Saturday, June 29, 2013

Blown Away

It’s staggering, and almost amusing to me now. I said almost. However, I’m still sore about the subject, and I don’t want to talk about it. Yet, I know that if I keep silent about it, the neighbors sure won’t. I think we should move, but even Joanie giggles whenever the weatherman so much as mentions the word, “storm.” I thought I had raised her better. Three days is enough to forget one little incident, but nobody will let it go. The Lowenstein’s are having a dinner party this evening, and I just know that somebody will bring it up. I'm the only person in the apartment building that doesn't take life for granted.

I’ll admit that a pinch of it did give me a chuckle, but only once because the situation had been gravely serious. I don’t like to joke about it, but there I was on the brink of death and I stopped at my mailbox to see if I had any mail! I guess I somehow thought of Gary Holloway at Dominion Electric, thinking about how I had tragically died in the midst of paying my electricity bill. There I’d be, licking the stamp, and a tornado blows me away along with the stamp, and even the payment itself. I wondered whether he’d feel guiltier about the fact that I had been blown away or the payment. This is the damndest thing I could've been thinking about, but you try nearly dying sometime and see what you find yourself contemplating.

I had heard the initial peal of thunder when I was carrying in the groceries. The sky looked very suspicious and bordering on a greenish color, which we all know is a sure sign that a cyclone is coming. During the ride home, I had also heard a snippet on the radio about a tornado. Naturally, I was upset. I had just purchased two weeks worth of food, and now it was going to be blown away! Not only that, but I would probably die too. I felt sick. This was when I checked the mailbox. In the heat of the moment when I had encountered my own mortality, I had forgotten that the electricity bill wasn't due for another two weeks.

I didn’t bother to shut the front door after I ran into the apartment building. In my hurry, I had to leave the groceries in the Taurus. What would it matter? The food and the car were going to be blown away anyways, and I needed every precious second to get my affairs in order. It made me mad to think that the tornado was going to be the one to enjoy the frozen cheesecake I had purchased, and not I.

There was no time to get a lawyer to help me with a will. That was entirely too obvious. He would be blown away and never get here, or he would get here and we’d be blown away together. I didn't want to spend my last few moments with a sleazy lawyer. I managed to come up with a makeshift will in my head that I would email to my cousin, Bernice. She’s only a hairdresser, but I’d trust her with this information more than I would a lawyer. Besides, I intended to give her the pearl earrings that Aunt Carol left for me that she’s been coveting them ever since I got them. That way, I knew she’d make sure my wishes were followed. I knew that the computer had to be disconnected immediately during a storm, but what was the point? It was going to be blown away too, which was a shame because I had just purchased it for Joanie’s amusement. You know kids these days. If it has buttons and a colorful screen, they have to have it. It took me all of two minutes to type the email and send it. That was taken care of.

Another small boom of thunder reminded me that time was of the essence. I knew that I should call my husband, Mark, to say our final goodbyes. Despite the fact that our lives were ending, the bastard hadn’t bothered to come home and hold me so we could be blown away together. I thought about dialing the office to yell at him, but I know that
it's dangerous to talk on the phone when the weather is like this. I also thought with dread that perhaps my soulmate had attempted to come home, but perhaps a premature twister had already blown him away. I clutched the locket he had given me last week for our anniversary, and tried not to get too emotional. There was still so much left to do...

All of the excitement made me have to go to the bathroom, but I immediately decided against it. I just knew that as soon as I sat down, a stray bolt of lightning would zap the toilet, which I’m certain is chock full of metallic mechanisms that probably used to be part of a lightning rod, like the one on top of City Hall. Now, if I was going to die, I didn't want it to happen while I was relieving myself. It was different for Elvis. It’s perfectly okay if you’re the King. I wondered if I would meet Elvis in the afterlife. I knew that I should’ve been wondering if I would run into my Great Aunt Tootie or my old border collie, Rufus the Fourth (and Third and Second and so forth), but since I was already thinking about Elvis...

Then I got embarrassed. My little girl, Joanie, isn’t an Elvis fan. Never has been, never will be. Even when I took her for rides in the Taurus when she was an infant, Joanie would bawl every time she heard “You ain’t nothin’ but a hound dog, cryin’ all the time,” which is very ironic and a cute anecdote for parties. But this was no time to think about ironies, parties, or crying hound dogs.

Joanie would certainly embarrass me if we saw Elvis in the afterlife. She’d make that face she makes when she's especially disgusted with something. It isn’t the adorable puss where a child will stick out her tongue and blow a raspberry. Oh no. Joanie has this way of sneering. Bless my baby’s heart, but she can make the ugliest faces when she wants to. I do not exaggerate when I say that her sneer shoots upwards and doesn’t quit until it reaches the Pearly Gates. Sometimes I worry that she will poke her eye out with that sneer. I certainly don’t enjoy looking at her when she’s like that, and I just knew that Elvis wouldn’t approve of it either. I made a mental note to remind her before we died not to do that if we met the King.

Not only did she need to be on her best behavior for Elvis, but also I was positive that we’d meet other important, historical figures that she wouldn’t approve of. Sometimes children don’t know when to act mature, which breaks my heart. I decided to jot down a key list of people and possible greetings as well as clever one-liners. What if there are banquets in heaven? I would've been so ashamed if I couldn’t snag an invitation! I had just written down the twelfth person on my list when I heard Joanie's school bus pulling away and my drenched baby walking through the front door...

Believe me when I say I nearly burst into tears when I saw my Angel standing there dripping wet and grinning. It's such a tragedy when life is yanked away from the innocent. I couldn’t think of what to say to my precious darling to give her comfort at a time like this. So I kept a cool head as best as I could without allowing so much as a quiver in my voice.

“Sweetie, you’re soaked!” It was all I could bear to say.

“Hiya Ma! Yeah, I was just jumping in these really, really huge puddles in the front courtyard!” Joanie grinned wider, pleased with herself. I nearly lost it, and tried to think of what else to say when another crack of thunder, which was particularly menacing, broke my concentration. I dropped to my knees and clutched Joanie’s shoulders, having lost my cool.

“Joanie, say your prayers! This is the end! It's official! I’m sorry I never got you that pony, but I did get the roller-skates you wanted. I just thought you should know that. I did get the roller-skates. I tried, didn’t I? You love your mom, even when all she can do is try for you, right? I cant believe my baby will never turn nine! You were just shy of a day too! When we meet Elvis, don’t shame me! Be polite, smile, and don’t say a word! Oh, I wish your daddy was here right now! We’ll never get to take you to Disneyworld! I'm so, so sorry Joanie baby! The tickets are in the upstairs bureau, but what good will they be now?”

I hadn't noticed that Joanie wasn’t as upset as I was. I was swaying back and forth with her in my arms, and she was positively limp. I assumed she was in shock and couldn’t react just yet, so my rant continued for a few more minutes. A polite knock on the door interrupted me, and I was flabbergasted. Who would knock that socially when the end was near? I was still crying when I opened the door and spied my next-door neighbor Helen, who had been vacuuming a few minutes earlier. The nerve of that woman. I needed to listen for sirens going off, and she was vacuuming?! I was having a private, final moment with my only child, and then she has the gall to knock as if it was the perfect time for a chat! I was infuriated to say the least.

“Meryl! I’m so glad you’re home! My little Nancy was wondering if Joanie would like to come over and watch a bit of television before dinnertime. I thought while the girls were doing that, we could discuss next week’s fundraiser at the church over a nice, hot cup of Chamomile tea. Sound good to you, M?” She was so calm and collected. I envied her for that, but I told her to cut the act.

“Meryl, what in heaven's name is wrong? You look like you've seen a ghost!”

I thought it was apparent, but I squealed, “Don't you listen to the radio? A tornado is coming!”

Joanie missed this portion of the conversation; she ran next door to tell Nancy she’d be right there after she grabbed her favorite doll. Of course, she came back at the moment of my embarrassment. Helen said without missing a beat, “Meryl honey, the tornado watch is all the way in Fairfax County and it ended ten minutes ago. If you’ll look outside, you’ll see that the sun has come back out already. I think you need that tea now.” Like I said, I don't want to talk about it. The worst part about it is Bernice came by today to snatch the earrings I promised her, and Joanie won’t shut up about how excited she is about going to Disneyworld...

By Comica
Summer Re-run Series
First posted July 26, 2007


By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Family Values

Two Harbors, Minnesota

After three hours on the road (and six hours since breakfast) the need for sustenance became apparent. "The Vanilla Bean Cafe and Bakery"- how inviting! We pulled into the side parking lot and left the car to go inside. On the way to the front door we passed by a row of Harley-Davidson motorcycles- big ones. Oh my...could be trouble...a vision of Marlon Brando in "The Wild One" emerges in my fevered imagination...oh well, you can only die in a gang-fight once, right? We entered.

Inside, there were only frazzled tourists, like ourselves. No signs of the hooligans- perhaps they were at the bakery next door. The server bade us enter a side room, wherein she proceeded to sit us right next to the bikers! With leather jackets, chaps and proper motorcycle boots, long hair falling down over their collars and...

... and it was carefully braided, on four young women and a girl, all absolutely beautiful in a fresh-air, wind-blown, healthy, no make-up way. Their parents sat in the corner, also in leathers, keeping an affectionate eye on the girls. When their food came, one of the Mothers led both tables in a silent grace. They ate their meal in a pleasant, congenial way, with no bickering or sibling jealousy. We ordered, and while we waited spent time admiring the “Coffee Art” which adorned the walls. A Finnish couple had perfected a way to make oil paintings with coffee as a pigment (think shades of brown) and, according to the guide, had exhibited in Finland, Iceland, California and Minnesota.

As we sat enthralled by all this beauty (the girls, not the pictures) the biker group began to migrate, from table to table, to the bakery next door and the bathroom. They then came back, one at a time, and proceeded to crowd into the corner until all nine were sitting at a table meant for four. One of the Biker Dads told a story, quietly, and then they arose, en masse, and departed.

Later, I mentioned to the Weaver that “They were like the Amish, except they had Harleys.”

First posted July 14th, 2006
Summer re-run series

By Professor Batty

Comments: 2 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Lines of water, water lines

Dip my feet into the stream of consciousness to alter current and obstruct flow, feet like mermaid angels eyes bear glistening dilated pupils. Water is funny and water is live and let live like laremy and poetry.

Few lines will ever be as clear as the water line, knowing when you’re above or below, the line as seamless as its own transition.

A young boy sits in the bathtub of white porcelain with the shower running and the drain clogged, slowly creating and tending to the water line. He will raise it like a child without name, tending to it and fostering growth so that one day he will look back upon his life and realize that he never noticed the moment when the water passed his neck and mouth and eyes. I’ve been drowning all these years, he whispered, as the water rushed into his lungs.

He then died and sank like a ship, and the water was all around him.


First Posted July 26, 2005
Summer re-run series

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Sunday, June 23, 2013

White Shoulders

An old lady perfume? Very distinctive, almost cloying, don’t wear this when committing a crime, they’ll know it was you.

The power of fragrance is primal, it can be almost overwhelming in its ability to elicit memories and emotion. A former lover wore it, almost as if to say, “Sniff this and always remember me.” It worked. Years later, a co-worker would wear it on occasion. She learned of my experience with it and after she left that job she would occasionally send me an envelope, with only a scented tissue in it.

It seems that most modern scents are more complex, with different notes coming to the fore and then receding. Some, especially deodorants, are just plain bizarre. The internet hasn’t yet embraced “odorama”, there have been a few crude "scent players" marketed but they are more in the line of room fresheners (another strange realm). I could appreciate a few subtle nature aromas if I was reading about exotic places but most of the modern world is either neutral or offensive in its olfactory presentation. Nevertheless, I will always have “White Shoulders” to take me away, sometimes most unexpectedly, to a special place in my memory. What is your nose’s most cherished association?

First posted November 2004
Summer re-run series

By Professor Batty

Comments: 3 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

summer like a drug

blood in pink flesh
matches air temp
cycling from mundane existence
cycling with forehead glistening
melting into the air
summer like a drug

girl in pink bikini
wanders grasses
walking from riverside tryst
walking with pubescent lover
melting into the air
summer like a drug

dog in grey coat
dances prairie
running from master's commands
running with unfettered abandon
melting into the air
summer like a drug

cat in green bower
slumbers fitful
sleeping from night prowl
dreaming of kitten frolics
melting into the air
summer like a drug

Originally published Thursday, July 14, 2005

Summer re-run series

By Professor Batty

Comments: 1 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Love, Revisited

Four years ago, June was just as green and exuberantly luscious as it is nowadays. The deer were lying in wait for the apples that were awaiting just the right moment to sprout. I had already sprouted myself, in terms of height, and I still remain a giant at 5'3. The breeze hinted at potential visitors, and that day when I looked out of my window, a white Honda Civic pulled into the bare driveway. My mother was away at work, and instinctively knew the car had come, but did nothing in protest.

Requited love stepped out of the car, and wore a high school junior's smile, laced with braces. Unsure of my first move, I took the lad's hand and led him over the tall, uncut grass into the wilderness that is the backyard. Two Guardians, a.k.a. the apple trees, stood guard. They, being much older than us and wiser, were reluctant to allow two youngsters walk past, but they knew it had to happen.

I stammered on and on about subjects that are faint to me now, and displayed my gift to him: the Grove. A clearing hidden from the world. The nosy sun managed to sneak in a few sunbeams, but we were alone there, but together. I explained how much I loved the place and finally finding my icebreaker, I showed him my herb tree, the circle of stones for small fires, and the stone seats that were nestled neatly around the "fireplace".

Silently, my bonny lad investigated, being a child of Nature, and left no nook unexamined. He grinned and his braces twinkled at me again.

He fell in love with the Grove and I fell in love with him. We embraced and stood in the middle of the greenery for what seemed like hours. The trees whispered, and the rocks stared.

Then, at that moment, he kissed me, and all the insecurities and fears that came with puberty vanished. I was complete.

by Comica

Originally posted Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Summer rerun series

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Interview with Joni Mitchell

Joni talks, recites poetry, smokes a lot of cigarettes.

An extended interview from the CBC, well worth the investment of one hour forty-five minutes of your time. Joni goes into depth about her art and life, with sensitive interviewer Jian Ghomeshi keeping her on track. Very little fluff, Joni pulls no punches, but is not antagonistic. Anyone interested in the creative process could learn a thing or three from her.

Joni even does a little of her great Bob Dylan impression as well.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 3 

Friday, June 14, 2013

Searching for Miss Bruno

This card found in a flea market with the ticket below, postmarked 1946, was addressed to "Miss Frances Bruno" of Saint Paul Minnesota. The correspondence mentions that "this place is really romantic. Been raining a lot though- darn. Houston TX next." A search for Frances came up empty; maiden names from the 40s don't usually survive the conversion to digital data:

The Court of Two Sisters still exists, catering to the tourist trade.  This next piece of ephemera has a little more information, with a little more searching I found enough to start a narrative:

The back has the name of Bruno, Frances written in pencil at the top, with "HOLIDAY ON ICE SHOWS, INC." stamped below it. A little research shows that this troupe began traveling across the country a few years earlier; these trips were made practical after the development of a successful portable ice rink.  There are programs from 1947 available online, although the contents are not. Searching a little further (on Bing no less!) I did find a mention of Frances on a HOI reunion board—she was in the chorus! These mementos had been removed from her scrap-book and sold for 50 cents.  That's a little sad, I'm sure there was more information about her, although the audience for her story might be very limited. It is known that in 1947 the HOI went on a tour that made it to Mexico City for a stunning nineteen day sold-out run (total attendance of over 350,000!) and also performed in a bullfight arena in Guadalahara.

As to The Southerner, numerous sources chronicle this train:

I take it that car S-4 is the same as SOU 804 Georgia Coach listed above. The locomotive itself is a classic streamliner which ran for many years:

All this must have been heady stuff for a youngster from Minnesota in 1947!

UPDATE: More on Frances Bruno

By Professor Batty

Comments: 3 

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Iceland for Night-Owls

Tonight's post is enhanced by a little night music via Amiina:

Start video, wait until 0:28, then scroll down very slowly (about 35 seconds per image):






By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Iceland for Neurotics

Names for the Sea
Strangers in Iceland

A memoir by
Sarah Moss
Counterpoint, Berkley, 2013

Sarah Moss is a writer and academic from the UK. She spent parts of 2009 and 2010 teaching in Reykjavík, moving there with her husband and two young sons. I got my copy from my blog-pal, DJ Cousin Mary (Thanks Mary!). I was keen on reading it for I had been there in October of 2009. This book is full of information, although I found it presented in a somewhat skewed fashion. There are some very good interviews with interesting Icelanders (these Icelanders were, as usual, very good story-tellers) and there is a lot of detail about some of the places she visited which I found fascinating although those less interested might just see lists.

Actually finishing the book became an ordeal. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it at first, but after a few chapters I figured it out. It was something I’d seen before in Icelandic travel books written by UK writers: a distortion of reality filtered through  “English Myopia”: a sense of superiority coupled with thinly veiled condescension. There was scarcely a page without some form of put-down of Iceland or disparaging cracks about Iceland vis-á-vis the UK. I will grant that the author had walked into a very difficult situation. With Iceland still reeling from a financial meltdown while also experiencing volcanic eruptions (to say nothing of the usual problems of dealing with small children) it is understandable that she would not always be painting a pretty picture. Those circumstances would tax anyone’s patience. But I found that the real turn off was her constant whining (whinging?) about her distastes and fears of virtually anything the slightest bit out of line with her preconceptions. After the twentieth iteration of how bad Iceland traffic is I was quite ready to throw the book in the trash. I’d give you some more examples, but the stern (neurotic?) warning on the publishers page against any such violation of her “moral right” and the threat of subsequent “criminal prosecution and civil claims for damages” prohibits my use of any quotations from the book.  If you do happen across a copy, however, just open it anywhere and read a paragraph or two.

You’ll see what I mean.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 4 

Saturday, June 08, 2013

What Changed

Betty, Mora, Minnesota, 1980

The cat died.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 2 

Friday, June 07, 2013

Paradise Lost

Mora, Minnesota, 1980

Something changed.

It happened sometime during the second show.

It was a dumb movie, anyways.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 2 

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Gone Fishin'

Mora, Minnesota, 1980

Let’s have another cup of coffee.

Let’s have another piece of pie.

But the change is almost upon us.

You won’t escape it here.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 2 

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Live Through This

Minneapolis, 1980

You won’t find the answer in a book.

The change is always an unanswered question.

Keep searching, brother.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Wasted Days and Wasted Nights

The 400 Bar, Minneapolis, 1980

Looking for something I thought I had.

The piano man only plays the blues.

Even when the songs aren’t.

Can’t hide from the change here, son.

Not unless you don’t want to ever come back.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Monday, June 03, 2013

Oh So Soul

Bootlegger Sam's, Minneapolis, 1980

The year everything changed.

Another piece added to the puzzle.

This piece didn’t fit either.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 7 

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Phone Call

Everything was changing.

Decisions were made.

Before, they were postponed.

A great realignment.

We were scarcely aware of it.

Growing up the hard way.

How on earth did that happen?

A phone call.

A change in the planetary motions.

Nothing would never be the same again.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

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