprise - I hated this one, too.

Once again, the author clumsily tackles the supernatural, but instead of a time traveler, this time she deals with two sets of twins and a g-g-g-ghost. (Pretty scary, huh?) I figured out almost immediately that one set of twins had pulled the old switcheroo. (Don't they always?) It took the entire book, however, for the author to reveal that fact.

It's hard to imagine a premise more ridiculous than someone becoming "unstuck in time" but the author manages it here with her ghost who comes back to life and has a baby with her bereaved lover. Hope you weren't planning on reading this book because I guess that would be a pretty big spoiler if you were. On the other hand, now you won't have to waste your time on it like I did.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

on why I insist on reading books in the order in which they are written

After making what I hope was my final "deposit" at the library yesterday (I take the books there that Jason doesn't want) I decided to go in and look for books for a change. I was excited to find what I thought was the next book in a series I have been reading for some years.

In 1994, author Laurie R. King wrote The Beekeeper's Apprentice, the story of a young woman who meets, and most improbably, falls in love with a retired Sherlock Holmes. They marry, and she becomes his Watson, traveling the globe with him and helping the master of deductive reasoning solve matters of international intrigue. There have been more hits than misses in the series, and the last book I read was by far my favorite, so I was thrilled to find The God of the Hive on the New Books shelf.

After reading a few pages, I realized that I had clearly missed a book, and that basically the entire plot was based on what happened in that earlier book. I stopped reading. I was torn. Should I start the other book I brought home with me? Should I go back to the library and search the shelves for the missing book? Perhaps I made the wrong decision, but I decided to press on. And that may be why I found this book so confusing for so long, and why, ultimately, I didn't enjoy it as much as I might have.

Part of the problem was the fact that the author starts the story from the points of view of four different characters. Now, that is just too many. Had I not known her style of writing from the previous books, I would have been utterly lost. As it was, I struggled to to keep things straight, and I don't enjoy that. I did settle into the book about halfway through, but I don't know if that was through my efforts or the author's.

Through the many references to the previous book, I believe I already know the "surprise" ending, so I probably won't be adding it to my reading list. Like all mystery readers, I prefer to solve the mystery on my own. What's the fun of it if I already know?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

my blog - in the news (sort of)

Check it out. Here I am quoted along with writers from the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Akron Beacon Journal. I'm pretty sure they got paid for their efforts, however. A link to my blog would have been nice, at least...

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

maybe it's my math...

We are working on many fronts to rid ourselves of the "stuff" we have accumulated over the past 35 years or so. We just can't take it all with us, and, in fact, we don't want to. It is time to divest. Julie and Tom have both been home to take carloads of belongings (theirs and ours) home with them. Julie and I took a carload of clothes and shoes to Goodwill. Ben sold his record collection and a great deal of stereo equipment to the local used record store. We have arranged with an auction house to sell the radios, televisions, clocks, toasters, and assorted collectibles we have been amassing all these years. They will also take regular household items we no longer need/want.

I have taken on the task of getting rid of some of the hundreds and hundreds of books we have in practically every room in the house. In a previous post I mentioned Last Exit Books, a used book store here in Kent. I don't know when the store first opened, but when we moved here ten years ago, it was a tiny storefront shop with a few book shelves and a comfortable reading chair. It has grown like crazy, and earlier this year, moved into a much larger space in the same building.

When I took my first box of books in to be sold several weeks ago I explained to Jason, the shop owner, that we would be re-locating to Maryland. "Oh, that's too bad, " was his reply. "I mean, it's probably good for you guys..." I assured him it was good for us, and he assured me that he would be happy to look through all the books we would care to bring in. I haven't kept track, but since then I have probably taken in ten or twelve boxes full of books. Sometimes Julie helps me and sometimes Ben does, and sometimes I just haul them in by myself.

Typically, Jason looks over what I bring in and offers me a price for the majority of the books, setting aside the ones he doesn't want. This system works great for both of us, but lately, I am increasingly concerned that the number of books we want to get rid of is growing instead of getting smaller. Let me give you an example. I had four boxes of books in the trunk of my car. Ben and I took two boxes to Jason over the weekend. I now have three boxes in the trunk, with two more waiting to go. Yesterday I found two stacks of books in a cupboard I thought contained only pottery and other decorative items. I am feeling a little panicky about this. I need to get the books out of the house. When I told Ben about my concern, his reply was, "the nearest thing I can figure out is that they are born pregnant" - a classic Star Trek reference, and very entertaining, but not very helpful.

I figure I will take a box or two of books to the bookstore today, but I'm kind of scared to open the trunk and look inside. I'm pretty sure there were three boxes in there the last time I looked. Or was it four?

Sunday, August 22, 2010

random thoughts on house hunting

I'll admit, I have been known to watch HGTV. If I can't find Bones or any of the Law & Orders on any of the cable stations, I'll watch House Hunters or that new Curb Appeal with the real cute host. But I take the shows for what they're worth, and I am afraid most people don't. I am afraid watching HGTV has created unrealistic expectations in real life house hunters. And, sadly, our little house does not live up to those expectations.

You know what I'm talking about. Crown molding is de rigueur, along with double sinks in master bathrooms, walk-in closets as big as my bedroom, and stainless steel appliances and granite countertops in every kitchen. It makes for entertaining television, perhaps, but real-life, middle-class, average people don't live like that, although now they think maybe they should. No, it's more than that - they think they have to. And I just don't understand that. Why would anyone want to have a bigger, more elaborate, more expensive house than they really need? What's the point?

I think this trend has spawned the hideous warrens of McMansions that are springing up across the country. Pointlessly meandering streets are lined by vinyl-sided houses available in every shade of beige and faux brick fronts. You better hope you never get lost in one of those "neighborhoods". No amount of rational thinking will get you out of there. Even your trusty GPS will run up the white flag.

I don't know. Maybe this is progress and it's time for me to jump on the bandwagon. I guess I might just be getting too old to run that fast and jump that high. Or maybe I'm just jealous, but I don't think that's it. I don't want to own a house larger than I need. I don't want to leave a bigger carbon footprint than I absolutely have to. I don't want to get lost in my own neighborhood. And, seriously, I don't even like crown molding.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

crate training - for all of us

Lucie and Rufus hate to ride in the car. I hate it, too. Lucie sits on my lap and shakes as I drive, and Rufus paces back and forth in the back seat and cries. The entire time. Needless to say, we don't travel in the car together very often. Basically, I take them to the groomer's or to the vet - which may be the reason they hate it so much.

However, I see a very long car trip in their future, so things will have to change. To that end, I bought them a soft-sided crate, large enough for both of them. We have been trying to acclimate them to the crate gradually. I set it up in the kitchen, with a couple of their soft blankets inside it. And just left it there, for a couple of days. They were curious, but not especially interested in getting inside. Next, I would entice them one at a time inside the crate with a small treat. They each had to sit and lay down inside the crate, then I would pat the floor in front of the crate, and invite them to come out.

Last week, we removed their big pillow from the corner of the kitchen, and placed the crate there instead. We have been delighted to see each of them climb into the crate and curl up there on several occasions. Earlier this week, Julie and I loaded the crate into the back seat of my car, then brought Lucie and Rufus out to the car and zipped them into the crate. Off we went for a very brief ride around the block. I don't think we were even in the car for five minutes. They did really pretty okay. No major freak outs - by any of us. We repeated the ride later in the day. Still okay. Yesterday, I took them out by myself and we drove to a nearby farm stand to buy some fresh corn. I left them in the car as I bought corn, and they seemed fine with that. We were home within twenty minutes of leaving, but still, a good run.

Our next big test is coming sooner than I would have liked. Today, I will have to hurry home from work and pack the doggies into the car so that some prospective buyers can look at the house. I have mixed feelings about that, but this is the path we have chosen, and off we must go. We are supposed to be out of the house for an hour, so I really don't know what we will do during that time. Drive past the house until the driveway is empty, no doubt. I understand that the longer the buyers are here, the better, but Lucie and Rufus and I hope it won't be too long. We're all creatures of habit.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

into the belly of the beast

The For Sale sign went up last night. Papers were signed. The rooms were measured. Photographs were taken. I guess this is really going to happen. I had forgotten the curious sense of shame and embarrassment that I feel when a For Sale sign appears in our front yard. I don't really understand why I feel that way, but I know that I do. I feel a bit like a quitter, I guess. Like a rat leaving a sinking ship - although this ship is far from sinking in any real sense. I still love this house and this neighborhood, but the time has come to go. I just don't like the idea that anyone who drives by or sees the listing online will know that. And now you do, too.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

how summer tastes

I don't know yet what we will have for dinner tonight, but I do know that I will probably be serving fresh corn and tomatoes with our meal - just as I have done for the past two days. High summer has come to Northeast Ohio, and that means farmer's markets and farm stands piled high with freshly-picked local produce. Even Ben - a notorious meat-eater - says that he could be a vegetarian this time of year.

I love corn on the cob - who doesn't? - but it's the fresh-from-the-vine tomatoes that I crave all the rest of the year. I like them best at room temperature, just sliced and salted, but we also love cherry tomatoes in a salad with blanched green beans and Vidalia onions. I love coarsely-ground pepper over tomato wedges and cottage cheese, but I have to say, no one else in the family shares my passion for that dish. We all love gazpacho, however, and when Julie comes home this weekend, it will be time for a big batch of that.

We have never had much luck growing our own tomatoes at this house, possibly because we are surrounded by so many big, old oak trees. We keep trying however, and this year we have three different varieties in various stages of ripening. Ben and I poke at the fruit almost every day, and I have to admit, I have been known to pick a ripe cherry tomato, wipe it clean on my shirt, and pop it in my mouth. That's what summer tastes like!

Here is the basic recipe for the green bean salad I make. I adapted it from a salad we were served somewhere else, so feel free to do the same.

fresh green beans
fresh cherry tomatoes
1/4 Vidalia onion, coarsely chopped
fresh basil leaves
extra virgin olive oil
apple cider vinegar
freshly ground pepper

Snap both ends off the green beans, then snap them in half. Cook beans until they are just tender, then plunge them into cold water to cool. While beans are cooking, cut tomatoes in half, coarsely chop onion, and chiffonade the basil leaves. Prepare a simple salad dressing of the oil and vinegar, season with salt and pepper to taste. Drain beans. Combine all ingredients, chill well. This salad tastes best if eaten the day it is prepared.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

what happens to a dream deferred?

More than thirty years ago, Ben and I packed our suitcases and headed our little two-door, stick shift, non-air conditioned Toyota Corolla due east. I had never seen the ocean, so Ben was taking me to Virginia Beach, and to Chincoteague, a tiny island off the coast of Virginia. Soon after we made the big right turn in Breezewood, PA, we were in Maryland. The whole time we drove through the state, we remarked on how beautiful it was there, from the rolling hills to the Chesapeake Bay to the long, deserted beaches of Assateague Island. We agreed right away that we would love to live in Maryland. Over the years, subsequent trips through the state only reinforced that idea.

But we had a baby, and another baby, and we bought a house, then another house, and we just never seemed to make it out of Ohio. Tom grew up and moved to Chicago. Julie grew up and moved to Maryland. Here Ben and I remain, and up until recently it looked like we would always remain here. That is not the case, however, and it seems that sooner rather than later, we will be moving to Maryland. Ben has accepted a position with the company where he works in Laurel, Maryland.

As we were trying to make this difficult decision, a phrase kept running through my head: "what happens to a dream deferred?" and I knew I had to track it down. It is the first line of a poem* by Langston Hughes. Lorraine Hansberry took the title of her play, A Raisin in the Sun, from that same poem. The family in her play, the Youngers, have deferred their dream to move to a better neighborhood for many years, and when they finally have the chance to do so, cannot seem to agree on a course of action.

Ben and I are in agreement, however - we will be moving. It is an exciting and terrifying prospect, and when I wake up with the dogs at 4:30 a.m. there is no falling back to sleep for me anymore. It seems overwhelming in every way, but I just keep reminding myself that people do it every day and so can I. I will be posting about our move over the next couple of months, so buckle your seatbelts. It may be a bumpy ride.

*What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore--
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over--
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

helpful hints from Anne Louise

I made a rookie error while cooking the other day, and paid the price for it. I was heating some olive oil in a skillet while I chopped some onions and peppers that I was planning to sauté. The chopping took me a little longer than I thought it would, so the oil got a little too hot. When I dumped my veggies into the skillet, they were too wet, so hot oil popped onto my shirt, my shorts, and both my arms, the right one in particular.

It really hurt! I knew right away I had been burned pretty badly. Here's what I did about it. I got a bottle of soy sauce from the refrigerator, and poured it over the burns on my arms. I let it dry there. I'm telling you, it stopped hurting right away, and the burn on my left arm virtually disappeared. My right arm blistered, and did start to hurt a bit today when the blister deflated.

I know I read this tip some where at some point, but I sure don't remember where or when. All I know is that I have used it before and that it works, so I pass it on to you. I hope you don't ever have occasion to use this helpful hint, but I hope you remember it if you do. Alternately, you could remember to dry your vegetables before putting them in hot oil. Whichever.

Monday, July 26, 2010

something's happenin' here

It's not that I haven't thought about posting over the past few days, it's just that all I can think about is a big decision we're trying to make. I'll let you know when we know. It's big.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

looks at books

As promised, here are reviews of the books I brought home from the library last week.

Happens Every Day by Isabel Gillies

This is a memoir detailing the break-up of the marriage of a television actress and a pompous, womanizing, poetry professor. Here's why it was a must read for me: The actress has a recurring role on Law & Order: SVU as the wife of detective Elliott Stabler. A life-long New Yorker, she left New York and followed her husband to his teaching position at --- Oberlin College. Yes, that Oberlin College. I probably need to devote an entire post to how deeply entwined the little college town of Oberlin, Ohio is with memories of my childhood and my dad and our time spent there. Suffice it to say, I know that town.

Gillies is not a professional writer, and the book is written in a conversational tone - pretty much like the tone I try to use here. You know me, you're interested in me, and in what I have to say. And I was interested in what she had to say. I was fascinated by the town as she described it, and was amazed to find that she lived right down the street from a friend of mine who has lived in Oberlin for years. (She didn't know the author - I asked her.) I tried to picture Gillies in the bead shop or the Ben Franklin, but I couldn't quite manage that.

The author doesn't pull any punches, and the gut-wrenching passage where she kneels in the snow to beg the other woman not to destroy her children's happiness is overly-dramatic, sure, but as the song lyrics say, love has no pride, and that rang true to me. I love how she frames that scene from the perspective of an elderly professor watching from his window, and the knowledge of him there is what gets her up off her knees.

This memoir offers what no one can resist - a peek inside the lighted windows of the lovely old house we walk past on a crisp evening, and the reassurance that the people who live there are, after all, just like us.


The Invention of Everything Else by Samantha Hunt

I have been fascinated by Nikola Tesla since the first time we saw the huge statue of a seated Tesla on Goat Island near Niagara Falls. As I read the attached plaque, I wondered why I had never heard of this brilliant inventor who illuminated the entire world. I vowed to learn more about him, and in the years since have read everything I could find about this eccentric genius. There hasn't been much, so I was excited to read a review of this novel several months ago, and even more excited to find it on the library shelf.

I am very disappointed by this book. The author wrote in such a detached style that I could never get into the book. I felt like I kept waiting for the introduction to be over and the story to actually begin, but by the time I was fifty pages into the book, I realized the narrative wasn't going to change into a smooth readable style. The dual plots chugged along, but Hunt never lingered long enough to engage us. The passages where the author repeated what had been written elsewhere about Tesla were not well integrated and stood out like they had been written in neon ink.

Hunt had a good idea when she attempted to describe the New Yorker, the hotel where Tesla lived until his death in 1943, but her attempt fell short of the mark, and I will have to learn about it elsewhere. The author also failed to capture the magic of New York City at the turn of the century, something which I would think would be difficult to do. The secondary plot of the fictional chambermaid was depressing more than anything else, and really, Tesla's declining years were depressing enough on their own.

To learn about the greatest inventor of the 19th and 20th centuries - and, possibly, of all time - read Margaret Cheney's biography, Tesla: Man Out Of Time, or, really, just google Tesla. You'll be amazed by what you find. I guarantee it.

Monday, July 19, 2010

maybe it builds character, but I doubt it

Today I have to drive to my dad's vacant house and wait for a service man from the local gas company to replace the indoor gas meter with an outdoor one. This is something that I most devoutly do not want to do, and I almost never do things I don't want to do. I am dreading this, but perhaps not for the reasons you think. Yes, it is inconvenient, and yes, I hate waiting for workmen to arrive - although I was given a two-hour window, which I think is not bad if he actually shows up then. No, the real problem is the heat.

My dad's house has never had central air, but he does a have a large window air conditioner that my brother used to install in the living room window every summer. Unfortunately, it has been many years since the last time he did that. I had to pretty much quit visiting them in the summer, as I would get very overheated and uncomfortable there, and then wouldn't be able to cool off. My dad doesn't mind the heat. In fact, he seems to like it in some way that I can't understand at all.

The forecast for today has the temperature in the mid-80s with humidity to match. I mean, it's July. It's hot. With that in mind, I have been thinking about how I will cope with the heat ever since I made the appointment. Here's what I have come up with. Worst case scenario, I can just sit in my car with the AC running. I said worst case. I put a lawn chair in the trunk of my car. I could sit out on the back patio for a while and knit. I will bring my knitting, and, also, a book I have been wanting to read. If it rains (which is a possibility) I can take my lawn chair down to the basement, where I'm sure it will be cool, although not very dry. The last time I was at the house, there was an old TV and a leather couch in the living room, but I am pretty sure it will be way too hot to sit in there - although that would be ideal.

I am not above cutting and running, if it comes to that. If it gets to be 1:45 or so (my time slot is 12 to 2) I will call and let them know I am leaving. I mean, two hours is all I can realistically stand, and who knows how long it will take once the service man arrives. One has to know one's limitations.

Thanks for listening. I'll try not to be so whiny next time.


Update: Well, it was just no big deal, as it turned out. I drove to Elyria, stopped at McDonald's for a filet-o-fish sandwich, and headed for my dad's house. It wasn't too hot inside yet, and I wandered around the mostly empty house while I ate. As I have in the past, I tried to summon some happy memories about the place, but to no avail. I never liked that house. It never felt like a home to me, and now it feels alot like an albatross hanging around my neck. A really dusty albatross in need of a good cleaning.

After I ate, I got my lawn chair out of the trunk of my car, and set it in a shady spot on the back patio. I took out my knitting and set to work. I was only on my second row when I heard a truck pull into the driveway. Yes, it was the young man from the gas company arriving at about 12:20. I was delighted. Even more so when he told me he would be done in about five minutes (!) As I turned on the basement light, I told him I didn't have the slightest idea where the meter was. I was charmed by his reply. "That's okay," he said. "I'll do a little spelunking down there, and I'm sure I'll find it." Spelunking - that just about describes it perfectly.

I was loading my lawn chair into the car by 12:45, and I was home by 2:00 - and that includes a stop at a roadside stand for fresh corn and tomatoes. While it's true that I drove two hours for an errand that took fifteen minutes, I am not complaining. It could have been so much worse. Once again, by expecting the worst, I was pleasantly surprised when things turned out to be not totally awful. And, boy, do I feel fantastic to have that taken care of!

Friday, July 16, 2010

I may live to regret this...

Yesterday morning a little lady came into the shop. When I asked if I could help her, she replied, "I sure hope so because I'm in a pickle." She went on to explain that she would be attending a baby shower for her first great-grandchild next month - a little girl to be named after her. "Isn't that wonderful?" she asked me. I agreed that it was wonderful indeed, but wondered what the "pickle' could be. Vivian, for that is her name, went on to tell me that she saw a pattern online for a wonderful knitted baby blanket with owls on it. Did I think I could find the pattern? Well, probably, as I know of several owl-patterned items on Ravelry. I found the pattern easily enough, but we still weren't at the root of the problem, as it turned out. I should have anticipated her next question, really.

"Do you know of anyone who could knit it for me? I can't knit at all," she said. "And, in fact, I have a degenerative eye disease." Oh man, I thought, oh man. Vivian had picked out some yarn. The pattern wasn't difficult. But I didn't want to commit to knitting it for her. We talked around the issue for a bit, and finally I said, "Look, here's why I'm hesitating on this. It's going to be expensive. I design patterns. I sell my own work. I value my work. It doesn't come cheap." "Oh, I wouldn't expect it to," Vivian assured me. "If that's the only thing that's stopping you, don't let it."

I thought of the joy of living to see a great-grandchild. I thought of a granddaughter who loves her grandma enough to name her first child after her. And, honestly, I thought of a bit of extra money in my pocket. Yeah, you know I said yes. I'm not regretting it too much yet. It's good karma, right? That's what I'm telling myself, anyway.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

there'll be a change in me

It's no secret that I am pretty into knitting. Okay, yes, that I have been obsessed with knitting for more than two years, and pretty much spend every spare moment (and some that I can't spare) with a pair of knitting needles in my hands. Knitting has tapped a wellspring of creativity in me that I didn't even know I had, and I find it deeply satisfying. But lately, I am, well, not as satisfied. I still love to knit, you understand, but I am restless. I cast about for something more. When I received a couple of comments last week on some of my blog posts from a blogger whom I greatly admire, I felt embarrassed that more than a month had passed since the last time I posted. I realized I missed posting on my blog. Well, that is easily remedied, and here I am.

Still, something is missing, and I think I know what it is - my lifelong passion for reading. Up until I started knitting, I believe I would have defined myself first and foremost as a reader. From the time I learned to read - more than fifty years ago - I could generally be found with a book in my hand. We didn't own a lot of books when I was a kid, but I loved the public library, and it is one of the first places, other than school, that I remember walking to without my parents. My friend, Judy, and I used to read books together on our front porch swing. I am a quick reader, and used to wait impatiently for her to finish each page, especially when we were reading The Pink Dress or the racy Forever Amber.

After we were married, it took Ben some time to adjust to the fact that his new wife spent most of her spare time with her nose buried in a book. When we moved, our new apartment was next door to the public library. Talk about a great location! I read throughout both of my pregnancies, and, looking back, I believe reading helped me to maintain my equanimity during those early childraising years. Something even more important was happening then, as well. My kids were learning by my example about the pleasures of reading a book. When they needed Mom, I was almost certainly sitting in the flowered chair by the bookcase, with a book in my hands. Need I say they are both avid readers?

I worked at the library for eleven years, and belonged to two book discussion groups. When we moved again, I joined an online community of readers and book collectors, and began seriously collecting books. I read all the time. Then I started knitting, and all I wanted to do was knit. I bemoaned the fact that I couldn't knit and read at the same time, so Ben bought me an iPod player so that I could listen to books that way. He even put some short stories and books on my iPod. But, you know, it wasn't the same as reading, and I never really took to it. I like to hold a book in my hands. I like to turn the pages. I like to linger over passages and re-read them - or skip them altogether.

So the past couple of years have gone by without me even picking up a book - something I could never have anticipated. I still read the book reviews in the Plain Dealer every week, and frequently thought, now that sounds like a book I would have read. A couple of times, I even got the small wire-bound notebook out of my purse and wrote down a promising title and author. But that was where it ended.

Yesterday, however, I went to the library. I headed for the new book section, right in the center of the first floor, and - it wasn't there. The shelves weren't even there. It was a big empty space. I couldn't believe it. It was like one of those dreams where you think you know where you are, but things keep shifting and changing, and suddenly you're not sure. I looked to the familiar stacks on my left, then looked back to see if everything had returned to normal, but it hadn't. I couldn't find the new books. I was reduced to asking the reference librarian where they had gone. When she told me, I asked her when they had been moved there. "Like a year ago" was her reply. After that much time, I guessed it was pointless for me to tell her that I don't like change in general, and didn't like that change in particular.

After a great deal more browsing than I thought I would need, I did manage to find two books that I had read reviews of - one of which I even located through my little notebook. They are small books, and I should be able to read them pretty quickly. I feel the need to start small, and work my way back to the contemporary literature that had become my favorite reading material. I have decided to bring you along on this journey, and will be posting my book reviews here on my blog, at first. If this reading thing catches on, I may create a new blog just for reviews. Who knows? I'll keep you "posted".

Monday, July 12, 2010

Detroit Disassembled

Julie and I were casting about for an outing one day last month when she was in town. We are always talking about re-visiting the Akron Art Museum, so I checked their current exhibitions. You probably can't imagine my excitement when I found that the Detroit photographs of Andrew Moore are there right now in a fantastic exhibition entitled "Detroit Disassembled".

I was already aware of these photos, actually, because Ben had shown them to me some months earlier when he found them online. We marveled over the images of massive structures abandoned to the elements. I knew Julie would love the photographs, and I couldn't wait to see them displayed on such a grand scale, so off we went to the museum.

I was blown away by what I saw. The photographs in the exhibition are so beautiful and evocative that, well, really, words fail me. I offer you instead the catalog's description:

"Moore’s images, printed on the scale of epic history paintings, belong to an artistic tradition that began in the 17th century. Numerous artists have used ruins to remind their viewers of the fall of past great civilizations and to warn that contemporary empires risk the same fate. Moore’s soaring scenes of rusting factory halls and crumbling theaters share the monumentality of Giovanni Battista Piranesi’s 18th century engravings of the fallen civic monuments of ancient Rome and Greece. His photographs of skeletal houses and collapsed churches carry forward the Romantic tone and rich hues of Caspar David Friedrich’s 19th century paintings of fallen medieval cathedrals and castles."

If you live anywhere in Northeast Ohio, I encourage you to see this exhibition while it is here. See it to contemplate what has become of a once-great city in our contemporary throw-away society. See it as social commentary. See it as a warning. Or just see it for the haunting beauty and grandeur of an abandoned train station, or the hollow emptiness of a once-bustling automotive complex. Just go and see it. You'll thank me.

Here is a link to the museum website:

And you can read here about Detroit Disassembled specifically:

Or view additional photos from Andrew Moore's Detroit series:

Sunday, July 11, 2010

the light at the end of the tunnel

Summer is not the best time to work at a yarn shop. This is not a surprise, you say? I didn't mean it to be - just a simple statement of fact. When I first started working in a yarn shop, it was in the summer - two years ago, actually. Then, I was thrilled it was the off-season, as I knew I had, well, everything, really, to learn.

Last year was a particularly bad summer at the yarn shop for me. My former co-workers and I were gradually realizing that the shop we loved was slowly being allowed to die. Killed off is too strong a term, perhaps, but that is more what it felt like. When the yarn reps called to make appointments to show the new fall yarns, they were put off and postponed and lied to, really, until they got the message, and began spreading the word that Miss Chickpea's was not long for this world. How embarrassing and sad that was.

So this summer is pretty awesome in comparison to that. It's a slow time of year, sure, but things are happening here at My Sister's Yarn Shop, let me assure you. Last month, Judi, our shop owner, took all of us to Columbus to attend TNNA (The National NeedleArts Association) Yarn Market, which is a big deal in the knitting world, in case you didn't know. We saw the booths of dozens and dozens of vendors, all displaying their newest yarns and needles and patterns and buttons for fall, which, as you can imagine, is a big season for yarn and knitting. We had a fantastic time, and were overwhelmed and excited by all that we saw there.

What's happening at the shop now, though, is the truly exciting part. The yarn reps have come and gone, we have ordered our yarn, and any day now, the new fall yarn will start arriving. It is time to make room for all that yarn, and I, for one, can't wait. Can't wait for the UPS man to start bringing us boxes and boxes full of yarn. Can't wait to start putting the skeins of beautiful wool and merino and alpaca yarn on the shelves.

And here's one thing I know for sure: when the new fall yarns start arriving, the customers won't be far behind. Can't wait to see them!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Lefton's legacy? Lefton's folly

When I worked at KSU, I learned that the big open square between the library and the student center has a name: Risman Plaza. Well, okay. I imagine someone donated a lot of money to the university for that honor. Not enough money for a whole building, maybe, but probably more money than I will ever have, anyway.

My freshman year of college, the student center – and the plaza outside it – were under construction. I believe it was the spring of 1973 before everything was completed. I know that was when the awkward, angular fountain was filled with water for the first time. The multi-tiered fountain seemed the antithesis of smooth, flowing water to me, with its straight lines and rough, pebbly concrete texture. Maybe that was the point. It was an instant hit with the students, at any rate, and they swarmed all over it, some climbing clear to the top, others content to splash in the pool or sit underneath one of the waterfalls.

My roommate, Sarah, and I wandered down there one beautiful spring afternoon, wearing short cut-offs and halter tops, I imagine. (Because that was what we wore on beautiful spring afternoons.) Sarah was more athletic than I, and liked to think of herself as athletic, which is slightly different. She kicked off her sandals and began to climb the fountain. Not to be outdone, I followed her. The first level was easy, and I loved the idea of being part of the fountain, with water cascading down from above me, and flowing underneath my feet to fall below me. Sarah climbed to the next level, and with some difficulty, so did I. At that point, I became concerned about how I would get down again without totally making a fool of myself, so the moment had passed for me.

When Tom and Julie were little, we would take a car trip to Kent every year or so, and a highlight of the trip for them was to walk on the broad edge of the fountain, or if they were feeling brave, to step to one of the large, square blocks surrounded by water. As so many before them had, they shrieked with delight when the shifting wind sent a fine mist of water their way.

I always thought the fountain was unattractive, to be perfectly honest, and it sprayed water all across the plaza whenever the wind blew through the wind tunnel the buildings had created there – which was basically all the time. Over the years, I know the university architects tried various means to tame the winds that swirled through the plaza, and it was re-constructed at least once. I believe that was after a winter so harsh that ropes were strung across the large open square for students to hold onto as they crossed the icy expanse. For all that, though, the fountain and the square still looked pretty much as they always had. On warm, sunny days, the steps ringing the plaza were full of students sitting and eating and chatting and just watching the world go by.

All that is gone now. Ben and I decided to take a walk on campus yesterday evening, and our meandering path led us to Risman Plaza. Or as close as we could get to it, anyway, with a 10-foot tall chain link fence surrounding it. Everything inside that perimeter is gone. The graceful curve of steps, the years of plantings, the angular fountain that I had grown to love – all gone. University president Lester Lefton didn’t like the way the plaza looked, you see. So now it must all be changed. I understand that change is good, indeed, vital, to the life of the university. It is change for the sake of change that concerns me. And the fact that one man’s opinion is deemed more important than that of so many thousands of students, faculty, and staff troubles me, as well. But, thus it has always been, eh?

Sunday, May 30, 2010

working hard to make it work

Ben and I do our best to celebrate holidays, even when just the two of us are here. Our trip to the grocery store yesterday included lots of meat to grill out, pasta shells for a pasta salad, and some hard lemonade - just for fun. Our iced tea glasses last night had sprigs of fresh mint in them, and the salmon was grilled just right. I hope I remember that there is a whole watermelon chilling in the basement fridge. It's hard, though, to feel festive - or, as festive as we used to feel, anyway.

When Tom and Julie were little, Memorial Day always included the library book sale, and, of course, the Memorial Day Parade. The first time we took them to the parade, I don't think Julie was walking yet - so it was probably right before her first birthday - and I remember the cute sunbonnet she wore with little pink strawberries on it. We hated the loud noise of the fire trucks with their sirens blaring, but loved the Elyria High School Pioneer Marching Band, every year playing their fight song as they marched down Washington Avenue. The best years were those when Julie marched in the band. She always looked for us, and we were always there.

Everyone in town was at the library book sale, and it was a good place to catch up, as well as a great place to buy cheap used books - something we all loved. I remember the year Julie found books stuffed with old postcards from all over the world. She probably still has them...

After the parade, we usually headed to my dad's house for a cook-out. Bill worked quickly and efficiently, and always provided an incredible spread, with much more food than we could ever eat. I loved that he used the same spatula to flip the burgers that my dad used when we were kids. The years that Laura was there were always fun - she manged to fit right in with our little family, and we all loved her.

When we lived in Eastern Heights, someone in the neighborhood would get up early and put little American flags in every front yard on one street or another. Whoever was walking Bobo that morning had to restrain him from lifting his leg at each flag as we passed it. Not that we cared at all, but no point in needlessly offending the neighbors...

Now, of course, Tom and Kristy live in Chicago, and Julie and Andrew live in Maryland, and we haven't lived in Elyria for almost ten years. My dad lives at Wesleyan Village, and Bill lives in Cleveland Heights with Catherine. Ben and I will spend this Memorial Day at their house. I don't know that this is the start of a new tradition, but I do know we'll have a good time. And we won't even have to work hard at that.

Monday, May 24, 2010

big city musings from a small-town girl

Through a sad twist of fate, I have lived all my life in small Ohio towns, but I dream of big cities. Regular readers will know how much I love New York, but I also really love Chicago. Like many Midwesterners, it was the first big city I ever visited - in photos of my stay there at Aunt Helen and Uncle Fred's duplex on South Loomis Street I look to be about eighteen months old - and it is certainly the big city I have visited most often and where I have spent the most time.

I have driven to Chicago, taken the train, and flown, so unless some sort of Great Lakes steamer line re-opens - which, hey, is not a bad idea - I have gotten there every way I could. I flew this time, and since I am such an infrequent flyer, was amazed anew at how quickly I could travel from one reality to another. Landing at O'Hare is always an overwhelming experience, and my heart filled almost to bursting when I finally saw my tall, handsome son scanning the crowds for me. Okay, I know I am biased, but, damn, he is a good-looking guy.

We rode the blue line back to the city, talking so busily that I didn't notice the famous skyline at all. I only stayed with Tom and Kristy for a long weekend, so I include a few impressions that really struck me on this visit. The first morning I was there, I heard Kristy quietly get up and take the dogs out. I sat on the couch and gazed out the window at the view so infinitely different from the one I see from my own front window. I cracked open the window so that I could hear and smell the city. I love that smell, you know?

Tom and I spent a good part of Friday at the Art Institute, checking out the new Modern Art Wing. Tom is good enough to accompany me there whenever I am in town. I know he enjoys it, but I suspect that he does not experience the same pleasure I do when visiting a museum with him or his sister. I treasure those times more than I can say. I feel that we fostered a love of the arts in both of our children, and I am reaping the benefits of that now.

I went to Knit Night with Kristy at her favorite yarn shop, Loopy Yarns. I was grateful to Kristy once again for re-awakening my love of knitting, and grateful to knitting for helping to strengthen the bond between the two of us. I enjoyed watching the interaction between Kristy and her knitting friends, and was as proud as any mom to observe how much they all liked her.

We spent most of Saturday north of Chicago. We went shopping at IKEA and at Mitsuwa, an amazing Japanese bookstore/supermarket/travel agency, with a food court I wish was in every shopping mall in the U.S. Tom showed Kristy and me his office in Evanston, we walked along the nearby beach, and I waded in Lake Michigan. It's the rare body of water I can walk along without kicking off my shoes and stepping in. We drove further north to Wilmette to see the fantastical Baha'i temple there. Seriously, look it up. Words cannot describe how serene and lovely it is.

As we drove through the city streets after a long day on the road, Kristy opened the moon roof. "Look up, Anne," she said, and there was the Sears Tower (or the Willis Tower for those who care to be correct) stretching high into the sky directly above us. It was incredible, and a fitting end to my stay there. I flew out the next morning. It was difficult to leave after such a short time, but it was a perfect visit, and another day might have spoiled that.

I am already dreaming of my next trip to Chicago. Perhaps a stroll down the Magnificent Mile or a Cubs game at Wrigley Field or maybe something entirely new. One never knows in the big city.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

making lemonade, metaphorically speaking

May has let me down this year. Perennially my favorite month, May usually abounds with bright, sunny days when the temperature hovers around 70 to 75° , which even my outdoor thermometer recognizes as "ideal". Not so this year. Cold, rainy day is followed by cold, windy, rainy day, and it's a good thing I kicked the sunbathing habit or I would be really pissed.

As we know, however, this blog features things that are nice, not naughty, so in that spirit, I offer a soup recipe for a rainy day. This is not just any soup recipe. It is for the best damn potato soup I have ever tasted, and I think you might agree with me if you try it. It all started a couple of months ago after one of my blog posts mentioned how I longed for a good potato soup recipe. Bryan (who turns 30 today - happy birthday, Bryan!) sent me his mom's recipe, which I promptly tried. And, I tell you, it was darn good. But I knew I could make it better - if less healthy - and this is the recipe I came up with.

8 slices of bacon, cut into small pieces
medium onion, diced
2-3 celery stalks, diced
3-4 cups cabbage, coarsely chopped (Ben thought 4 cups of cabbage was too much, but that begs the question, can there be too much cabbage?)
2-lb. bag Ore-Ida frozen cubed hash browns
6 cups homemade chicken stock
2 Tbsps butter or margarine
2 Tbsps Wondra flour
2 cups milk
freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup shredded cheese (Whatever you like, really. I use a 4-cheese, reduced fat, Mexican blend.)

Fry the bacon until done in a large frying pan. Remove bacon pieces and drain. Sauté onions, celery and cabbage in bacon grease until cabbage is well-cooked.

In a large saucepan, cook potato cubes in chicken stock until potatoes are tender. Add about a teaspoon of salt. You may want to mash some of the potatoes at this point for a thicker soup.

Melt the butter or margarine in with the sautéed vegetables, whisk in flour to make roux. Remove from heat and whisk in 1 cup of the milk. Return to medium heat and bring to a gentle boil.

Slowly stir the vegetable and white sauce mixture into the potatoes. Add the second cup of milk. Let soup simmer, stirring frequently until thickened. When ready to serve, add bacon pieces and shredded cheese. Heat through until cheese melts. Season with freshly-ground pepper, and check to see if soup needs more salt. Serve in big bowls, because it's really good.

Bon appetit!

Monday, May 17, 2010

sendin' out an S.O.S.

When I leave work on Thursday, instead of taking the back route home through sleepy little Uniontown and bustling Hartville, I will get on the highway and head north to Cleveland Hopkins Airport. I am flying to Chicago on Thursday afternoon, and as excited as I am at the prospect of seeing Tom and Kristy (and Chicago!) again, I am almost that nervous about getting there.

I guess I have travel anxiety. I don't really know what else to call it. Any time I am planning a trip anywhere, really, by any means of transportation, I get very nervous and anxious about it. Over the years, I have tried to break down my feelings and understand them so that I can just get over them already. I used to think I was afraid of flying, but that's not it. Once I'm finally settled in my teeny little seat, I feel fine. Until we land, that is, and I have to worry about how to make my connection or meet up with whoever is waiting for me at the other end.

I don't suffer as much anxiety when I am driving somewhere, and, in fact, was fine almost all the way to Julie's house. I was a little nervous about getting lost once I left the highway, but since I just drove there last year, I didn't have any problems with that. Travelling with someone else helps, as well, but when Ben and I travel together, I worry about the dogs all the time. I have decided that my anxiety, then, stems mainly from two causes: getting out of my little rut and doing things I don't usually do and therefore don't know how to do, and relinquishing control of - everything.

If you have any helpful hints on how to finally defeat all this and enjoy travelling, for god's sake, please send them to me post haste. I thank you.

Friday, May 14, 2010

local yarn report (like the local farm report, except...different)

It may sound like a busman's holiday since I work in a yarn shop, but Julie and I visited a different yarn store every day that I was with her. It was great. If you don't go to a big box store, independent yarn shops are as different from one another as they can possibly be. Think of the independent book stores, for example, that you have been in and you will start to understand what I mean.

On Thursday, we went to A Tangled Skein in Hyattsville, just south of College Park. It was the biggest shop we visited, and the one where we spent the most time. I loved the selection of yarns there, but the lighting was not good, especially towards the back of the store. I bought a skein of beautiful, hand-dyed sock yarn there. It is a 50/50 blend of merino and tencel, and the tencel shimmers in the light.

Our Friday trip took us to Fells Point in Baltimore to visit A Good Yarn. I'm afraid that shop got two thumbs down from us. It wasn't just that the space was incredibly small, it was more the fact that there was almost no yarn on the shelves. Nothing was priced - which I know is not uncommon - and the gentleman behind the counter made both of us uncomfortable as he commented on every skein of yarn we touched. The much larger room in the back of the shop seemed to be used exclusively for classes, and I would have liked to have seen more inventory available there. This shop was a disappointment and will not merit a return trip.

Saturday found us in Baltimore again to attend Squidfire's Spring Art Mart in Fells Point. Then we headed to Hampden for lunch at Golden West Cafe, and to check out Lovelyarns, housed in the first floor of one of Baltimore's ubiquitous row houses. It was a delightful little shop, and I bought some sock yarn for Julie and some brightly-colored, hand-dyed yarn for myself. I had been advised to check out the restroom there, which I did. I found it very charming, but have to admit I didn't like it as well as our restroom at Miss Chickpea's. Shelly did have an eye for design - I will always give her that.

We decided to spend Sunday (Mother's Day) the same place we did last year - in St. Michael's, a small resort town on the Chesapeake Bay. One of our stops was at Frivolous Fibers, a yarn shop that also sells pottery and ceramics. That's a concept I can get behind. I was a little surprised to find a knitting group there on Mother's Day, and was glad when the knitter who wouldn't shut up (there's always one!) finally left. Julie and I browsed at our leisure after that. I resisted the temptation to buy several skeins of a beautiful worsted weight yarn, and have decided I can, indeed, live without it.

Although there was certainly some overlap in the brands and types of yarns we saw on our yarn crawl, the variety was amazing. Savvy shop owners know what keeps their steady customers coming back, as well as what tempts newbies to come in and look around. That's a win-win situation as far as I'm concerned.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

feed your head

So, I was on vacation last week in Maryland, and I am heading to Chicago next week for a long weekend. Although I kind of hate that my kids live so far away, I am glad that they don't live in, I don't know, Houston and Tallahassee, for example.

Julie lives just north of Baltimore, and she and Andrew explore the city every weekend. Every time I am there, they have new areas and neighborhoods for me to visit. We also drove to College Park and took the Metro down to D.C. We spent an entire day in the museums along the National Mall. It really is a national treasure to have so much free and available to us. I can't describe how invigorating it is to wander from gallery to gallery, drinking in the works of so much genius and creativity.

That is, of course, what one expects to find in museums of this caliber. The real surprise came the following day when Julie and I visited the American Visionary Art Museum. ( I saw the building on my last trip to Baltimore, and thought it looked intriguing. Julie and Andrew had never been there, so we made it part of our itinerary for this year. We had no idea what to expect when we got there, and honestly, words fail me when I try to describe what we saw. The works on exhibit are those of untrained and unknown artists. Many of them spent time in and out of mental hospitals. They could not hold down steady jobs. Most of these people did not think of themselves as artists. They were simply compelled to create what they did. It is an absolutely fascinating glimpse into the workings of the human mind.

The one idea I took away from AVAM, as it is called, is the absolute knowledge that humans must express themselves. And, by and large, we will use whatever materials we find at hand to help make sense of the world as we see it. I don't know where to begin to describe it all. There were things like the huge model of the Lusitania made from toothpicks, of course, but much more interesting were the more non-traditional works. The hundreds of hand-lettered signs made over a period of years that express one man's frustration and isolation. The notebooks full of collages made of pictures cut from magazines and catalogs, interspersed with hand-drawn images and captions that form a shut-in woman's entire world. The entire elaborate country created by a lonely boy where the man he grew into preferred to spend his life. I could go on and on. Check out their website to learn more.

I love to eat Maryland crab cakes by the Chesapeake Bay, as we did the night I arrived, but I am equally thrilled to fill my brain with new concepts and ideas. Now that's a trip.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

musings on a May morning ~ or ~ what if you knew her and found her dead on the ground?

As Rufus and I took our walk on this lovely morning in early May, I began to wonder how different our quiet, tree-lined neighborhood in this small Midwestern college town looked 40 years ago. I decided probably not all that different. Oh, I'm sure the houses were painted different colors, and the cars parked on the streets were gas guzzlers instead of sleek SUVs. The trees had not grown as tall as they are today, I suppose, and different shrubs probably bloomed just as brilliantly in the lawns. All in all, though, this little neighborhood in Kent, Ohio hasn't really changed much.

Neither, it seems, has the attitude of some people towards the Kent State students who were killed or wounded 40 years ago today on their own college campus. I only had to look as far as this morning's Cleveland Plain Dealer to be reminded of that. Let me share some comments with you.

"The students didn't ever take enough of the blame. Instead of being in class learning like they were suposed to be doing they were outside throwing rocks at people with guns. Should have learned way before college to not antagonize people with guns. Doesn't seem like they were college material."

"Geeze, these hippies won't give it up already. Let's just appease them and turn the entire campus into a memorial. Then let's make every day May 4th. They make it hard to feel bad for them."

"Townspeople huddled in their basements with their young children in the nights preceding May 4th."

And my personal favorite:

"The students who were protesting are a bunch of current left-wing nuts who probably voted for the racist president we now are stuck with."

I guess I thought that all these ignorant, hate-filled people would have died off by now, but I see that is not the case. Eh, to quote some more song lyrics, only the good die young.