Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Day 218/365 End of Another Era

Yesterday the first oil showed up on the beaches at Ocean Springs Mississippi. Thanks to prevailing winds and shifting water currents they had been lucky so far. The closest friends I made on these beaches were killed in Katrina. Now the beach is gone too.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Day 217/365 End of An Era

It seems most are interested in dredging up his 1930's membership in the KKK,and railing on about that (never mind that in that time period 80-90% of white men living anywhere south of Ohio belonged to the KKK, just like they belonged to the Kiwanis or the Elks).

I prefer to concentrate on Senator Robert Byrd's realization that many of the attitudes he was raised with and taught to accept were, in fact, horribly wrong.

I prefer to acknowledge that he spent the last 40 years of his life trying to compensate for earlier affronts and mistakes.

And more than anything, I prefer to remember him as one of the lone Democrats who stood up against an arrogant, misguided, power-mad president determined to wage war with anyone who crossed him.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Day 216/365 Your Mission...Should You Decide To Accept It

Like any self-respecting child of the Sixties, I grew up in the shadow of the ever-present Cold War, complete with visions of espionage that were reinforced by The Man From U.N.C.L.E., I Spy, Mission Impossible, James Bond and, of course, John Steed and the delightful Mrs. Peel also known as The Avengers.

In honor of my infatuation with spies and all things spy-ish, I dragged myself out of bed at 4 A.M. this morning to accompany my daughter and her fellow science camp inmates on a one day field trip to the International Spy Museum in Washington D.C.

It was my second trip, and I still love it. (In a previous life, I may or may not have been Mrs. Emma Peel, black leather cat-suit and all.)

This museum covers espionage from the ancient times and ninjas through the Civil War Pigeon Cameras and World War II...

All the way past 007's actual car (complete with changing license plate, machine gun headlights and bulletproof spoiler)....

and right on past the KGB Lipstick Pistol, circa 1965 (if I could get one of these, I'd wear makeup).

Here's me at the Spy Museum.....oh alright, it's not me...it's Mata Hari, executed by the French for espionage on October 15, 1917.

I'd show you pics of us at the Spy Museum, but then I'd have to shoot ya.
All images courtesy of The International Spy Museum, Washington D.C.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Day 215/365 To Kill A Mockingbird...or Happy Father's Day

When I was little, I had a hard time keeping my own father separated from Atticus Finch. For that matter, I had a hard time keeping myself separated from Scout. In 1962, my parents took my 6-year-old self across town to a "colored" theater to see To Kill A Mockingbird.

I was amazed at that actor on the screen who managed to portray my dad. And I was impressed that Scout hated wearing dresses as much as I did. I thought it was pretty neat sitting up in the balcony. In our usual theaters we never got to sit in the balcony, cause that was where the "colored" folks sat. Never occurred to me that someone made a law telling folks where they had to sit, based on what neighborhood the theater was in.

To Kill A Mockingbird taught me lots of things.

For instance, the importance of family history:

Scout: May I see your watch? "To Atticus, My Beloved Husband." Atticus, Jem says this watch is gonna belong to him some day.
Atticus Finch: That's right.
Scout: Why?
Atticus Finch: Well, it's customary for the boy to have his father's watch.
Scout: What are you gonna give me?
Atticus Finch: Well, I don't know that I have much else of value that belongs to me... But there's a pearl necklace; there's a ring that belonged to your mother. And I've put them away, and they're to be yours.

How to treat company in your home:

Calpurnia: That boy is your company. And if he wants to eat up that tablecloth, you let him, you hear? And if you can't act fit to eat like folks, you can just set here and eat in the kitchen.

(From time to time, I spent time eating in the kitchen, mostly a result of not thinking before speaking. This of course never happens anymore.)

Dill taught me that everyone has their good points, no matter their apparent shortcomings:

Dill Harris: Hey.
Jem: Hey yourself.
Dill Harris: I'm Charles Baker Harris. I can read. I can read anything you've got.
[swinging on the gate]
Dill Harris: Folks call me Dill.
Jem: How old are you? Four and a half?
Dill Harris: Going on seven.
Jem: Well no wonder then. Scouts bin readin' since she was born, and she's not even six yet. You're mighty puny for nearly seven.
Dill Harris: I'm little but I'm old.

And then there was southern humor, which is sometimes a little subtle and more than a little backhanded:

Atticus Finch: Good Afternoon Miss Dubose... My, you look like a picture this afternoon.
Scout: [hiding behind Atticus whispering to Jem and Dill] He don't say a picture of what.

Atticus explained that some things are a sin. No matter what anyone else tells you, they're still a sin. And you just don't do those things, no matter what other people do.

Atticus Finch: I remember when my daddy gave me that gun. He told me that I should never point it at anything in the house; and that he'd rather I'd shoot at tin cans in the backyard. But he said that sooner or later he supposed the temptation to go after birds would be too much, and that I could shoot all the blue jays I wanted - if I could hit 'em; but to remember it was a sin to kill a mockingbird.
Jem: Why?
Atticus Finch: Well, I reckon because mockingbirds don't do anything but make music for us to enjoy. They don't eat people's gardens, don't nest in the corncrib, they don't do one thing but just sing their hearts out for us.

Atticus and my dad also taught me that sometimes you have to do what you have to do. Otherwise you can't live with yourself, and in the end, that's the only person you have to live with:

Atticus Finch: There are some things that you're not old enough to understand just yet. There's been some high talk around town to the effect that I shouldn't do much about defending this man.
Scout: If you shouldn't be defending him, then why are you doing it?
Atticus Finch: For a number of reasons. The main one is that if I didn't, I couldn't hold my head up in town. I couldn't even tell you or Jem not to do somethin' again.
[he puts his arm around her]
Atticus Finch: You're gonna hear some ugly talk about this in school. But I want you to promise me one thing: That you won't get into fights over it, no matter what they say to you

That's the only thing my dad and I disagree about with Atticus: sometimes it's worth getting in a fight, and sometimes you just have to do it.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

214/365 Even Hotter, and More Humid Music

I had forgotten how much I love Le vie en Rose. So I went looking for more versions, including Angelique Kidjo, accompanied by the Preservation Hall Jazz Band....all in French, summoning up shades of Edith Piaf.

But instead of shades, how about the real Edith Piaf (World War II vets will recognize this, as one of the immortal songs):

And lest I forget, Edith's best friend, Marlene Dietrich, sang it too:

La vie en rose has the most impact sung in French, and Sophie Milman's version is late-night jazz perfection:

And in a supremely bizarre effort to pull me out of my nostalgia track, the version by Grace Jones (think of her as the original Lady Gaga):

That's it. I promise. My favorite is still the Louis Armstrong version I grew up with.

Friday, June 18, 2010

213/365 Hot Humid Music from My Hometown

I will be forever grateful for a childhood spent in the hot sultry French Quarter of New Orleans.

It means I can handle hot, humid weather (albeit with age I am much less comfortable in it), and I know the perfect music to accompany it.

This is Mr. Sidney Bechet, and the song is Blue Horizon. It is possibly the most exquisite composition ever performed on any clarinet, at any point in history, by anyone.

And this is the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, featuring Sweet Emma (I'm Alone Because I Love You) recorded in the mid-1960's. I heard this performed maybe a thousand times as a child, sitting in the floor or curled up in the corner of Preservation Hall, watching Sweet Emma Barrett, the Humphrey brothers, Sidney Bechet or Polo Barnes carry on with traditional New Orleans jazz. Every single time I hear this song, it brings tears to my eyes.

Of course, occasionally New Orlean's favorite son came home to visit. It became a tradition to go to any jazz funeral Louis Armstrong played at. This is one of the few live recordings of Mack the Knife from 1956, when I was just a year old.

La vie en rose makes me think of walking down Bourbon Street at 4 am, when all the crowds of tourists have gone home and the cobblestones are wet. Even at that hour, a few doors are still open, and a few notes drift on the shimmering humid air.

This is where I should insert a clip of Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans, 'cause now they're all making me cry.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Day 212/365 Hot Humid Home Improvement

I may have mentioned our five dogs. And our ancient 1858 home. And our Franklin County red soil.

The combination is not pretty. About four years ago, I redid our state-of-the-art 1959 kitchen, and, because of the five dogs and their twenty claws, I put Italian quarry tile on the floor -perfect for easy cleanup, and it's impossible to scratch, even with twenty claws.

Then I tried to put it in the back hallway. Wouldn't stick. Popped up, cracked, floated away. Took up all the tile, put down underlayment. Replaced tile. Still didn't work. Tile popped up, cracked, floated away. Actually used super glue on tile. Tile still cracked and popped, but definitely didn't float away.

Finally pulled up tile, and left the underlayment while I decided what to do.

Dogs were okay with this, but then I thought about vinyl sheet flooring. Wouldn't hold up under twenty dog claws. Then thought about linoleum. Still no match for claws.

The dogs were starting to think they had the upper hand here.

Even Whiny thought he was king of the underlayment.

Then I decided to go with the cheapest, easiest solution possible: Dollar General stick and peel vinyl tile. I reasoned that if the claws ruined one or two places, all I'd have to do is pull those tile up and stick a couple new ones down.

So yesterday - on the HOTTEST, MOST HUMID, STICKY day of the year (so far), we thought we'd rip up the underlayment, sweep up the mortar, dried super glue, and loose nails, and pop those tiles down. This is after the underlayment was pulled up. All the gray mortar (mixed with super glue) is about to be chiseled up. Yes, chiseled. It wouldn't hold tile in place, but held itself alone very well.

And of course the heating grate needed to be repainted.

As well as the lower half of the walls, again because of five dogs, who swished their tails and rubbed up against whatever doorway or wall they could reach.

All the walls are loved equally, so all the walls had to be repainted.

And after a light sanding of the old original linoleum (fake slate look -the balance was eaten by the dogs many years ago, creating the reason for new flooring to begin with), the sticking of the tile begins.

Full pieces first, working from one end to the other, ending with the border pieces, cutting them carefully with an exacto knife.

Finally done, with the newly painted grate back in place (still need to get the ducts sucked out before winter).

So far so good - no claw marks or torn up tile yet. No taste-testing by the canine crowd.

If I had known it was going to look this nice, I think I would have skipped the Italian tile for the kitchen. But let's see how it looks at the end of a month. Those dogs always have the last laugh.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Day 211/365 New Snake Baby

My name is Sherlock.

I like secluded tanks,

small houses,

crawling on the beach at sunset,

and taking long slithers on my Roman wall.

I'm the cute one. 2nd tank to the right.

Call me sometime.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Day 210/365 In With The New

My daughter keeps asking when I'm doing a blog for the new baby -the Hyundai Sonata. I keep muttering "when it proves itself" but I guess I have to give it up for the little car. It's gotten her safely back and forth to town, on the local "highway of death" with it's bazillion semi-trucks, weaving pickup trucks and air-headed cell-phone users.

I can't show you the best thing about it, because if I had a picture it would mean there was reason for its numerous airbags to deploy, and that's bad. It has airbags everywhere. I'm the mom. I love that....

.... just as much as she loves the CD player, and the cold air conditioning, the big trunk, and the power. (This car flies. I appreciate this much more than she does, since she is a by-the-rule driver. I am a rules-are-made-to-be-broken-driver. Plus I think it's important to know exactly how fast your car can go. And how tight it can hold a twisty mountain road. Can you tell I have a moonshine ridgerunner in my family tree? )

Plus it has cupholders. Only someone who jumped from 1986 to 2008 in car history can appreciate this.

And best of all: even more bumpersticker space.

And yeah - it's a little DEMOCRAT car. Go Perriello!