Fax Me, Chill Out, Oh Baby of Mine

They’re something so touchingly dated about Necco’s gritty little “Sweetheart” Conversation Hearts. I mean who exclaims ”My Baby!” these days, never mind “Love Bird!” Of course “Fax Me” is in its own category of out-of-it-ness because when in the last 25 years has anyone with romantic intent excerpt for during a moment back in the 80s when we were all still blown away by the new technology? I faxed a birthday greeting to my brother-in-law in California and could hardly wrap my head around the fact that he’d be getting it at 9am when I had ACTUALLY SENT IT AT NOON! He was getting it BEFORE I even sent it! This is the kind of ecstatic mind-altered thinking that led to people sitting on their office equipment to photocopy their fannies (which, ha ha funny stuff, they would sometimes then FAX it to their friends.)

Bottom line: if a would-be suitor says “Fax Me” you’re dealing with some kind of culturally handicapped person Andy Kaufman’s Latke Gravas character from the old show “Taxi.”

But to get back to hearts which come to think of it are shaped like the human bottom when it is compressed on a flat surface, Necco’s website offers some history too. Seems these candy hearts go way back to the 1880s when they were much bigger and used the kind of high courting language we just don’t see today. Messages like “Dear One” and “Be Mine” are all I could find remaining of that era in the little box I have here but once they said things like, “Please Send a Lock of Your Hair by Return Mail,” and “How Long Shall I Have to Wait? Pray be Considerate!”

Now the only thing you’ll find on a heart is what fits in two short words or maybe even one. It’s kind of a falling-off if you ask me. Plus where are the QA guys? Half my candy hearts are smudged or stamped on crooked, the way American automakers are said to be putting your new car’s door on if it’s a Friday and they’re just kind of phonin’ it in there at the factory.

Let me tell you about the ones I have in my lap here. OK the one I just ate a minute ago said “Love (smudge)” and the one I’m tossing back now says “Sunshin,” the ’e’ having slid away and out of sight. Some are blank entirely and some are so crooked it looks like the sugary “ink” got stamped in the dark by helper monkeys.

Plus another lame thing this year: they’re going for a meteorological theme. That’s where “Sunshine” comes in and also “In a Fog” (which is supposed to recommend someone to you?) Also “Chill Out,” which sounds to me more like the prelude to a fight than a kiss but what do I know?

I say if they’re going to pursue themes they should really branch out, to the wide world of medical care, say and give us hearts printed with “Hold Still” or “Open Wide” or that phrase we all tingle to hear, “You’ll Feel a Little Pressure.”

Hey but wait! I just took a quick look around the Internet and look at this! two people from Minneapolis have offered a tallying-up the inky message inside their own bag of these little confections. The ones with a zero next to them are the ones they’re just making up but they offer them in such a great deadpan way. They say they found all of these and more: two Smiley Faces, five Unreadables, six Angels and five Call Me’s; but none that said “WWJD,” “Recently Tested,” “My Ho,” “Bad Rash,” or “Mammogram.”

“Mammogram,” see? There are others out there whose minds work like mine!

To see more and marvel along go to “How Much is Inside Converation Hearts?”

Then hurry out quick to the store to get something for your own honey; something living in this season of the brown grass even if it’s a box of yeast. I saw a guy trying to pass off a bouquet of purple kale as flowers for his lady last year. “Hey, it used to be alive!” he told me at the check-out. “Plus she can cook it up after. “

I wished him luck as we all should wish one another luck in this perilous season of the valentine. And now I have to run out and get something for my own main squeeze who’s going out to play cards and drink with his buddies tomorrow night instead of spending the evening with yours truly. He’ll be home around 1 and maybe a little muzzy with his evening’s fun. I bet he won’t even notice I’m keeping watch camped out in the guest room across the hall. I might be gittin’ up there agewise but by God I still know how to short-sheet a bed.

Life, Sliced Pepperoni Fine

still dancin’

Ben Coonley was in our living room on Superbowl Sunday, not just to watch the Patriots- Giants game but to record it in his own unique way.

Ben is a video artist and the creator of several memorable pieces you can see on YouTube. A couple of Februarys ago he made one of those videos that zooms all over the globe in 24 hours. It’s called “Valentine Perfect Strangers” and it stars his dead-pan formerly-feral cat Otto who is looking for love over the internet.

He’s also famous for his Pony series, with such works as “ One Trick Pony” and “Every Pony Plays the Fool,” both starring a blissed-out looking Hobby Horse scored from everybody’s favorite big-box toy store.

Ben has been making these videos for years and years and in a way my kids were in on the ground floor with him. Meaning that my oldest girl with her three-foot-long fall of maple-syrup colored hair appears briefly in his “documentary” of a middle school rock concert that gets shut down when certain of the musicians start yelling bad words out at the audience. (“Don’t point that thing at ME!” she is heard to exclaim in the quick shot that shows her.) And, speaking of bad words, our youngest is the out-and-out star of “The Homework Diaries” in which, over a period of months, he disgustedly recites the list of all he has to do for school the next day. Even our middle girl worked behind the scenes on a couple of pieces not yet orbiting in the vast junk-filled Internet asteroid belt.

But the technique of his that I love best is the ones where he uses the “intermittent record” feature on his camera, which allows him to set it up on a tripod and capture one-half of one second of every 30 seconds of lived life. He used this feature to document our kids and their pals as they watched the three other Superbowls that the Patriots played in and he used it again last week. And I have to admit I just love watching these very short works, where the unattended camera just takes tiny biopsy-sized chunks out of life and serves them sliced up fine.

Take this year’s effort: people appear and then instantly disappear. This chair has a person in it and now it is empty. It is bright sunny and it is utterly dark. The lamps are off and the lamps are lit. There is a truncated whoop of joy and a bark of dismay; leaps of exaltation and dejected slumps. Now here comes someone’s pants walking toward the camera. Now a Bud Light passes by in somebody’s hand. A baby’s head flashes in the foreground and is gone. A small child in footed pj’s does a nano-second of hula dancing and is also gone (but gone where? To college and a career?) And we are all shown continually eating and drinking and eating and drinking; flashing into existence and out again and all I can think is: this must be what we look like to God.

Take a peek at these stills to get the idea. Clicking on them blows them up, natch.

superbowl-xlii-baby-included.jpgstill dancin’superbowl-xlii-aargh.jpg


Ben may be doing an installation using this technique in the future and then you maybe can see all these pieces. They’re all just five or six minutes long.

Life is short but art is long they used to say but maybe all the best art is short too. A good lesson for all us bloggers!

What You Need

Princess Diana is buried with the rosary beads Mother Teresa gave her when they met. That was a year or more before she was hunted down like the poor bunny by the ravening foxes.

She wasn’t religious as far as I know but she admired that little gnome of a Mother T, cruelly ‘outed’ after her death as a doubter like the rest of us.

And I totally see why Diana took to her. Mother Theresa was very blunt and most people like bluntness. She was also quick to dismiss what stuck her as trivial. I remember when she came here once to look in on one of the modest urban dwellings of her order of nuns, some good soul tried to give the house a few air conditioners. “We don’t need air conditioners!” she told them, swatting away the idea.

Sometimes when I’m feeling sorry for myself lately – with the stress of modern life and the insomnia that’s been driving my husband David crazy for the last six months- (I’m perfectly quiet on my side of the bed which is how he can tell, I guess: no deep breathing. “Stop being awake!” he says – and I TRY to stop. Lately we take turns with our insomnia. I finally get out of the bed and stun myself with a scalding bath. I climb back in – now it’s 3 am and I haven’t slept yet – and at 3:05 HE climbs out and goes down to his couch in the living room where he reads his endless whodunits ‘til sleep overtakes him at 4 or 4:30.) As I say lately when I’m feeling sorry for myself it comes into my head that I’m not in pain, not hungry, not unsafe – and all the rest falls away, thank God, thank God. It’s so tiresome to be self-involved.

One day I will give away all my possessions (maybe to my kids first if they even want them) and then I’ll give away my diaries. Smith College has graciously offered to accept and guard these volumes begun upon in 1958 when I was a little girl lying through my teeth on paper.

“Give them to Smith?! Give them to your children!” David says and maybe I will but what a painful and stinging thing it is to read your mother’s diaries (as I well know who have read all my mother’s going back to 1916 when she was a sad-faced uncertain girl not doing her homework and getting lousy marks in school.)

And yet I have her 1921 volume next to my bed and I read it before sleep sometimes and think “I am the only one who gets these references.”

I get them because when we were little our mother and aunt who raised my sister and me told and told – all the stories. All the non-stories. Everything. In the end when Mom was in ER after ER I would say to her “Let’s leave this place Mum. Let’s time travel” and out would come more stories.

It’s true we might not need air conditioners; but we sure do need that connection with the past.


Back in Your Mother’s Belly

The secretary of my college class sent out a group email begging for news of us all. How were we really? she wanted to know

Well let’s see now, is what I thought. I think I’m in better shape than my mother was at my age since women didn’t even walk in the old days, never mind exercise. Men didn’t either plus they all had these little fat tummies which they wore UNDER their belts for some reason.

Everybody was soft, I guess, takin’ it easy after the War maybe – never mind that they all smoked their brains out. My own mother smoked in a closed car on the hour-long ride to our cousins’ on holidays; smoked madly until the summer of ‘74 when she got a bad bronchial infection and was ordered to her bed. She dragged a little TV into her room to watch the Watergate hearings. “That man is disgusting!” she yelled at one point about poor old Nixon, “and this is disgusting too!” she yelled again, looking down at the cigarette in her hand. She stubbed it out and never smoked again and lived until her 80th birthday party when she died within the space of about ten seconds, a little plate of cookies on her lap.

But I figure we’re all going to live so long with our annoying Boomer talk about enhanced sexual performance and all that our kids will be just dying to put the pillow over our faces.

I guess I expect to live up into my 80s – IF I can start paying pay better attention that is and not step off the curb into the path of some big old bus.

So in general I feel pretty much as I did at 19 though God knows what color my hair REALLY is. Still, it’s fun to grow older. I lie in bed at 5 in the morning when the alarm first goes off and time-travel all the way back to crib days. I like that: the way we’re lifting a little every day as we get older and can sometimes survey the whole landscape almost.

My oldest girl wanted to have her firstbaby at home last May and I was a wreck. We watched him kick and we could sometimes feel his little spine right through her skin. We all drummed on his little bottom: “Hello hello are you OK?” we said the way you would to someone trapped in a cave…

Along with not knowing what any body’s real hair color is anymore I find we don’t know what natural labor is like. The doctors hurry everyone along so with their Pitocin and then oops labor slowed down! and oops the baby looks upse!t and then it’s C-sections all around.

I was proud of our girl for wanting to do it God’s own way with her two midwiveswho said “Put sheets you don’t care about on the bed and under those a set of waterproof sheets and under THOSE your very favorite sheets in the world.” There’s the progression of the thing right there, peace at the end of the struggle.

In the end the medical establishment won of course. They took their tests when the baby was ten days overdue and said the amniotic fluid was draining clear away so in the end it was Induced labor and Pitocin and an Epidural after all – everything but the dread C-section.

I wrote all that in my email to the college and they printed like three lines of it in the Alumnae Quarterly.

The moral of the story I guess?How I am is how they are, meaning my children, and right now anyway my children are just fine and that new baby smiles away alone his crib like he was getting paid to do it. Even his big brother three is growing rather fond of him. He said recently that you do too get to go back inside your mother’s belly. “WHEN YOU DIE” he said and well who could argue with him there?

Spit and Blogs and Secret Fermentation

Here’s more from last summer, which to tell you the truth is when I started taking notes for this blog.

A blog is a hard thing to get off the ground. Someone told me it was lame to start with just one entry because you’d seem like the kind of person who nothing happens to; the kind of person picked last for the big dodgeball game which come to think of it I sort of was.

I have a couple of friends who write blogs and one guy just does it about every day which is what you’re sort of supposed to do I guess. (I’ll list him over in the corner here soon as I figure out how to do that.) But I know other people who only get to it like once a month and I’m not sure but I think that’s no good. If I did that it would seem so labored and you’d think I was making draft after draft and trying to get an A in blogging and all and I don’t want to do it that way.

I want to just let fly. All the funniest and sometimes the truest things people say they say without expecting to; it just comes out of their mouths. I want to write like that here, not for your sake only but for mine. It makes you feel so free to talk off the top of your head and you can’t do it most places. You sure can’t do it in a newspaper column unless you want to start getting bags and bags full of hate mail.

Blogs are still new so there aren’t a whole lot of rules about them yet. Sometimes you write long and sometimes you write short. Heather Armstrong, whose blog is called Dooce.com writes about everything that happens under her roof to get at the dailiness of everyday life.

I like that.

The same person who told me to store up a couple dozen before I ‘went live’ says the idea with a blog is that you can slide right down the bloggers’ words and picture them sitting in their living room. They let themselves be known to that extent.

If we’re doing that now you would know that I’m sitting on a couch that for some reason smells strongly of fermented fruit today. I do carry a lot of fruit and lots of times it leeches out of my pockets and seeps down into the upholstery and all so maybe when I get done I’ll stand up and take out the cushions.

Everyone else here is asleep even though the sun is blindingly bright and it’s 9 o’clock in the morning. The Patriots won last night but it was a near thing and I think it wore away at all their nervous systems so maybe they’re still recovering.

I skipped that Pats game. My plan was to watch DVDs, sort through old photos and go to bed at 10. Instead I ended up watching one tenth of one DVD, sorting no photos at all and toppling over from my sitting position on the floor to fall dead asleep at 8pm so me I’m fresh as a daisy.

But here’s what I want to live like when I’m old:

I saw this lady last summer. I was trudging along the street on one of those sweltering August days, with a sun so hot the drops of perspiration falling from your poor sweaty head sizzle like spit on a griddle when they land on your forearms.

“If I can just get to that air-conditioned deli!” I was thinking as I eyed the place shimmering like a mirage some hundred feet away – when just then an ‘80s-era sedan bigger than your average bedroom cut me off.

It had an old man at the wheel, almost like a paid driver.

I could tell though that he wasn’t paid; he just felt like the spouse or the brother or the domestic partner of the person in the back – who was an old woman with slate-grey hair falling straight down in a bob of the kind little girls wore in the ’20s and ’30s, the kind Scout Finch had in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird.

She was wearing a baseball cap and a baseball jacket.

She swung before my vision pretty quickly but I could see she was chewing gum. At least I thought it was gum – until she rolled down the window and spit mightily into the bushes.

“Maybe I’ll be like that!” I said to myself. Because that would be OK, right? Better to be like that than be some fancy old broad who everyone’s afraid of with pink hair and fingers encrusted with jewels.

“I want to be like her!” I thought with my nice old husband Dave wingin’ around the corners in his big old sedan.

Because there are worse things than being a public spitter who looks like Moe of the Three Stooges, right? One might be sitting on fermenting food. We found the nicest little mouse footprints in the old orange juice can full of hardened bacon-fat last night and that was sure entertaining. Plus one of us keeps finding tiny acorn-parts under her pillow so there it is: you just never know what a day is gonna offer you.

Yeah I guess I’ll get up now and take a look. Shakespeare says we have a nose between our eyes so we can smell out that which we can’t peer into. Guess I’ll try doing both now and if there’s screaming, too bad for the others. How much recovery-time do they need? Land sakes, it’s only football!



These are excerpts from the my town’s police log, from five random days this past summer. And as it says right there in the paper where I see it each week, all police logs are available to the public anytime.

So here’s what went down in my this little burg with its pretty town center dominated by the highly-aspiring steeple of the First Congregational Church:

  • “A woman from O. Street [as I will call it] found a wallet on the town Common belonging to a man [several towns away.]” But HOW did it journey all 11 miles, hmmm?
  • “An unidentified woman gave police [another, unrelated] wallet that she found in the town center.” This wallet was the property of a woman some 20 miles distant. Related wickedness? The plot thickens!
  • “An injured raccoon was found at the Transfer Station [what we call the town dump.] The animal’s front leg was missing and one paw was injured. Police euthanized the raccoon.” The are a good-hearted force but they do what has to be done.

And finally this, again in the police report’s exact words:

  • “A Main Street man was stopped for colliding with a telephone pole. On observation he smelled of alcohol but said he had not been drinking. A bottle of liquor was found in the back seat of his vehicle.” We make no judgments as you can see. There’s no need to jump to conclusions – and anyway the man could be a local big-shot.

Six miles away in a small and multicultural city however, the assumptions reflected in that paper’s police blog seem to lie in a different direction.

I especially like these two entries, recording some hi-jinks that took place there just a few weeks further on:

  • “A drunk who got into a fight and picked up a steak knife to threaten a relative was arrested on August 17th.” Hey the guy was a drunk, so let’s call him a drunk.


  • While trying to control an unruly man on August 15th police found him hiding weed and cash in a winter glove stuffed into his pants, according to a report.”

These are both exact quotes. I emailed the pal of mine who’s the editor of this paper to congratulate her on having such a free-swinging and jaunty person covering the police beat. She shot back a good-natured response:

“Yeah, that reporter is new to the paper and new to the country. She tries hard though.”

She’s got the lingo a little wrong is all. So she doesn’t realize that exactly no one in officialdom goes on the record calling marijuana “weed,” so what? But the fact that she has the guy hiding the stuff it in his pants? That’s just good reporting (never mind evidence of a fine comic sense.)

Meanwhile back in my town this week, the tame and plodding finally took a turn toward the slapstick in candidate for the police blotter item, fattened and fleshed out into more of a news story:

  • “At 8:17pm an ‘excited’ C. Road caller reported that her husband was locked in the bedroom and not responding. The caller was ‘hysterical,’ police said. When police arrived, they found a woman on scene ‘crying and yelling ‘Please help my husband!’ A patrolman followed the woman to the locked bedroom door. He shouted to rouse the man several times, but got no answer. He then proceeded to kick the door down. After the door sustained heavy damage, the man who was believed to be unconscious on the other side of the now-broken door, ‘walked up the stairs to inquire what all the commotion was about,’ police wrote in their report, on file at the police department. Police said the man told his wife, ‘I thought you knew I ran down to the pharmacy to get my medications.’”

I just love stuff like this. And I don’t know how many readers in my snoozy small town read this stuff – maybe I can take an informal poll.

But my pal over in that busy little city says they track such things on their online version of the paper and hands-down its the police blotter that gets more hits than any other place, which you can totally see. Every day God gets up and decides once again NOT to squash us like bugs it’s gotta be because humans are just so gosh-darn human. I bet he’s keeping us around just for the entertainment value.