Saturday, March 25, 2006

Mixed messages

A couple of days ago I happened to find myself engaged in a conversation with a man I did not know, but who seemed to know me. “Are you N’s grandparents?” he wanted to know (R had wandered off). "Oh no," I laughed (ha ha as I gritted my mental teeth, do I look THAT old?) “we are his parents.” “Well” he said, “you know I used to work with him at the plant. He seemed like a really nice kid.” So I smiled and nodded and thanked him.

Yes, N did indeed work at the company, which rebuilt engines, about 10 years ago. It was a good job for him, it suited his personality very well, and it was really too bad that he got laid off (the company later went out of business). I think his job was loading a certain engine part into a wire basket to be put in a cleaning machine. Somehow, he got lots of little magnet cubes, which he brought home, and I have a magnet sculpture made out of them on one of my metal kitchen cabinets.

But what was really interesting about this was that earlier that morning, I went to the library to return a cookbook and donate a new book I picked up cheap at a bookstore. I got to talking with the librarian about a rather strange-looking man that can be seen walking around town and who also spends a lot of time at the library. They had a picture of him holding a plaque of some sort. “He’s really sweet and he’s harmless, he’s just not socially adept,” she says. I remarked that I could relate to that, that my son wasn’t very socially adept either. “Well,” she says, “your son really gives me the creeps.” (He goes into the library a lot to use the computers.) Then of course, she realized that was a really awful thing to say to a mother about her kid, so she began to back peddle. "Well," she says, " I'm used to him know and I just take everything he says with a grain of salt."

It was OK though. I understood perfectly well why she said it. When I related the conversation to R, he sort of laughed and said, “sometimes he creeps me out too...” I wonder where that “nice kid” went? Well, actually, the nice kid is still there. N has good qualities and a kind heart, which in fact has landed him in the mess he is in now.

Monday, March 20, 2006

We’re not frugal, we’re downright cheap

One of the downsides to being truly self-employed (that is, no employees working for you) is that there are no employer-provided benefits. No paid vacation. No sick leave. No health insurance. A self-employed person who goes on vacation earns no money for that time. I can afford to take off a week, but if we want to go on a vacation together, then that occupies two weeks. And the lost money adds up. So, we decided it would be a good investment to buy a simple laptop computer so I can take some work with me. I just need it to do word processing, look at PDFs, and connect to the Internet. But then one must have a case to carry the laptop in. We went to Wally World to find a carrying case and the one they had cost $28.88. We didn’t want to pay that much for a carrying case. The next day, I went to the YMCA yard sale and I found a really nice Eddie Bauer soft-sided satchel for $1.50. So I bought it. R said it was the right size, but it needed to be padded. I suggested maybe we could make a bubble-wrap sleeve to put the computer in and then stick that inside the satchel. So, he fiddled with it and came up with a very workable solution. He showed me what he did, and then just sort of shook his head. “We’re incredible,” he says, “this is just nuts – it goes way beyond being frugal.” But, we did save $30

Saturday, March 18, 2006

A small island of culture in a sea of bluegrass

Don’t get me wrong, I can appreciate the talent, skill, and hard work of any good musician, even if I don’t particularly like that genre of music (keeping in mind that I do not consider Rap to be music). Bluegrass music is extremely popular in this area. When the Lost River Boys play at the Star Theater on Friday nights for $5 a head, the cars are parked bumper-to-bumper up and down Main Street and for a several-block radius on the side streets. I occasionally enjoy listening to instrumental bluegrass music, it is the singing I can’t stand. At any rate, the choices for live music at a reasonable price are somewhat limited – or at least they used to be limited until the satellite university campus began offering programs sponsored by the Missouri Arts Council. And once in a blue moon, something really special passes through. One such concert took place last night – an ensemble of four wonderfully skilled musicians playing Baroque music on Baroque instruments -- flute, violin, cello, and harpsichord. The harpsichord was amazing. The inside of the lid had a beautiful reproduction of a Dutch landscape, which was a feast for the eyes. The musicians were amazing. These old instruments (or replicas of the old instruments) have a different sound than their modern counterparts. Softer, more mellow. It was just lovely. Baroque music is wonderful stuff. Light, airy, bouncy – makes one feel good just to listen to it. Beats the heck out of “I’m stuck in jail but my pimples are still breaking out.”

Monday, March 13, 2006

Lost and found, redux

Both of us spend increasing amounts of time searching for lost things (I, R says, finally crossed over to geezer-hood the other day when I went in search of my glasses while they were resting firmly on my nose), but another in a string of all-too-frequent searchs yesterday (Sunday) took on an almost surreal quality. For about 45 minutes, I had been sitting in bed next to R reading to him. Then my voice got tired and he got sleepy, so I decided to make a small salad and he flipped the TV. At some point between the bedroom and the kitchen, I lost my reading glasses. Both of us searched and searched for the glasses off and on for the rest of the evening, but they had simply vanished. Although I happen to like this particular pair of readers, it was not a major catastrophe, because I have about six other pairs of readers in different strengths scattered about the house in various and sundry places, and so it was mostly just a simple matter to find another pair and put them on. But it was the principle of the thing. Where the heck were my glasses? R says “Tomorrow morning, go to the Dollar Store and buy another pair, and eventually the ones you lost will turn up.” After one last furtive look around the edge of the bed, we went to bed.

At about 11:30, a storm starts to track through the area: lots of cloud-to-cloud lightening, near-continuous thunder, rain hammering down, hard. Then about midnight, I hear the wail of the tornado siren in town. “Wake up, wake up, the tornado siren just went off.” He was sound asleep, but not any more. So then we’re up stumbling around the house with the police scanner tuned to the National Weather Service listening to the warnings for our county (...tornado warning.... Dopplar radar... severe thunerstorm capable of producing a tornado... potential for baseball-sized hail...) and trying to decide if we should go the basement. We decided to go back to bed (gee, is that really a freight train I am hearing, or is this a tornado on the ground). The storm quickly passed through – we didn’t even loose power and no hail. By 1 a.m. the sky had cleared, the full moon was riding high in the sky, and then the coyotes started howling not too far off and the Spring Peepers throttled up (see previous post).... just another Spring night in the Ozarks.

Oh yeah, this morning when I went to the kitchen to rinse out last night’s coffee cup, I found my glasses at the bottom of a pan of murky water that had been sitting there all night, soaking, to loosen the crust of a dessert I had baked. How in the world did they end up in the pan in the sink? Who knows.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

The sound of music...

Winter is mostly silent, at least as far as the animal kingdom is concerned. The singing insects are hibernating and the birds don’t sing. And then suddenly one day, there is the warble of a Carolina wren, or a Chickadee or Titmouse whistling outside the window, and here comes the wolf call of the Cardinal. But the sound we anticipate most is the chorus tuning up at the pond. The frog chorus of Spring Peepers ( Earlier in the week, after it had been fairly warm for a few days, one of us said, “The peepers are sure to be singing tonight.” And sure enough, they were, and have done so for several nights now. As evening draws on they begin, and they continue all night until daylight. It is wonderful to be lulled to sleep by their lullaby. Once upon a time, one of these little gray fellows spent the winter with us in our bathroom, He came in the house twice as summer was drawing to a close, hopping in under the screen door which had an inch gap at the bottom. I found him in the bathroom twice, so we finally let him stay. Our shower is paneled in redwood, with a few knots here and there, and he wedged himself into one of these holes and that’s where he stayed, or else he would be clinging to the shower curtain. I caught him insects while it was still warm enough and fed him with a tweezer. When spring came he got very active and restless, and so I took him out to the pond and let him go.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Waving goodbye

In the early to mid 1990s – and I can’t remember when, exactly, my sister’s husband gave us the car he had been driving before he married her, a 1978 Volvo. It was a stunningly kind and generous thing for him to do. So, we got on the Amtrak and rode the train to Los Angeles, had a wonderful visit with the family, and then drove the car back. It was a harrowing trip. We hit an ice storm in upper New Mexico that extended through most of the Texas panhandle, but the Volvo sailed through it when cars and trucks all around us were sliding off the road. If one can love car, I can honestly say I loved that car. We had never driven anything quite like it before. We happened to know the only other Volvo owner in town, and he told us that the only mechanic that repaired Volvos was 90 miles away. We did some checking around, and that seemed to be accurate. And R drove the 90 miles several times to have minor repairs done. Then the Volvo developed a major brake problem – more than just new brakes -- and it couldn’t be driven safely. It would have to be towed, but money was tight right about then, and we didn’t happen to have the extra $100 (or more) that it would cost to have the car towed. So we parked it until we could figure out what to do, or maybe find a mechanic closer to home. Then disaster. Rats got into the engine compartment, chewed the heck out of the electrical wiring and hoses, and suddenly the Volvo was dead in the water. The last time we drove it off the property was in 1999, and it had been sitting there ever since. Until today. A man showed up and wanted to know if we cared to sell him the car and he would haul it off to the crusher. So we did. After he got it loaded onto his trailer, he pounded on the back door and said “well, wave goodbye to it.” So I did.