Saturday, July 28, 2012

Knocked Off My Ass

I know, I know... you're thinking I meant to write "Knocked On My Ass",  especially considering my usual ass mishaps, (both literally and figuratively.)  But the truth is, I have been knocked off my ass on my ass.  It's been awhile, but I still remember it like it was yesterday.

It all began in a small, country home somewhere in the midwest...

My father was the pastor of the First Moravian Brethren Church of Ely, Iowa.  Well, it was actually a Presbyterian church but that was the church's original name.  And that, in itself, explains a lot about where I may have taken a wrong turn or two in my life.  Preachers' kids... geesh!  (Right up there with psychologists' kids.)

But I digress... My dad made next to nothing to minister to his flock, but to help compensate him people would always be bringing around things like chicken dinners and eggs and shit... literally.  We'd get a free load of manure each spring to fertilize the garden.  And of course, my father detested both chicken and eggs but was always too polite to mention it.  They also tended to give the poor minister's children their cast-off pets.  We were the equivalent of the humane society in those days.

At one point, we had a dog, 18 cats, a guinea pig and a donkey.

Figures... most kids grow up asking for a pony for Christmas... all we got was a freakin' donkey.

My parents decided we should call the donkey "Harry", short for Harry S. Truman.  It was the 50's after all and my parents were (gasp) Republicans.  At first it was all very exciting.  Silly children that we were, we thought we could ride him.  Harry, on the other hand, thought that was a stupid idea.

That didn't stop us, though, from chasing him down and trying to jump on his back, grab onto his bristly mane and take him for a little spin around the yard.  Harry lived in the lower back yard, down by the tree lined creek, (or "crick" as we country folk called it.)  Most often, Harry would stand there refusing to budge.  If you were lucky, Harry would move at a slow walk.  Not all that exciting, but hey... when you're 7 years old and it's as close to a horse as you're going to get, you take your shot.

One day, the little girl from up the road came over to play and we decided it was time to go for a ride.  Being the polite girl I was, I let her ride in front and I jumped up behind her onto Harry's behind.  It was the one time in his life that Harry decided to take it up a notch and actually started to speed up to a lope.  The crafty animal had a sinister plan... he took off for the tree-lined crick.  We were thrilled!

Unfortunately, my so-called friend neglected to remember that all-important word... DUCK!  As we came to the trees, she suddenly leaned down over Harry's neck and I was hit smack in the chest by a low-growing branch.  Whop!  Next thing I knew I was flat on my back on the ground, gasping for air.

Yes, Harry got the drop on me.  I had been knocked off my ass on my ass.

And so it goes... the beginning of a lifetime of mishaps.    *sigh*

Saturday, July 21, 2012

I Should Have Paid More

I'm getting a new roof this week.  I knew it was time when I started finding shingles in my front yard.  Then my neighbors began stopping by to give me recommendations for roofers, since they were finding my shingles in their front yards every time there was the slightest breeze.  (Yes, I'm the poor white trash of the neighborhood.)

Hopefully, other than a couple of days of annoying noise and dust, it will be an uneventful event... unlike the last time I got a new roof.  Back then I got several estimates and chose the least expensive option from the least sleazy looking guy.  No problem.  Roof fixed.

But then a couple of weeks later, I was sitting in the living room reading whilst an infant Vlad was sleeping in his crib upstairs.  Suddenly, there was what sounded like a huge explosion and my heating ducts instantly released black dust into the air.

My first thought was, "Holy Mother of God, the roof fell in on Vlad!"  Choking from the dust as I raced up the stairs, my second thought was, "I should have paid more for the roof!"

I grabbed Vlad and ran outside where debris was floating down from the sky.  I looked up... and the roof was still intact.  "What the hell?"

Here's what had happened:

(skip to about 1:35 to see video footage)

Yes, some asshole blew himself up just 6 houses away on the street next to mine... a suicide because he was mad at his girlfriend.  WTF?!  Seriously?  Blowing yourself up?  Seems to me like there are a lot of ways that would be much easier and not take out half the neighborhood.

It's the first time I've ever seen something that was literally blown to smithereens.  In the end, they also had to demolish the houses on either side of the explosion site.

As for infant Vlad... he slept through the entire thing!

So this time I did NOT go for the cheapest estimate.  I don't want to tempt fate and endanger the neighborhood.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Changing Gears: A Magpie Tale

Much as he tried, he couldn’t seem to change gears.  Clouded in ennui, it became more and more difficult simply to put one foot in front of the other.  Days turned into weeks and still there was no change in the weather. 

Until one morning he woke up and decided it was time to cut through the fog that had slowly enveloped him.  Digging deep within his soul, he parted the hardened surface to pry the stone from between the frozen gears. 

It was time to start moving again.

* * * * * * * *

Willow over at Life at Willow Manor  has been providing inspiration for bloggers with her photo prompts on a site called Magpie Tales.  This is actually a prompt that she posted some time ago.  I saved it, thinking I would write about it someday.  Months later, here it is... guess I just had to get my own gears moving again.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Reprise: The Fruit Stand

Since I'm headed out camping tomorrow, I thought I'd leave you with this oldie but goodie Magpie Tale.  It was inspired by a visit I made to a fruit stand the last time I was camping at Stony Brook.  Enjoy!  (And if you don't hear from me again within a month, come looking for me!)


The Fruit Stand: A Magpie Tale

It began as a simple camping trip with friends.  The day they left to return to town, I ventured into the local village to pick up a few supplies for my last night at the campground.  The fruit stand beckoned me with its hand written signs:  "Fresh Peaches" and "Sweet Corn."

After I pulled off the road, it seemed strange that there weren't many baskets of fruits and vegetables on the table.  Most of the tables were filled with root-bound flowers in old pots. A dilapidated building with a tin roof stood behind the sad array of produce.  Equally dilapidated and misshapen additions were attached to the sides, much like the pop-up campers back at the campground.  Chicken wire covered what was left of the windows.

As I selected a small basket of peaches, the old woman who came out of the even older building rattled off a litany of what other fruits and vegetables were available.  Look at the onions... no soft spots on those. The muslin dress, sprigged with tiny blue flowers, hung loosely on her. Tomatoes are nice and ripe... $2 a basket.  Both her hair and body were wiry and one of her front teeth was missing.  Nectarines are nice and sweet.  The remaining teeth reminded me of yellow and white sweetcorn.  We have fresh picked Silver Queen inside, $4 a dozen.  She kept talking as she transferred the peaches I selected to a brown paper bag.  Give the money to the boy.  

I turned and saw a slightly younger man I hadn't noticed before. Likely her son, if the matching dentition was anything to go by.  His hair was a dark blond and was cut unevenly.  The overalls he wore had large pockets to hold the bills and coins I handed to him.  He and his mother looked like they'd just stepped out of a Dorothea Lange photograph, while I felt like I'd just stepped into one.  

Fresh sweet corn inside.  Perhaps I could use a few ears of corn after all.  My son would enjoy that for dinner when I get home tomorrow night.  So, is your son camping with you?  He's working this week, but will be home tomorrow.  There's some summer squash over here... got both yellow and green.  No thank you, this will be plenty enough for tonight.  Kids these days don't get enough fresh air.  Yes, camping is great for kids.  The corn is inside the building.  Were you caught in that thunder storm last night?  Yeah, that was pretty wild!   How old is your son?  Twenty two.  Did you say he was camping with you?  She falls into step behind me as I move closer to the building.    

I wandered into the building after the young man.  There was even less inside than there was outside.  No corn in sight, but then it was hard to see anything in the gloom.  The boy will have to bring it out for you... it's in the back room.  Old fruit crates stack the walls as though they're the only thing holding them up.  So, you say you're camping by yourself?

As I sit on an old fruit crate, staring at the door in front of me, I wonder again how I came to be in such a predicament.  The lock stares back at me, the scratches that I've made on it mirroring the blood vessels in my eyes.  There's nothing to do but sit and wait.  The muslin dress, sprigged with tiny blue flowers, hangs loosely on me now.  It's getting hard to remember what I wore the day I stopped at the fruit stand so many months ago.  Loneliness does such strange things to people.

* * * * * * * *

Willow over at Life at Willow Manor  has been providing inspiration for bloggers with her photo prompts on a site called Magpie Tales.  Be sure to check out the other fabulous writers participating in Magpie Tales this week.  You'll be glad you did!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Solo Camping

Once again I’m about to embark on a camping trip… by myself. 

Most people think that’s odd, or daring, or crazy.  I, on the other hand, think it makes perfect sense.  After years of jobs where I’m “on” 24-7, the idea of spending time away from telephones and computers always sounds like Nirvana.  I can do what I like when I like without having to take care of anyone else. 

I don’t backpack in the wilds, but rather go to state parks to find campsites that are relatively private while maintaining access to the basic amenities.  (Flush toilets and hot showers.)  That means going online six months in advance to secure the best sites.  (On the water for easy kayak launching and with plenty of trees for keeping the sun at bay and stringing a hammock between them.)

Bugs?  No problem.  I have my screen gazebo at the ready!  I laugh in the face of stinging insects!  (Or there’s always StingStop for the occasional mishap.) 

I have a respectable sized 4-person tent to accommodate my airbed and lawn chair.  I also have a little fan to keep the air moving within the tent.  After the sun goes down, I have a headlamp for reading in the dark. 

Dietary needs have all been accounted for.  I have my Coleman stove for quick coffee access in the morning, a marine cooler for keeping food fresh, my little hatchet for splitting firewood for my fire-grilled cuisine and my “roll-o-roaster” for perfecting the exquisitely browned marshmallow.  Oh… and my box-o-wine for after dinner consumption.

As for activities, I am perfectly happy reading, solving crossword puzzles and playing Scrabble on my Kindle.  The occasional walk or kayak outing take care of my need for physical activity. 

There’s only one think that might intrude on my tranquility this year….

Cleverly disguised as a well-behaved canine, this dangerous beast knows no bounds when it comes to fighting perceived evils.  Look out woodland creatures and fellow campers! 

It might not be such a quiet week after all.
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