Wednesday, April 29, 2009

My Clothespins! My Clothespins! NOOOOOOO!

NOTE #1: This was written much earlier, in the springtime. I forgot it was writ. But it looks like there's some amusing laundry humor here, so...uh...might as well...uh... .
(from 4/29/09)

NOTE #2: I can't fix the consarned picture! Will one of my lovely daughters take pity on me and put a margin around the clothespin? No? Maybe later? When?

Clothespin *It's raining out there for the first time in several days. We've had an unusual early heatwave in Sub-Philly, broken today by cooler temps and rain.

I've been frantically hanging out laundry for the past few days; near-90°F temps + brisk winds = FFTP (the frantic flapping of the textiles phenomenon) and dry towels in 45 minutes. We're so lucky to live in a neighborhood where the women can hang wet wash out on clotheslines and spit tobacco juice into empty coffee cans.

On a side note, wet weather can make exposed clothespins turn gray with rusty hinges after awhile, so it would be better to bring them in each day rather than leave them out on the line. It gives the neighbor ladies less to discuss if the actual clothing is brought in from the line each day, along with the pins.

Clothespin Blues
(Blind Dry R. Sheetz, c. 1932)

Mah pins is gray,
Dey comes from France,
Mah pins leves rust spots
On da ass o'Mah pants!

Dis load been warshed,
Dis load bin hanged,
Dis load bin breaking Mah back,
Ah'l be gol-danged!

Oh. Oh, dear. *wipes away tear* Those old blues standards always make me weepy!

There are more sophisticated neighborhoods all around us--McMansions on culs-de-sac, big-screen televisions, lawn service, pool service, identical mailbox styles, identical yuppie soccer moms driving identical SUVs, no fences, no clotheslines, no swingsets for the yuplets. Things are a bit looser and nonconforming here in Threadbare Terrace. The rules of this once-pristine development have sort in the three or so decades since construction began.

A good percentage of our neighbors are original buyers within our development. Over the years since they settled in, they've tended their properties, been active in the community, grown their gardens, voted in municipal elections, supported local schools, raised their families and stayed in one place until retirement.

With many neighbors now in their senior years, children grown and flown, attending to the homesteads has become somewhat burdensome. Heavy maintenance has been forsaken, and the residences have taken on a patina of lassitude. Broken windows now take longer to be repaired, darkened Christmas lights still remain stapled to windows and roof edges, sidewalks have heaved up in oddly angular ruin, lawns are tended haphazardly. One of our more weary neighbors has taken to jamming plastic flowers up and down her walkway every spring, to the great amusment of the other residents. Matter of fact, a few of her plastic geraniums, faded but stalwart, were seen poking up out of the snow last January. Ooops!

Most neighbors have flowers in their yards that come up every spring--daffodils, tulips, grape hyacinths--reminders of better years, before our knees became too arthritic to spend time kneeling down with a spade and a bag of bulbs.

This fall, I'm going to invest in the future and stick bulbs all over the estate. If my kids keep the property after Mr. Pseudonym and I are sitting up on clouds and laughing at them, they'll be surprised each spring by the brilliant flowers springing up, and they'll stop to remember the day dear old Momma wouldn't stop buying bulbs and had to be carted off to Dazed Valley Recovery Center for a much needed rest.

*Clothespin by Claes Oldenburg + Philadelphia City Hall

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Look What the Cat Dragged In!

HELLOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO, Sweet Stuffs!!! Yes, I know! Well, it's only been a year or so! A lot of things can happen in a year, and some of these happenings may prohibit one from posting to her blog on a regular basis, right? There could be flood, fire, famine, sudden relocation, sudden dislocation, or one might get hit in the temporal artery by a golf ball and spend a year staggering around and repeating "I'm OK. I'm just a hit head ball ouch."

valheart3 Well, I thank the ever-vigilant guarding spirits none of these unfortunate scenarios actually happened to me. No, I just decided it was time to take a little shmita, a little pause for intense contemplation in the crafting of our lifetime plans as Mr. Pseudonym and I enter our senior years.

I made a New Year's resolution at the beginning of 2008 to take an active interest in our financial, social, vocational and spiritual lives throughout the unfolding year. My intentions were honorable, but my self-discipline was notoriously absent. Other than beginning to check our bank balance once a week (or maybe once every two weeks) (Ah, HELL! once every fortnight--maybe), I found myself unable to contemplate the true weight of our coinage. So much for the finances. *sigh*

On the social front, Mr. Pseudonym and I have always been cave bears, having one or two friends and hardly ever visiting with them. I was more social when I was working and when the kids were little and I was active in the school functions. Now, though, we pretty much stick to ourselves, growling and shooting hostile glances at each other whenever the mood strikes us.*sigh*

Vocationally, Mr. Pseudonym is highly educated and has traditionally been the breadwinner in the family. Mr. P. loves his work, which must be the most rewarding and inspiring state of mind. I take care of the house and Mr. P., do the cooking and errands and perform those functions crucial to our comfort and well-being around here. I'll tellya what, it's a busy and sometimes nerve-wracking job. I don't remember signing up for this gig, but there it is. We don't even want to GO into what must be done to sanitize the cave. Crudely speaking, there are eight anuses in this house and only one person with rubber gloves and a scrub brush. I mean, in one end, out the other, y'know? (Hmmmmm...maybe if I stopped cooking and buying pet food?)

Finally, I've always been the only one in this house with any spiritual leanings at all. To my family's resounding chorus of "BULLSHIT," I've always maintained we need to keep our eyes, ears and hearts open to what we may not be able to understand right now. I just cannot believe there are no other states of being than our earthly cycles of walking around blinking, consuming and excreting, unaware and uncaring, to the day we ourselves are consumed and excreted.

That probably didn't make any sense at all. I'll just go clean something.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Tales from the Caves

It's been quite a while since I've visited with my five constant friends here. Time and task has plodded on resolutely: spring, summer, planting my lil patch of manure clods, yard patrol and litterbox control, a new paradigm for trashbag utilization, overheating, unbearable silence, boredom, watching the Mr. P's undershirts flapping around out on the clothesline, snack cakes and Court TV.

Spring and early summer were quite enjoyable--the windows flung open, my little seedlings stretching out of their peat pots toward the light, the smell of the earth, the sun warming my blue-tinted, terminally-Caucasian skin. But then the reality of summer in southern NJ set in: saunacious humidity hanging on the motionless, dung-scented air; wall air conditioners buzzing like shaken beehives inside, cicadas screeching like nails on a blackboard outside; postponed day trips; limp hair; staggering birds; blind-darkened rooms; and blastfurnace car interiors making it impossible to bring home a quart of ice cream (lack of a/c in the A/ccord).

I looked up one day and realized my garden had been neglected. The plum tomatoes had blossom-end rot, the cucumbers had screamed and died, the zinnias and white marigolds were growing wild and the weeds were having their way with the more virtuous plants everywhere. I'd been low-level depressed again for several weeks, hiding in the darkness of my cave, eating Devil Dogs and watching Judge Joe Brown re-runs on the tube. The highlight of the gardening season--finding those giant green worms on my tomato plants (the ones with the wasp eggs on their backs)--had come and gone without my notice.

Hi! Like my barrister's wig?
I got it on eBay!

I'd turned into a mindless blob (ref film The 5th Elem*nt, right after Evil-Bastard-Zorg-choking-on-a-cherry scene, priest has been kicked out of the room, Zorg stands alone, holding Picasso, his disgusting, elephantine, fat-rolled, hairless pet over his left shoulder, its idiotic face peeking around Zorg's neck as it waves its trunk aimlessly. The pet is about the size of a two- or three-year-old child, weighing about 60 pounds, flabby, repulsive, undoubtedly malodorous, vile, useless, patently offensive--in short, the only pet for Zorg).

The main problem with turning into a mindless blob is the fear of dying while watching t.v. and eating Devil Dogs. The police would be summoned by concerned neighbors who saw a blood-smeared cat running out of the house. The cat stopped in their driveway, sat down and began grooming itself to clean up the red, sticky fluid covering its face. Upon entering the house, the police find my bloated corpus lying on the floor, being feasted upon by Peanut and Buju. A TVGuide is in my left hand, a snack cake in my right hand. The bottle of Diet Pepsi on the coffee table is still cold, which, in combination with the cats' red masks, could only mean one thing: the severe bloating of the body is not due to death having occurred several days ago. The severe bloating is due entirely to unrestrained consumption of Devil Dogs.

The police take pictures and draw a chalk line around the body. They have to use three sticks of chalk and run the line up onto a wall and down again to outline the entire glutton. "God Almighty, Harry! Did you see the trash cans outside? There musta been two dozen empty Devil Dog boxes! Maybe she was tryin' ta eat the picture off that box under the couch and choked on the cardboard!"

Late summer wasn't a total washout, however. My dear friend and neighbor showed me how to throw several trash bags down at the bottom of the receptacle so one need not continually run back and forth to the box of trash bags. This technique is a blessed time saver around here, I'll tellya! I'm finally adjusting to the silence of flown children. Finally. It's taken a long time, and there's still the question of what to do with the next 15/20 years, but that's a ponderage best undertaken once the anti-D-press-ants are better managed.

And then there's the Devil Dog issue to be confronted. God, have mercy!

Monday, August 13, 2007


...waiting for summer to end, messing around on eBay, visiting the dollar stores, waiting for my tomatoes to turn red. *sigh*

The LeKS*pro seems to be helping with the depression--the constant sad thoughts and weepiness have stopped, and I'm becoming interested in projects around the house again (poor Mr. Pseudonym!). But the end of summer usually finds me fatigued and anxious each year, waiting impatiently for autumn. My thoughts often stray to putting a brown paper bag on my head, knocking on my neighbors' doors and yelling, "TRICK OR TREAT!" *sigh*

The latest heat wave snapped for a couple of days, but we're due to shoot back up into Habanero Hell shortly. Little J.Q. is getting tired of staring at the back yard but not being allowed to play outside because of the heat.

*!whine!*---*!whine!*---*!whine!* It's too hot! I'm sweating! My plants are wilted! It's 95°F! In the SHADE! My Waterworld DVD is missing! It's too hot to bring ice cream home from the store! Everyone knows how to water ski but me! The dog keeps dropping her frisbee on my feet! We need RAIN! *!whine!*---*!whine!*---*!whine!*

Ah. That's better.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Gardenage, Pt. II

It's been exactly three weeks since my previous garden report, so we're due for an update.

My cucumber seedlings have been sitting on their mud hills like idiots, unwilling to grow, unwilling to send out tendrils and grasp their tomato-cage supports. It's taken all this time for them to grow a couple of permanent leaves on each seedling. The cucumbers' attitude reminds me of trying to get a teenaged child to clean his/her room.

The tomato plants, on the other hand, are big and bushy, with strong stalks and lush green healthy leaves. They keep making flowers, which get pinched off immediately; the plants need to grow about another foot before making fruit. There are two Roma plants and one cherry. I've never had much luck with the big, round tomatoes. Anyway, Daisy the Terrier used to go crazy every time we picked the round ones. She always thought they were red tennis balls, and she frantically demanded they be thrown across the yard for her to catch in her mouth.

I replanted some bush bean seeds, and this time they all came up. Some had to be discarded during thinning, but I tried transplanting some of them to various spots in the garden, and they seem to be taking root. There's always the horrifying prospect of a proximal bush bean plant mating with a tomato plant when no one is looking, yielding young beanmatoes (or togreenbeans). We would probably opt for a quick trip to the Home for Wayward Bush Beans in that event.

We have enough basil, thyme, dill and parsley to supply the neighborhood. There's something so wonderful about going out to the garden to get fresh herbs for cooking. We can pick the exact amount we need and not worry about wasting big wads of expensive, unused supermarket herbs.

Fresh herbs or not, the weather's been so hot and sticky that no one (me, in particular) has wanted to cook or eat much around here. We've been sluggish, hiding in the air conditioning and unable to summon up much enthusiasm for any outdoor activity. The heatwave is due to break tonight, just in time for Mr. Pseudonym's long-awaited vacation. He's had his nose to the grindstone for far too long, so I'll try to arrange some nice little day trips for this coming week.

There's a place in Pennsylvania I've always wanted to visit:
Longwood Gardens is a horticultural masterpiece--1,050 acres of indoor and outdoor gardens, conservatories, fountains, woodlands and meadows. It was a favorite day trip for my beloved late aunts, Shirley and Rose. Perhaps their spirits still stop in at Longwood to pick up fallen seeds from the ground and wrap them in Kleenex for planting at home.

My mother had a green thumb and at one time actually sold live plants she grew herself. She made window boxes and dish gardens, selling them at our local farmers' market back when my brothers and I were quite young. She moved on to more lucrative businesses over the years, but she always enjoyed her many plants at home.

My aunts, on the other hand, weren't really into growing green things. I can't recall ever seeing a houseplant in Shirley's house, although she did grow some flowering plants in a tiny outdoor garden when she lived on 26th Street in Philadelphia. When they were down visiting, Rose would sometimes snap off a stem from one of my mother's bushy houseplants and take it home for potting.

In her apartment, Rose had several glass jars in the kitchen windows containing masses of tangled, overgrown plant stems she had put in water to root. She never rotated these jars, nor did she rotate the pots she had in her bedroom windows. The plants were tall and spindly from seeking light, all of the leaves faced in the same direction and there was a constant showering of dead brown leaves on the window sills. Rose's little indoor displays were the most depressing use of houseplants I had ever seen. These haggard stems looked like prisoners hanging on to the metal bars of their cells--incarcerated, defeated, no hope, no future.

I'm so glad I've inherited my mother's green thumb, as has my middle daughter
Pixie. Pixie loves all living things, and she always has a garden in the back court of her apartment building. Pixie is also the daughter who looks the most like me and like her late Grandma. It's those Romanian genes, I tellya!

Sunday, June 24, 2007

What *WAS* I Thinking?

***Post Edited on Account of Depression***

Junket says I should not leave this post up as originally written. I think she's right, so this is the edited version, with most of the depressive parts excised. You kind folk don't need to hear that crap!


In a rare attempt at self-improvement, I flipped my credit card number so they would send me Learn Spanish Even If You've Never Learned Spanish Before, How To Ask Where The Commode Is In Spanish & Seven Other Languages and 1001 Absolute Must-Have Spanish Phrases You Will Need If You Wish To Escape Being Eaten By Natives In The Jungles Of Venezuela.

After a few false starts, I was ripping along admirably--learned my numbers in Spanish from cero to veinte, and the phrases "buenos dias," "buenos tardes" and "buenos noches." Junket had learned quite a bit of the language in high school, so she was helping me with pronunciation and beginning to conjugate verbs. We reached a stuck point, and Junket had to look something up online. She was kind enough to print out several sheets of Spanish grammar for me, the reading of which summoned back some malevolent ghosts from 40-odd years ago: I had never bothered to learn English grammar, so any attempt to learn another language would be...uh...somewhat compromised.

I couldn't locate Junket's mean-ass, pejorative, ¡Idiota Estúpidio! Online Guide to Spanish Grammar, so I'm printing out a neato English/Spanish grammar glossary I found on has a section on everything, and I mean everything. Need to find silver buttons with ceramic photo inserts of Pierre Charles LeSueur? Check out '! Need to sleep in a tree for a couple of nights? Visit 'Bout! Eye about to pop out? 'BOUT!!!

Which just goes to show, for every obscure, esoteric, seemingly-unanswerable question that can be asked, there's someone on Earth who knows the answer! Where did all these people with all of this enigmatic knowledge come from? The contributors to appear to be ordinary people, many without a higher education, who are contributing just for the fun of sharing their wisdom with others. When my brothers and I were growing up, our parents were fond of whipping out little bits of their own enlightenment from time to time, just to scare the hell out of us. We didn't understand the weight of knowledge and experience that can be gathered over a lifetime.

Going without schooling is a terribly depressing mistake that can haunt a person forever, so I would not recommend doing this to oneself. But maybe those of us who have never set foot inside any hallowed halls of learning have manged some edification after all, and maybe we can share some of what we know with others. Someone out there needs to know how to transfer baby ladybugs from trees to aphid-infested hydrangeas (a Priscilla specialty)! As for Spanish, well, all I can say is: ay dios mio!

Friday, June 08, 2007

Garden (and other wildlife) Update #1

Well, the garden is coming along a little slower than expected. Out of a skizillion bush bean seeds poked into an L-shaped row, only three brave little seedlings are pushing their way up. Where are the others? Just lazy, sleepy seeds or are they afraid of something out there?

The cucumber hills were rebuilt and more seeds poked in. They look something like lineman Roy Neary's first attempt to sculpt Devil's Tower out of shaving cream or mashed potatoes in "Close Encounters of the Third Kind." That's OK...they can be ugly, as long as the seeds sprout and commence climbing.

The tomato plants are growing nicely, with strong stems and happy-looking leaves, the herbs are taking off like shoplifters and the zinnia and white marigold seedlings are standing proud at the edge of the garden. My dill seeds failed to sprout, but I found a couple of straggly pots of dill at the hardware store and brought them home to live a life of glory, nourished by the finest crap clods on the east coast.

A traumatic memory from the past paid a visit today. Daughter Junket and I, both stinging insect phobic, were terrorized last summer by not one but TWO giant wasp thingies who got into the house at sunset or a little past. When Junket and I were first menaced by The Wasp (or something) From Hell, the instinct to protect my offspring from giant stinging insects was the only thing that kept me from taking off in a fit of hysterics and running a three-minute mile. I mean, this thing was BIG and scary and creepy and LOUD. With Junket cheering me on from behind, I emptied about half a can of Raid on the looping intruder before it hit the wall with a final crunch. A couple of weeks later, the second incident once again found Junket and I clinging to each other and whimpering piteously while waving the can of Raid around for an hour or so.

So Mr. Pseudonym and I were talking tonight when his eyes drifted toward the patio door. I asked him what he was looking at, and he told me a very big insect had just flown by. I turned around, and there it was, The 2007 Edition Wasp (or something) From Hell. Junket came home from work at around 9:00pm and concurred with Mr. P's guess that we had been visited by a "Sphecius speciosus," or Eastern Cicada Killer wasp.

Reading up about this gentle giant did little to assuage my fears. I mean, this thing is HUGE (if I haven't already mentioned this). The males, one-half the size of the females, have no stinger at all and (much like human males) are only interested in finding females for mating purposes. The females have stingers, but they are not really aggressive toward humans; they just want to sip at some nectar or sap, belch and then go hunting for cicadas. The female Cicada Killer stings the cicada to paralyze it, then grabs it up with her feet and flies back to her underground burrow. The cicada is twice her size, but she's just nuts or something, yelling, "I GOT ONE! I GOT ONE!" while careening back to her burrow in a descending zigzag pattern. Once back underground, she plunks the cicada in a cell, lays an egg on it and seals up the cell. Two days later, the egg hatches out in larval form and eats the cicada! I mean, like, ICK!

I hope doing my homework will help me deal with Cicada Killers, though I doubt this will be the case. So, between the giant wasps flying around and giant spiders hanging out of the trees, Mr. Pseudonym will probably have me clinging to his arm and whining, "Kill it! Kill it! KILL IT!" all summer long. Our Raid bill is going to be steep!