Friday, August 29, 2014

Soft Serve

This is chapter 15 of The Matriarchy, a serial fiction novel on FITK

Sean's Aunt Tina began gathering the dishes from their supper.

“I’m afraid I don’t have anything for dessert. I’ve lost my touch for baking. Why don’t we go into town and get some ice cream?” she said.

“The Whippy Dip!” said Sean, “Is it still there?

“There still is a bit of the boy left in you, Sean,” said Tina.

“It’s my secret vice, too,” Mary said, “I lived on ice cream when I was a teenager. Let me help you with the dishes, Tina. Sean, would you please unload the car?”

“You two can have the back bedroom upstairs,” said Tina as she ran water for the dishes, “That’s the only one with a bed that has a decent mattress. There is clean linen in the dresser.”

“Mother’s room,” said Sean.

“And your grandmother’s before that,” Tina continued, “A fitting room for a mother-to-be. You aren’t troubled by ghosts, are you, Mary?”

“I ain’t afraid of no ghosts,” Mary said with a laugh, “I’m sure it will be fine. Nothing could be as bad as the first place I lived in when I left home.”

After Sean went out, Tina and Mary began to wash the dishes.

“Mary, tell me, is Sean treating you right? I know that he was a bit wild when he was younger. He never could settle down,” Tina said, she was serious now.

“He’s a good man,” Mary replied, “I don’t think that he’s capable of lying to me. We’ve been through a lot together. He seems to be a man of his word. Of course, I’ve been wrong about men before.”

“Of course, haven’t we all. And what about work? Will Sean be able to support you and the baby?”

“We’ll be fine Tina. I have just sold my business, and Sean and I both did very well on the deal. Some of the assets are tied up for a while, but we did get a buyout package that should keep us afloat for several years. It does complicate the marriage situation, but it’s nothing that can’t be dealt with. That’s why we have lawyers”

“I didn’t mean to put you on the spot, Mary,” said Tina, “But Sean can be a little slow when it comes to making important decisions. I think he’d be content to glide through life without making any—if he didn’t have to. He was always different that way, even as a child. He was such a sweet boy, he had a softness, that’s what his mother called it—a softness.”

“He still is a sweet boy, although I think that business with Billy in Iceland has hardened him a lot. I have to give him credit in that he seems to have gotten over it,” Mary said, “That was a very bad scene which still hasn’t been fully resolved. Assuming the pregnancy goes well, it’s the only major problem that I can see in our immediate future.”

“I see,” said Tina, “Do your parents know?”

“I was adopted,” said Mary, “I haven’t spoken to my stepfather for many years,” Mary said, “My stepmother lives in New Mexico. We aren’t close.”

“That’s not good. Sometimes families are like that. Lord knows my ‘family’ has experienced its share of trouble. I don’t think I’ve ever really gotten over my mother leaving me,” Tina took off her glasses and dabbed her eyes with a corner of the dishcloth, “This is no time for such talk. I’m sure that you and Sean will find your way.”

“Did you ever have any boyfriends?” asked Mary.

“Oh, no, heavens no. I was too shy to speak with a man, much less get involved with one. The reticence of Norwegian Bachelor Farmers didn’t help any. When I was in my twenties I was busy raising Marilyn, Sean’s mother. I never got ‘that spark’, as Emily described it.”

Mary thought she heard a hint of regret, or was it something else?

“Sean called her ‘The Artist’,” Mary said, “He said there might be some paintings of hers here.”

“She did do painting in New York. I think she did modeling, too, and dancing. When she first went out east, in the roaring twenties. Personally, I think she had a Sugar Daddy, there is no way she could have made so much money on her own, but that’s just my opinion,” Tina paused to reload the sink, “She did save the farm, though. Henry and Alice would never speak ill of her. There is a painting of hers in your bedroom. If there are any more they would be in her studio. You and Sean can check it out tomorrow. You might have to break down the door, though, the lock is frozen. No one has been in it for years.”

Sean came back in the kitchen holding a paper bag. “I’ve got the trash from the car, where should I put it?”

“Give me that, it’s all burnable isn’t it?” said Tina.

“You still burn the trash?” said Sean, “I used to love watch Henry load up the burning barrel. By the way, it’s starting to cloud up in the west, it looks as if we might have a storm later tonight. If we want to get our ice cream we’d better get going.”

“We’re done here,” said Tina, wiping her hands, “We should beat the rain if we leave now.”

Mary was quiet in the car on the way into Decorah. Tina and Sean talked about some of the families who had lived in the area for years. When they got to the Whippy Dip, Tina asked Sean to get her a small cherry dip cone, saying that she’d rather stay in the car.

“This place is the real deal, isn’t it? Mid-50s Modern. Do you think they've ever remodeled it?” Mary said, looking at the building’s exterior.

“They might have redone some of it, but it looks the same to me,” Sean spoke to the server: “A small cherry dip and a small chocolate please, Mary?”

“I’ll have a large vanilla,” said Mary, “I can’t help it, Sean, I think I could eat two.”

“You can get what you want,” said Sean, smiling.

“I always do,” said Mary.

As the server returned with their cones a flash of lightning illuminated the clouds in the northwest.

“Com’on you two! I don’t want to get wet!” said Tina, shouting from the car.


By Professor Batty

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Back to School Fashions, 1971

Miniskirts were popular and the decoupage lunch box adds a funky, but fun, touch.  No “funky butt fun” pun intended.

More butts and glittery belts on the gals with a wild striped trou for the guys.

Long hair and denim rules!

Note: I found these Kodachromes of street scenes of Seattle's University District street fair in an antique store, the photographer is unknown.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Monday, August 25, 2014


I’ve got spotted dick, a state of physical matter which defies any medical diagnosis.

I got it from my sister, lord knows where she picked it up (that would be too much information!) It’s soft and spongy, riddled with brown spots, definitely not what I want in my dick. I suppose that if there was some cream on it it might be bearable. Fortunately, my amount of spotted dick is small. Imagine what it would be like if I had a full-blown case of spotted dick! Some people suggest boiling it, others say to put it in the microwave! OUCH!

As a fair warning to my readers, I've put up a picture of the offending item, the squeamish may click away to something more pleasant while the morbidly curious should scroll down:

By Professor Batty

Comments: 4 

Friday, August 22, 2014

Tina's Kitchen

This is chapter 14 of The Matriarchy, a serial fiction novel on FITK

“Come in, sit down. Mary, do you take milk in your tea?” said Tina, motioning to the round oak table in the center of the kitchen, “There’s sugar in the bowl.”

The table was surrounded by a mismatched collection of appliances, each from a different era. Utensils hung from nails in the wall in a pattern of apparent chaos. The cupboards lacked doors.

“None for me, thank you,” said Mary, “This table cloth is beautiful, did you do the embroidery?”

“Me? Oh no, this is my Aunt Alice’s handiwork. She was clever that way. She did it during the war.”

“Really! It looks so new.” said Mary.

“Well, it is new, in a way. It was in my hope chest. She made it for me, but I never married. I was saving it for a special occasion.”

Sean turned a deep red. Mary laughed.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen you blush, Sean,” Mary said, stirring sugar into her tea.

“Well, I… I…” stammered Sean.

“He’s never brought a girl home to meet his family! So it is a very special occasion, I’d say!” Tina said, “Unless you count Suzie Johnson.”

“Who’s that?” said Mary.

“Suzie lived in the next farm over,” said Sean, “We were playmates. Her mother would bring her over almost every day in the summer. We’d play, kids stuff, you know.”

“Once, when Suzie’s mother and I were having coffee, Sean came in and told us that he and Suzie were going to get married someday.” Tina said.

“You never told me you had been engaged!” Mary said, mock anger in her eyes.

“We were only four, besides, it never could have happened. She wanted a big wedding and I wanted to elope.”

“How about you two, what are your intentions?” asked Tina. “Or is this one of those ‘modern’ arrangements?”

There was a moment of silence as Sean and Mary looked at each other. 

“Oh, it is serious, then.” Tina continued, “I didn’t mean to pry. Well, actually, I did. You’re the only thing I have left to worry about, Sean, and now that I’ve got you here, I’d like to know exactly what’s going on.”

Mary looked at Sean, Sean looked at Mary. Mary nodded. Sean spoke:

“Aunt Tina, Mary is pregnant.”

“Oh. My. That’s… good news? Isn’t it?” said Tina, “When is the baby due?”

“It’s the best news, it really is,” said Mary, “I’m thinking it should be a New Years baby.”

“Not that marriage has ever been a priority in our family, but you are considering it, yes?”

“Well, it is a bit complicated,” said Sean, “There are some legal complications.”

“Nothing that a good prenuptial agreement couldn’t work out,” Mary said, smiling at Sean’s awkward reply.

Sean blushed again. “You two are ganging up on me!” he said.

“Really Sean, there's no point in extending your adolescence forever,” said Tina, “I know a judge at the courthouse, he can do marriages.”

“… ,” Sean sat open mouthed, at a complete loss for words.

The two women, who had only met a half hour ago, seemed to be of the same mind as they looked at Sean and waited for a response. Finally, he spoke:

“Mary, will you marry me?”

It was Mary’s turn to sit in silence.

“My goodness,” said Tina, “I didn’t mean that you had to decide today. Think about it and then tell me… tomorrow.”


By Professor Batty

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Minnesota State Fair Fine Arts 2014

It’s hard to believe that The Minnesota State Fair is almost upon us again. Of course that also means that the Fine Arts Exhibit had its preview night yesterday. A shower cleansed the sidewalks and despite a few gloomy patrons it did not dampen the previewers’ enthusiasm:

The usual mix of genres and quality was present, but this year seemed to have an abundance of paintings done in late 40s/early 50s styles.

Lief Peterson’s White Nude:

Patrica Bronstein’s mixed media work Mystery Entrance:

Jan Spencer De Gutierrez’s Encaustic study Series 12 Number 6:

There were even some large format film-based photographic prints, including Sue Tschida’s Joe Boxer:

The Kiwanis Malt Stand was open to refresh patrons including Nicole Houff—Barbie Doll Photographer Extraordinaire:

The walk back to the car always has various tableaux of workers preparing the stands for the twelve days of the fair:

Check out my other Minnesota State Fair Fine Arts reviews.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 7 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Trail Center

Nothing like a little chainsaw sculpture to make one feel at home in the wilderness.

The Weaver and I have been going to “our” place up North for many years now. We had thought about buying a lake place of our own and we were even offered the chance to buy my father-in-law’s old lake cabin but the idea of maintaining another house three hundred miles away wasn’t very appealing.  A few of neighbors are into this lifestyle and every weekend finds them fighting traffic for hours as they spend their days off mowing, painting and working on a house they live in less that a couple of months out of the year.  More power to them, but I’m way too lazy for that.

We’ve returned to The Little Ollie Lake Cabin again and again. We find it to be just the right mix of comfort (sauna, washing machine) and wilderness (a stone’s throw away from trails into the Boundary Waters) and, best of all, when our stay has ended we are free of obligations. The only things we have to carry home are our memories. This year we were treated to an evening of food and stories, thanks to blog-pal Jono. He stopped in at our cabin which he remembered having worked on years ago! He suggested we go to the Trail Center, a lodge/restaurant a few miles away. It is the quintessential North Woods establishment, with numerous artifacts adorning the ceilings and walls:

We were joined by “The Cooker"” and “Stitch”, Jono's partners in crime, as well as an animated server:

Everybody knew everybody, of course, both Jono and “The Cooker” had worked at the Trail Center in years past. We shared a delightful meal, with several “sides” of stories from the north land. Afterwards came the traditional “long goodbye” a hallowed Scandinavian tradition. Even the parking lot was picturesque:

Thanks again to Jono and his “crew” who gave us a wonderful time.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 2 

Friday, August 15, 2014


This is chapter 13 of The Matriarchy, a serial fiction novel on FITK

“Tell me about what it was like when you lived on the farm, Sean.”

Mary was driving, traversing the two-lane highway which ran between small towns in Northern Iowa: Rock Island, Spirit Lake, Estherville, on and on, each one containing a short Main Street lined with empty storefronts; old buildings leftover from a time when these small towns were vital and growing places. It was their fourth day on the road, heading toward Aunt Tina’s place, a few miles west of Decorah.

“She was nice to me, but could be stern at times. She was worried that I might get hurt when my mother was away. My grand uncle and aunt, Henry and Alice, were still alive then. They were old, Tina was younger of course, but already near fifty. Sometimes, if I was lucky, Henry would take me to town to get groceries. He had a circle of friends he would visit and he would show me off. I was always called ‘Marilyn’s boy.’ Every morning he would sit in his rocking chair and read the paper. I was not to bother him then. Usually, Tina would be doing something in the kitchen so I would sit there, at the table, and ‘do my homework.’ That’s what Tina called my drawing."

“What did you draw?” asked Mary

“Oh, the usual kid stuff: cats, dogs, houses, doodles, butts. I was real good with butts.”

“You still are,” Mary said with a smile, “What else did you do when you lived there?”

“By the time I was four I was allowed to explore the countryside. In the summer, I remember going to the creek. I spent a lot of time there. I would throw stones at sticks floating in the water. There were fish too, minnows and shiners, and mud turtles as well. Lots of ducks to quack at. In the fall, during hunting season, I had to stay inside. In the winter, I mostly played in the house. There were quite a few books. I couldn’t read yet, but I loved looking at the pictures. Sometimes Tina would explain what the pictures were about. My grandmother had left some books of modern art; when I asked Tina about them she just shook her head. She called them ‘crazy people’ pictures.”

“Your Grandmother? Who was she? How did she fit into the family?”

“Emily Carroll was the artist. My mother didn’t talk much about her. What I’ve gathered over the years, mostly from Tina, was that she had abandoned my mother soon after she was born. She just left. I have no idea who my mother’s father was.”

“She left? And that was it? What happened to her?” Mary was intrigued.

“She had done the same thing before, with Tina, seventeen years earlier. She went back to New York City both times. Alice and Henry accepted her behavior then, probably because she would send them money to help raise Tina. In 1933, when the farm was in danger of going under, she came back and paid off the mortgage. The next day she was gone again. She didn’t return again until 1944, at almost the end of the war, pregnant with my mother. Several months after my mother was born, she left again.  She sent them money once, then—nothing. They never heard from her again.”

“Did they look for her?”

“Well, they did what they could. Henry even went so far as to go out to New York City. He filed a missing person report with the police. Nothing came of it. All they had was a mailing address, and she had left that place weeks earlier.”

“Tina wrote that your grandmother had some things you might want to look at. What do you think those might be?”

“I don’t know. Art supplies maybe. I think there were some paintings. There was a room in the attic, a garret, which was always kept locked. Tina called it ‘Emily’s studio.’ I was not allowed in. I think they kept it locked in the hope that she might come back some day.”

“Sean, I hope you don’t think I’m being snoopy, but this is really very interesting to me.”

“No, it isn’t being nosy, not at all. I’m just as curious as you are.”

“I hope you don’t follow in Emily’s footsteps.”

“My mother left me too, although she did come back. I can see how you might have some concerns. Slow down, that’s the Madison Road turnoff coming up on your left.”

Mary slowed and entered the county road.

“Tina’s place is about five miles, on Happy Hollow Road.”

Mary drove on, past fields of corn and soybeans, until Sean saw the sign for Happy Hollow. She turned onto the gravel road. Two miles in was a mailbox with the neatly painted, but weathered, name ‘Carroll.’. Mary drove up the driveway.

“Are you ready?” asked Sean, “This is the place, the house is just ahead, behind those trees.”

“I’m ready, Sean.”

The driveway ended in front of an old farmhouse. The house looked as if it had once been very nice, but it was sorely needed repainting, as did the outbuildings. Weeds had taken over the flower beds, although the grass had been recently cut.

“Tina?” shouted Sean. “Tina, we’re here!”

The screen door opened and a petite, elderly woman stepped out.

“At last! I was beginning to wonder if you’d ever make it,” said Tina. Her high pitched voice had a touch of a rasp in it but was strong and unwavering, “Come here you two, I don’t trust myself on these steps anymore.”

Sean and Mary walked up to the porch and Sean gently kissed Tina on the cheek.

“Tina, this is Mary.”

“Oh! I’m so glad you came.” Tina reached out and her hand touched Mary’s arm. “I was beginning to despair of Sean ever settling down, I can’t wait forever, you know.”

“Sean had told me so much about you, Ms. Carroll. We’ve got a lot of catching up to do,” Mary gently put her arms around Sean’s aunt, “I’m so glad to finally meet you.”

“Call me Tina. You kids come in, I just put the water on for some tea, you do drink tea, don’t you dear?” said Tina.

“I’d love some, Tina.”

“Welcome home, children… ” said Tina, “… Willkommen.”


By Professor Batty

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Hallgrímur's Magnificent 7%

The most memorable cultural event which I had during my 2004 trip to Iceland was experiencing a National Theatre production of a play adapted from Hallgrímur Helgason’s 1994 novel Þetta er allt að koma (Things Are Going Great).

My mind was, to use an overworked cliché, blown.

After the play I had realized that there was a lot more to Icelandic culture that I had imagined—where had these collective hallucinations sprung from?

Ten years on and I am still learning.

While it has been hard for me to explain to my friends my obsession,  Hallgrímur expresses an eloquent case for The Arts in his essay The Magnificent 7%  published in the Reykjavík Grapevine. It is a great, great summation of why Icelandic art and culture has become so important in the last thirty years. My impressions are, of course, shaped by a limited experience. But Hallgrímur’s Grapevine piece really gives an excellent overview to a vibrant scene, and why The Arts so are important, not just to the people in Iceland, but to everyone, everywhere.

Image: DV

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Monday, August 11, 2014

Summertime Sojourns

Poplar Creek, 2009

   The Weaver and I are leaving today to traverse the arrowhead region of Minnesota and the Gunflint Trail by car, canoe and foot. With the chance of a little day trip to Iowa next week, our summer vacation has officially begun.  Fear not, there will be a new installment of The Matriarchy on Friday.


By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Friday, August 08, 2014

Mary’s Dream

This is Chapter 12 of The Matriarchy, a serial fiction novel on FITK

Mary woke with a start. Sean was sleeping deeply beside her; his slow, rhythmic breathing was the only sound. Even the ribbon of highway that snaked past the motor lodge was quiet. Their room was on the second floor overlooking the scrubby plains that stretched out beyond the outskirts of Billings, Montana. Earlier, when they unloaded the car, Mary had seen a small playground with a couple of weathered benches behind the building. Sean was sleeping but Mary woke with a start. Something in the night air had aroused her. She pulled a hooded sweatshirt on over her PJ’s and went outside, walking past the parked cars to the little play area.

The sky was clear and, as Mary sat, her eyes became more adjusted to the dark. In a few minutes, she was able to discern the Milky Way, its broad arc imperceptibly wheeling above her. Her reverie was interrupted by a slight scrabbling—the sound of claws on stone—followed by silence. Looking out over the black landscape she saw a pair of glowing eyes, then another pair appeared, and then several more pairs fanning out in the brush.

Coyotes… ” she thought, “… sitting out here is probably not the smartest thing.

But she stayed. Sitting, watching, somehow feeling that this was a moment of import. Then the eyes began to blink, off and on, and Mary intuitively sensed the pattern. In the belly pocket of her hoodie, she kept a small flashlight. Mary took it out and answered the signals. The blinking stopped.

“You were up in the night?” said Sean. He and Mary were sharing a forgettable ‘continental’ breakfast in the lounge, “Nausea?”

“It’s up and down. I’m going to have to ask you to drive again. My biorhythms are all screwed up, and this breakfast won’t help them any. Can we stop and get some fruit on the way out of town?”

“No prob, do you want to keep off the interstates again today?”

“As much as you can, Sean. That highway to Rapid City—212 I think—looks like a nice drive.”

“Here’s hoping we don’t meet any more of your ‘friends’ on the road again.”

“You never can tell…” Mary paused for a moment and then said: “You might think this is silly, but when I was up last night I went out back, behind the motel. I could sense that there were some animals in the brush, coyotes, I think. They were trying to communicate with me.”

“I won’t call it silly, but something in you is definitely changing, something other than hormones?”

“Maybe, I don’t know, I’ve never been pregnant before. I’ve been pretty rational all my life; it might be time to let my feral side be in charge.”

The drive to Rapid City took the rest of the morning. By the time Sean and Mary reached the town it was well past noon.

“For the first time in days, I’m really hungry,” Mary said, scrolling through her iPhone for restaurants, “I could eat a buffalo. I’ll find us a decent place.”

The restaurant they chose was emptying out after the noon lunch crowd, but the server assured them the kitchen was still open. It was decorated in a western motif, with taxidermy and antique weapons mounted on the walls.

“You’re in luck, they’re serving bison,” Sean said after he had glanced at the menu. Looking over his shoulder at a fierce bobcat frozen in mid-leap he added, “Do you get the feeling of being watched?”

Mary studied the creature. “That kitty has a glassy stare. In some weird way, it resonates with me,” She made a small, throaty growl as she mimicked the wildcat’s ferocious grimace, “I’m getting the bison steak.” Sean was surprised at her ferocity. After they had ordered, Mary took out her cell and said: “Should I check in with legal, or should we continue our journey in blissful ignorance?”

“Let no discouraging words be allowed to disturb our repast. We can deal with that when we get to Sioux Falls,” Sean said, relieved that Mary seemed to have returned to her normal mein, “That part of the drive will be aggravating enough; I’m afraid that we’ll have to take the freeway.”

Roger Ramsen was finishing composing yet another anonymous comment on a conspiracy forum. He had spent several days disparaging Mary Robinson on numerous sites, suggesting that she was, among the milder epithets: a feminist witch, a hacker and a thief, a prostitute, and even the devil’s love child. On the sleazier sites, he posted the image of her naked on the balcony. When he finished his latest diatribe he hit ‘enter.’ He leaned back in his chair and rang his contact in Seattle.

“Ramsen here, what do you have for me?”
"Nothing, these birds have flown. No one has seen them around town, their apartment has been dark for days. There's definitely been a definite internet buzz on the woman, wow, she must have made her share of enemies—or are all those comments yours? The sites with the picture are getting a lot of hits, but not for the reasons you think. The comments are along the lines of 'You go girl' and 'She can compile my code any day!' She's a Farrah Fawcett for modern teen-aged nerds."
“OK, I get it. Maybe the picture wasn’t the best idea, everything is Photo-shopped these days anyway. Keep trying to find her and Sean, let me know if you find out where they are.”

The only place with a vacancy in Sioux Falls was a ‘Family Style’ motel, built in the form of an enormous hunting lodge. A pool and hot tubs occupied the center court. Sean and Mary’s room overlooked the pool where numerous children were boisterously playing; their yelling and laughing punctuated by the occasional shriek. A group of parents sat in lounge chairs along the pool: talking, reading, but keeping an eye on the kids all the while. While Sean was speaking to his aunt Tina on the phone, Mary opened the curtains and looked out on the activity below.

“In a few years this will be us, with our kid, won’t it?” asked Mary, after Sean had hung up, “Did you ever do this with your mother when you were growing up?”

“No, we didn’t do road trips, other than visiting Tina, and those were always done in a single very long day, leaving early in the morning and arriving late at night. I think my mother had a thing about motels.”

“What did your Aunt Tina say on the phone?” asked Mary.

“I got the impression it’s a pretty big deal for her. She’s expecting us for supper. She’s a pretty good cook from what I remember. Meat and potatoes and farm fresh vegetables, but she always made the food taste special somehow. I hope she’s still up to it. I don’t think we'll starve.”

“And I hope I’m over my nausea,” Mary said, “I felt pretty good all day today. I’d hate to throw up the first meal she served us.”

“We’d have to tell her about the baby then, wouldn’t we?”

“We’ll tell her anyway, Sean, she’s family.”

The children in the pool had all gone back to their rooms by the time Sean shut the drapes.

“I’m going to bed, I’d like to get an early start tomorrow so that we can reach Tina’s before supper. If we start out by eight we can avoid the freeway,” said Sean. “Are you coming?”

“In a bit. I’m going to sit here a little while… I’m still unwinding. Join you soon.”

As Mary sat in the dark, sipping her tea, she pondered the events of the last couple of days. Her pregnancy wasn’t really a surprise, the only thing she wondered about was why it had taken so long. She had gone off her birth control pills six months earlier, perhaps her body needed the release from the stress of selling her business before she could conceive. Mary came to the realization that ever since she began living with Sean she had been subconsciously heading for this result: motherhood and, in her choice of Sean, a father who would be there—both in body and spirit. A family of her own, a real family. She closed her eyes, mulling these things over. She was quickly asleep.

House. Abandoned, perhaps for many years. Walk closer, look through the broken windows. Walk around to the back. Door, hanging loosely, broken hinges. Inside. Kitchen, empty. Dim outline of grease stains where the stove sat. Wear patterns on the linoleum where the table was. Thousands of meals. Stairs lead down to the cellar; dark, dark, don’t go there. Walk through house. Living room. Family celebrations, birthdays, anniversaries: Christmas. House full of noise and laughter. Bathroom, broken tile, dirty tub missing toilet. All the soap and piss and shit and blood and tears of decades. Go up then, up the stairs, walk into empty bedrooms, sensing the lost passion of couples grappling with their shared loneliness through acts of quiet desperate passion. Then the hard times, bankruptcy, death. A house becomes derelict.

Return to the hall. A sound. Pause. Wait. Listen. Something. Someone coming up the stairway. A blurry form coming into view. Try to scream. Screams can’t come. A hand. Touching… touching… me.

“Mary? I heard you moaning in your sleep,” It was Sean, standing next to her chair.

“Oh, I’m… it was just a dream… just a bad dream, I was alone and afraid,” Mary said.

“Come to bed,” said Sean, “You don’t have to sleep alone anymore.”


By Professor Batty

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Ploughman's Lunch

   I could hardly refuse an invitation from my old blog-pal Darien to join her and her husband in a light meal. Although her blog days may be behind her, we still keep in touch and the Weaver and I have managed to see her every year or so (she has relatives who live nearby.) We are both Iceland fanatics, but over the years, we have found that we have many other things in common. I've found some of my favorite bloggers (Karen and Shoshanah) through her. She was also instrumental in getting the Laxness in Translation site off the ground. After lunch we went for a stroll with Darien's grand-niece Coco:

John, Darien, Batty, Weaver, Coco (in front)

   One of the unexpected pleasures of blogging has been in actually meeting some of the people I've been following. I'm scheduled to meet Jono next week and may even be able to drop in on Shoshanah in October.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 3 

Monday, August 04, 2014

Last Places

A Journey to the North

Travel writing by
Lawrence Millman
Houghton Mifflin, Boston, 1990

   If you have ever wondered what a Hunter S. Thompson travelog of remote North Atlantic locations would be like, this may be as close as you will get. Lawrence Millman has made a specialty of wandering the North, writing numerous books over the last 40 years on this and other subjects. A true raconteur, this book is filled with wild stories gleaned from his hosts in Fouli (one of the Shetland Islands), the Faroe Islands, Iceland, Greenland, Labrador and Newfoundland. Millman is not one to pull his punches; after reading this I felt as if I had been beaten up.

  His preferred mode of transportation (after walking) is by boat, and he manages to catch several rides on dubious ships with unreliable captains. Once ashore, he eschews hotels for camping, often to the amusement of the natives.  Scenes of drinking, puking and whoring are common, contrasting with Millman's poetic descriptions of nature and wildlife. Millman wrote this twenty-five years ago, several parts of the book concern the end of a way of life for many of his subjects. I should check out his more recent books; in hindsight they may offer an expanded view.

Thanks to DJ cousin Mary, for sending this book my way!

By Professor Batty

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