Friday, August 31, 2007

Rude Power

This is LeRoy and his truck (the dog in the back is ours).
Although LeRoy lives and works in San Diego, he spends certain times of the year in this area to maintain his family’s home place and do farming. He actually kept a trailer on our property which he lived in part time for many years. It was rustic, but as we improved our property, added a well and electricity, and eventually built a house, we hooked him up to all our services, and charged a one dollar rent (for legal purposes). LeRoy is now retired, and built his own house in the area, which continues to be part time.
I talked LeRoy into letting me paint his truck, being that it was old and rusty, and this was the end result. I bought a bunch of Rustoleum paint in various bright colors, to blend with the original orange color of the truck. I sanded the rust with an electric sander and then I put a crew of neighborhood kids together to do the painting. We had a boy from Northern Ireland staying with us that summer, the same age as my son, so this was the perfect way for him to get to know us.
I am sure you are curious about the mix of symbols and graphics, and how we came up with the theme. Well, there were a couple of middle school girls who participated, hence the flower power kind of seventies overall graphics style. It was popular that summer and I used to love the stuff myself when I was their age. And you know how teenage girls are, they have tremendous power to influence, love decorating, and give major attention to small details. Some younger siblings, preschoolers actually, did the hand prints. Their moms were a bit stressed out by all the oil based paint. One of the boys is a farmer’s son and all the branding commonly associated with a certain green tractor is his contribution. Not sure if you can tell, but there is a map of Ireland on one side, green of course, and LeRoy’s phone number is on the back of the truck. Le Roi is single and the kids were trying to help. They were pretty sure this truck would be a chick magnet. Think so?
The next summer LeRoy registered the truck as an entry in the Covered Bridge Festival Parade and the kids and I put on roller blades and skated around the truck and threw candy to the crowd as we went by. I don’t think anybody called him. They probably couldn’t read the phone number.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Welcome to the 80's

When I was visiting Chicago a couple of weekends ago my mother gave me this picture. It was taken sometime between '82 and '83 I think. The car’s name is Bill in honor of a guy I was dating momentarily. I was living in Lakewood, Ohio and this was my first car. It was an upgrade from my mother’s old schwin ten speed. The bike had baskets on the sides which were useful for carrying groceries. I used the bike for shopping and running errands around town. Now, with this car, I was no longer tethered to public transportation, and was able to get yet a third job, working as a waitress at the Colony Restaurant on Wednesday nights after work at my first job as a receptionist at the Great Lakes Theatre Festival, all in downtown Cleveland, Ohio. I needed the money. Weekends I worked my second job usually on Saturday, cataloguing the insect collection at the Natural History Museum at University Circle, free of charge and for the love of biology. My younger sister was living with me at the time. She worked part-time for a temporary agency. We bought a six pack every night for a week one summer and I couldn’t pay the rent that month. I think a six pack was $ 2.50? It was bad. Then she got a real job that paid decent and she split. She upgraded to a flashy condo on the east side. It happens.

As you can see from the picture, my sisters are piled on top of the car, plus my brother in law, with me on the door. Standing next to me is my brother, and then my future brother in law. I left Bill with my mom and moved to Chicago, which happened rather impulsively the following spring. I had a friend at the theatre that was moving to California so he gave me a lift. I took two trash bags of dirty clothes and was dropped off at my older sister’s house. She was already living with her husband in Chicago beginning a few years earlier. It seems like my older sister, whose only three years older than me, has been married forever. And we, my younger sister and I, were forever either drinking her beer (me) or using her washing machine (Laura), so it was no surprise to my older sister that I showed up in Chicago with dirty laundry. Anyway, I gave my jobs in Cleveland four days notice (they were thrilled for me) and my roommate a months rent (she was not, quite angry infact). Oh well. It happens.

Eventually, I sold the car in Chicago to four young Guatemalans. They dressed like Sandinistas and reminded me of the Clash album cover of I think the same name. Only one of them spoke English and they offered me $750.00 for the car. My ad had said $ 700.00. There was a rough moment as I deliberated this but then I only took $ 700.00. Oh well.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Thursday, August 23, 2007

There is no utopia

I interrupt the regularily scheduled program to complain about one aspect of country living: the pests!

Yesterday I found a wee mouse alive in an empty jar that had been sitting on the floor in the basement. I threw the mouse in the front bushes, still alive. Its my policy. The jars are in the same room as our cats' litter boxes. Last week I found a not so wee mouse floating face down in the water I left in the kitchen sink overnite. This mouse was not so lucky. It had drowned. I expect to not find any mice in our house at all. With four cats, professional assasins, I might add, you would think this would be a non issue.

I knew the mouse in the kitchen had been living under the stove for sometime. In fact, one day i found it on the top of a window blind just out of reach of one of our "professionals". From there it did a somersault leap to the kitchen floor and scurried under the stove and thats where it stayed I guess till it got thirsty and I made the horrible discovery in the sink . I was totally surprised that we would have a mouse in our furnace room; the same room the cats regularily visit to relieve themselves if they aren't outside. Apparently I am feeding them too much, or they are spending far too much time on the couch. And this leads me to another subject (i showed this to my sister as a periodic "Make Art Every Day" email series and all she replied was "your weird", so again, i just do it for fun and i think i should keep my day job...)


The ants in my kitchen
herald the coming of spring.
The ants with their anthills
in the rose garden, they won’t come in
the house again this season.

Small like flax seed, big as a house
Ticks drop from the trees, or the rafters,
or the porch. The cats bring them in on their fur
and they crawl up my toes from the rug

June bugs barrel into the screen door,
nightly, like bombardiers
They litter the porch come morning.
Their large bronze bodies stiff and crunchy
Summer has arrived

The cicadas buzz and sing
Crickets and grasshoppers and slugs
Lay waste to my hostas
Or slip through the cracks
in the screen door and I have to catch them
to throw them back outside.

Autumn marks the soybean harvest
and a plague of ladybugs all red and black.
Like the children’s poem,
I wish they would fly away.
Instead of hovering around my house
on warm days.
They are everywhere and they smell
Like the earth in my vacuum, and they bite.

Elder bugs the color of leaf litter
In great hoards, same as lady bugs but
They look like cockroaches
And they are everywhere, in my kitchen
And I hate them.
I have reached my limit of tolerance.
This year I will kill them.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007


The other afternoon Harry said this to me: “Mom, since you wrote that note on the envelope I have started getting skin problems. I have a patch of dry skin right here (he points to his elbow) and this morning I got one on my shoulder, and I have one on my side(in general Harry does have great skin - except dry, like his sister). Will you please take it back? And, you need to be careful about your curses.”

Harry is referring to a note I had scribbled on the envelope of Aunt Mary’s letter: Harry if you do not read Aunt Mary’s letter today you will have a pox of skin problems.

My Aunt sent him a letter along with a book to help him prepare for ACT’s in October. It has been sitting by the computer for awhile untouched. I was tired of him telling me that he would read it. The kid is well meaning but, you know how teenagers are. All adolescents have skin problems so it was an easy association. I figured as poxes go this was a win – win situation because whose ever seen a teen that didn’t have skin problems. It was more or less supposed to be a joke.

What he meant by “needs to be careful” is this:

When he was about eleven, we were in Chicago at the pool at my mom’s condo. Harry had gone to the Seven Eleven across the street. I told him to take money out of my purse. Well what he did, without realizing it, was grab a big wad of cash that amounted to $60.00. Harry didn’t realize he had that much till he was in the store, but even still, he left the money on the counter, while he went to select an ice cream treat from the store’s freezer. He came back to the counter and his money was gone. He was the only one in the store besides the man behind the counter. He asked the clerk if the clerk saw anyone take his money and the clerk said no. My son felt he was lying. I found my son at my car where my purse was, crying his eyes out. He told me the story. He was very upset because it was a lot of money.

“Listen Harry, I’ll fix this. Let’s go back to the store.”

So we drove over there. The store was empty except for the clerk.
“My son says that he came in here and put money on the counter and turned his back for five minutes, and the money was gone. Did you see what happened to it?”

The man was clearly a non native and by the thickness of his mid-eastern somewhere near India accent probably not very good with English either, but he understood what I was asking. He shook his head, no.
“ Are you sure? Because my son said that only you and he were in the store and that you were standing right here and watched him put the money down.”
Again he shook his head. No, no.
“Are you saying my son is lying? Because I know my son and he is not perfect, but he is not lying about this.”

No, again no.
Well, I had to do something to save face in front of my son. I must somehow win. I had told Harry I would fix this. I stood up straight, looked squarely at the man, and shook my finger in his direction. “Look, you better not be lying to me, because I will put a curse on you. If you are lying to me, when you die, you will go to hell. So, you better not be lying about this because I would not want you to go to hell, but you will if you are lying.” He went bug-eyed. Wow, I think I made an impression. I also think he was lying.

Well I heard from my family and they told me that six months later the 7-11 went belly up. Eventually the building was raised and they put a bank in its place.

So then about 3 months after that, my brother in law was supposed to get tires for me at a discount. He was busy and did not get back to me. He might have been out of town. I needed them right now, and realizing I had waited to the last minute to ask my brother in law, I just went and got them at a retail outlet, for retail prices. I was a little miffed, but I did understand he was busy and probably overextended. About a week after that he was over at my mother’s investigating a clog in her toilet. It turned into a horrible nightmare. He had to completely dismantle the toilet, he flooded the bathroom, and after removing the toilet, where the pipe meets the floor he found a bar of my hand made soap. I make soap in the off season (aka winter) and it is hard as a rock and it lasts forever. My brother in law was convinced this was a sign (he’s Scottish and they are superstitious). So now I had a reputation. (And I have prayed specifically to God for money and gotten that too, so I believe in myself!)

Well just recently I had a conversation with someone at work about the war in Iraq. I made the comment that I hope Bush gets kidney stones because they are a major nuisance. My friend looked at me funny and I said, well I just want him feel some of the pain these families of solders are feeling (not even close but still), and I don’t want his problem to be traced back to me. Well y’know what? Within several weeks I read in the papers that he got polyps. That must have involved some kind of pain, because a doctor had to remove them. Hmmm.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Learning a new culture

For those of us who have children, August is when sports programs and various school related activities begin. I am never ready for all this and I have mixed feelings about the transition from unstructured summer activity to busy school and sports schedules

I wanted Harry to be a figure skater. When he was three and four I would take him to the community rink, and taught him the rudiments of skating. He loved it. In Maryland, when I signed him up for skating lessons at five years of age, he was always trying to race the instructor to the end of the line. When no one was looking, Harry would skate and slide, slamming into the boards. The progress reports from skating instructors always ended with “he needs to be in Hockey!”, so I signed Harry up for Hockey clinic. It was a perfect fit.

Then we moved to rural Minnesota. After a couple of years, pond hockey just wasn’t enough, and Harry was asking to play in a league. Living in rural America as it were, it took me some time to acclimate to available resources, which were neither convenient nor in large supply.

On top of that, hockey is a rough sport and this rink was a cold, unattractive place that smelled faintly of rotting rubber and gym sweat. The practice schedule and number of games was crazy impossible. I felt I was consigning a good portion of the rest of my life here, like being in purgatory, because watching his practices and driving all over the state in horrific winter weather for games was depressing. I guess I wasn’t ready for it.

So at signup, I handed the lady the ten sheets of paper containing Harry’s information written four different ways at least seven times, with the check for an unholy large sum of money. Hockey is a very expensive sport, what with the ice time and the 15 1bs of padding and plastic the kids have to wear. It had taken me three weeks to find the website where the forms were, and three days to understand what I was supposed to do with it.

“This is the old form. You want the new form, 6048b and revision date August 8.” She handed me ten sheets of a form that looked disgustingly similar to the one I had just handed to her

“You want me to do this again?” I had developed a serious case of bursitis in the knuckles of my writing hand from pulling weeds over the summer. I was feeling old and in denial about it, plus I was frustrated at not understanding the youth hockey system. It was for me, like trying to figure out how a car engine worked. And that is when I completely blind-sided the poor woman. She did not know what hit her. I began to protest, and worse, as the volume picked up, the speed of my diatribe increased. I was saying things like: “These forms are EXACTLY alike! What a waste of time! I refuse. I won’t do it. Why was this form posted? What’s wrong with you people?” Here I was crazy. I was waving the papers in the air and shaking my head and rocking on my heels till I finished. Her worried expression turned to fear. How could the most mundane comment produce this volcanic eruption? What was my problem? My son was embarrassed. I could see him visibly shrinking, turning away, and probably looking for an escape route.

The woman looked at me incredulously. The people around us stopped and stared. “We posted this new form yesterday; see it’s got a dash b. We only found out about it this week.” Like, geesus woman, I am a volunteer. I have a life believe it or not, just like you, so suck up.

As I learned with Hockey, you do just suck up. It’s got to be one of the most painful, time sucking sports a parent can endure on behalf of their child. Every hockey mom or dad should get a medal for suffering. Hockey parents are just about the toughest group I’ve had the pleasure of knowing. You have no idea what it is like to go on overnights for tournaments in cold dumpy hotels or motels, which are the only kind that will suffer the presence of a youth hockey team (youth hockey teams are notorious!). All this in January or February or March! Blech!

As for me, I spent the rest of Harry’s hockey career trying to impress on that woman that I really was a normal, decent, human being.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

The meanest man alive

John Pike helps us with the mowing and maintenance of our equipment and property. He’s lived most of his life in this area, except for some time in prison, and some time out west working in coal mines with his brothers. He’s one of nine children of a hardworking and respectable local family. John quit school at thirteen to help his dad, who was the city’s maintenance crew, back in the ‘50’s, when his dad was injured working on the job. His mother just died a year ago at the age of 96. We were the first person he called (although he doesn’t have a phone). John has survived throat cancer, two heart attacks, and most recently, removal of his bladder, but it hasn’t slowed him down much. When he had his last heart attack, which put him flat on his face in the bowling alley, they used a defibrillator to revive him. When he came to, he punched the police officer who was assisting, and pulled out the IV’s. I tease him about getting a tattoo on his chest for the next time; the universal symbol for NO (a red circle with a cross through it) using the medical acronym for the defibrillator. He swears he’ll never let anybody put one of those things on him again.

With any journey, and this time for us in Minnesota has been a journey, it always helps to have a guide. Our guide has changed a few times; first it was the realtor who introduced us to the rural community and being Minnesotan. (I kept calling him to get directions out to our property. I swear every corn field looked the same.) Then it was Joe Rude, who we bought our land from, and the man who among other things, got Cooder of the wild ride in a bulldozer, to knock trees down for trails in our woods. For about the last eight years we’ve had John Pike. John Pike is fond of telling us that he’s the meanest man alive, or so bad that when he dies, the devil doesn’t want him in hell, and I believe it. My son and all my son’s friends hate him. They describe him as scary. Or maybe it is because we made John Pike the straw boss for Harry and his friends on whatever project we had going, (and to describe us as opportunistic about child labor would be fairly accurate). John does take some getting used to, but any more I consider him one of our best friends and, unfortunately for my son, part of the family.

My favorite John Pike story is the time John was moving an old Chalmers plow for me, and a piece of the plow hit John in the face, splitting his lip and busting his dentures. A day after the incident, John’s girlfriend (who is eighty), called me to say that John did not have insurance and would need new teeth. I was all for it. John had the worst teeth of just about anybody I’d ever met, so I told his girlfriend I would notify our insurance and have the adjuster call him. That night John Pike called to speak to my husband. “I tain’t talkin’ to no insuree agents and I tain’t fillin’ out no forms. I fixed my teeth myself and they are fine.” Well, he soldered them with one of those soldering torches. And I have to admit they do look fine. And that’s pretty much the way he his with just about everything which includes everything he owns. There is nobody who can breathe life into old, worn out, or broken better than he can. He is living proof.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Lollapalooza (more)

It rocked. We saw so many great bands, and now I regret we didn’t get up earlier to see others. I am still going through withdrawal. Patti Smith was so ama-azing. She seemed overwhelmed by the crowd. At one point it looked as if she would cry. Age does a lot for her. She was magic. Iggy Pop hasn’t lost his charm or his stage presence either; during Its No Fun To Be Alone he invited the whole crowd on stage and anyone who could fit was up there. The news reported about 250 people. At the end of the song he introduced the crowd on stage as “the Lollapalooza dancers” and thanked them. Then he said “I would thank God, but he’s not up here”. He’s so cool.

Oh, and I body surfed to Daft Punk the first night. I didn’t want to press my luck any further so I only did it once. It was a riot. The guys around me were so polite because they mustered a group to send me off (at my request natch). Oh yeah! My sister and I decided that the young people today are a whole lot nicer than the young people were when we were young.

And the place was full of technology. There were ATM’s aplenty and other things. Part of any basic survival kit, along with a cash card, water, and a beer, was a cell phone. We made sure each of the kids had one. I love technology. It makes teen sitting so much easier.

The first night my sister, her husband, and I went down. We met the three boys plus my niece at the event. Since my sister’s blackberry is broke and she couldn’t text, I was doing the texting. I stumbled at first with texts like “Wgerf r t” or “We r bw thf snumd stahe” to my son and my niece. They were confused. My son responded with a “What the hell are you trying to say? Are you drunk? I’ll show you how to text later” tirade two seconds after I text him. Hating to be lectured, I text back “I luv u”, which is like “F** you” in my personal mommy language. I finally figured out what was upsetting him so much when my brother in law showed me a message I sent to him. It was basically nonsense. (I didn’t believe either of them when they said I was such a shitty texter till I checked my call log of sent messages and it was true.) I got better as the weekend progressed.

The second day my sister and I went down with the three boys. The boys lost us the minute we were inside the gate. No texts either. I thought my son was not communicating to me because of the texting fiasco of the day before, but I realized that it was because I gave him forty dollars to get something at Portillos yesterday, the restaurant was closed, and he kept the change. Mommy who?

On Sunday we took advantage of cheap parking around State Street. We were a little worried that we were too far away from the park, and in an area that wouldn’t be safe. My sister is talking on the cell phone with her husband, who is telling her that as long as she is walking with a crowd she’ll be fine. She says, “What if we aren’t in a crowd?” "You are the crowd, add the boys", he says. This time we did run into the boys at Iggy Pop and it was like three baby birds all at once, and I’m slapping twenty in my son’s hand and I see my sister give her son money and after they leave my sister mutters “well that hello was expensive”.

And finally, I love Chicago. It is such a great city. The park service and city workers did a phenomenal job of keeping up with services and cleaning up after the crowds; makes me proud to live in the Midwest.


Wednesday, August 1, 2007


MizMell , i found this picture. (Thanks for your interest!) Its just alot of green right now. I tend to overplant to discourage weeds, but this year I think I am crowding out the zuccini and the gladiolas. Everything is late. Marigolds are planted along the edge, mixed with cilantro and brussel sprouts. There is dill everywhere. I like to pick it and put it in vases in the house. I just let that and cilantro reseed themselves every year. On the either end I plant pumpkins and sunflowers. The pumpkin vines grow over the edge of the garden on the high side and into the grass on both sides. This give them more room to grow. I have cana planted around the center edge which keeps the blackberry bushes under control and stops them from bothering everything else. The other side of the garden has pole beans and is edged with calendula (i use that in soap - the petals retain their yellow orange color in spite of the lye). I have tomatoes and green peppers on the end by the woods. There is also corn (i planted lettuce, spinach underneat, and radishes under the pumpkins, because that stuff all is gone by the time the corn or pumpkins mature). The potatoes are on this side of the picture in mounded rows,with onions, parsley and basil. They are just starting to die back (gold and white potatoes - mid season.... red potatoes don't do well here). Pretty crowded place eh? More diversity than a New York City block.


Out of Orbit for a few days....

I am getting ready to go to LOLLAPALOOZA in CHICAGO, where my family lives. I am leaving tomorrow with my son and his friend. I'll be meeting my younger sister. Her whole family will be going, her husband, their three kids plus friends. Par-tey! Y'know ... i spent at least two decades (the 70's and the 80's) going to stadium concerts, concerts at the Allen Theatre, concerts in the park, in the quarry, in bars, you name it. I saw every Jackson Brown tour up through the early 80's. I used to be like that, and my tastes are very eclectic. I've slowed down alot, but I still like to kick it up every so often. I went to Red Hot Chili Peppers with my son and his friend last year. It was great. The headliner at Lollapalooza is Pearl Jam. That was the first CD I gave Harry, when he was EIGHT! Oh, and I would be such a groupie if I wasn't so shy. I always find ways to meet the musicians, y'know run into them casually or something. I worked in a record store in the 70's and use to go to promo parties. I still do it at these little folk venues I go to for musicians who you've never heard of. Its probably embarassing for my friends. I can't help it. Anyway, Lollapalooza, I am so excited. I recognize at least half the bands that will be playing. No posts for a few days. (I am sure my large readership will be sooo disappointed!)