Friday, August 31, 2007

What a way to go

So, Swearing Mother got me to thinking about ways people die. Lightning strikes sound quick, and it would certainly be memorable in the family lore. In my own family, one man was killed by a goose that flew through his windshield. Another had his head knocked off while sticking it out the window of a street car. Can you imagine? My grandpa died in Las Vegas waiting for a taxi. He'd gone out there with my brother and my mom for a vacation, which turned out to be a permanent one for him. Of course, there are the withering old people like my dad and his sister. My dad was so close to death for so long that when the doctor said this was really it, I hardly felt anything. Just couldn't get worked up anymore. I got worked up later--I knew about 10 people who died that year so I had ample opportunity.

Having seen people go in different ways, I decided that it would be nice to be able to say goodbye, but I don't really want to linger; it's too hard on everyone. And if I can die in a humorous fashion, so much the better for my family. Death sucks--it would be nice if they had something to laugh at eventually. Just no Darwin Awards, please. I don't want it to be that memorable.

What are some of your crazy death stories?

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Goodbye, Doc

You may recall from Monday's post, if you have the memory of an elephant, that we had some nasty weather come through. As I was oohing and aahing about lightning, someone else was getting killed by it. Today is the funeral. I will be there with my mom.

His name was Doc Adams. Well, he was called Doc because he was a veterinarian. His wife, Phyllis, is a very good friend of my mom's. Doc was on the golf course with friends when the weather hit. They waited for 90 minutes in a shelter on the course before finally heading back. Doc never made it. He was with a group of four. When he didn't show back at the club house, they thought he probably took his clubs to his car and drove home, expecting him to return for a burger later. But he didn't. When one of the men left, he saw Doc's car was still there and went looking for him. His body was found beside a small pine tree.

My mom is in shock. "It's just so bizarre," she said. "It's unbelievable."

And the public wants to lay blame. The family has had to answer reporters' questions about his health, his state of mind, his supposed foolishness at being on a golf course in a thunderstorm. Readers of the online newspaper have slammed Doc and his friends, calling it natural selection that he died that way. Doc's son went on the online forum to say his dad wasn't so stupid, actually, that he would never golf in a thunderstorm and never tell anyone to wait under a tree or do so himself. He was an outdoorsman who taught and practiced safety. They don't know what happened out there, and they never will.

I only met Doc a couple of times. He seemed to me to be a very kind and patient man. From what I've read, his friends and family thought the world of him. I feel terrible for them having to endure the horrible things people are saying while they're trying to go through this.

He is the fourth person killed by lightning in Madison in less than a week. Last week, three people died when lightning snapped a power line. The live wire landed in on the ground, which was one giant puddle because it's barely stopped raining in weeks. A woman about to board a bus was electrocuted, as was the toddler she was holding. A man on the bus tried to help her, but he died, too. The driver and the woman's older child were electrocuted but survived. This happened about a mile and a half from my mom's house, a spot I go past often.

Watch out for lightning. Mother Nature can be a bitch.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Raining and Riding

Well, it's raining again. Very windy, too. Ooo! Lightning just tripped the recloser. Pow! Right now! Kelsey's tree is whipping around, looking like it's made of Silly Putty. It's quite unpleasant.

Over the weekend, before I mowed the lawn (ahem), Kelsey had her first riding lesson. Kayleigh rode Shorty, got him good and tired, then it was Kelsey's turn. She has been wanting this for a long time. Farmer Dave put smaller stirrups on and helped her up. She's a strong, wiry kid, and just zipped right up and into the saddle. Dave led her down the aisle, and she did some zig-zags and balance exercises. She seemed confident and attentive. She's looking forward to the next lesson.

P.S. Sorry about the crappy photo quality. They were taken with my phone.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Mowing the Forest

First, thanks to Laurie for the Thoughtful Blogger award. I absolutely don't deserve it, but I'm pleased nevertheless. It's a wonderful inspiration.

The Jungle in the Back Yard
The rain has finally stopped, and we've had a full day of sun. I mowed the back lawn yesterday, which was a bit more of an adventure than I was expecting.

The grass was about 16 inches long in places and completely covered any toys the kids left in the yard two weeks ago when it started to rain. We have a mulching lawnmower, which shreds the grass into a green paste and deposits it on the lawn as fertilizer. Except when the grass is 16 inches long. Then, the lawnmower just has a hissy fit, chokes, and spits about a bushel of wet blades onto the lawn and gives up.

We have a bag attachment, which would have filled up after every five feet or so, and a side chute for when the grass is too long to mulch. Then it just cuts it and keeps going. Of course, I couldn't find the side chute. Eric asked me where I would put it, I told him, and apparently he didn't like that idea because it wasn't there. And he was out of town, so I couldn't ask where it was.

I decided to just use the mulcher and do the best I could, knowing it would take a while. After the lawnmower choked for about the 15th time, I figured the poor thing was going to die completely. When smoke started rising, I prepared a burial.

I dragged the thing onto the driveway and looked at it the way a perplexed woman looks at things she'd rather have her husband deal with. Don't get me wrong; I can wield a chainsaw with the best of them, and I know a spade bit from, you know, one of those regular thingies that just makes little holes in the drywall. So, it wasn't smoking anymore. I figured I should let it cool off a while, but I also just wanted to get the lawn mowed.

The little push mower was hanging on its hook--maybe that would work. No. Not when the grass is 16 inches long. I had to find the stupid chute attachment. I looked. I finally found it, in the wagon, next to the bagger. Hmm.

Before attaching it, I thought getting some of that accumulated wet gunk off the bottom would be a good idea. Again, cooling off for a while would also be a good idea. But I wanted to get the lawn mowed, remember? So I tipped the mower over, and there was probably about four bushels of grass goop under there.

I whipped out the hose and let fly. Eew. It made a great pile of wet, stinking, seeping, green, globular grass paste. I had to move the lawnmower up the hill a bit because the heap was getting so tall. Well, about this time, it started to smoke again. Too hot. I sat the thing upright and went inside, wandering, wondering what my husband would say to me if he knew what I'd been up to.

Back outside after cleaning grass bits off my hands, I tried to start the mower. Um, the pull cord pulled, but it didn't retract. It made a sad little noise when I pulled, a mechanical whimper. Then it smoked again.

Shit. I've killed it, I thought. Pace around the yard, think. Where's the owner's manual? Maybe it just needs to dry out. I must have sprayed water straight into the engine. There must be an owner's manual online. Maybe I could borrow a neighbor's lawnmower: Say, may I borrow your lawnmower? I've just killed mine, you see. No, I won't damage yours at all. Promise.

Pace some more. Try to prepare Eric for the worst. Remind him it's just a lawnmower, and lawnmowers can be fixed or replaced, but his impatience, anger, or condescension in my moment of vulnerability would be truly damaging. Right, saying it just so would be vital. Pace some more. Think. Wait. It really just needs to dry out.

Have some pop. Yeah, cold and sweet and bubbly. Maybe have a shower. Maybe call a neighbor. Yeah. Yeah. No. Pace.

Well, might as well try again. I put the chute attachment on and hoped for the best. Pull. Ooh, it pulled back a little farther this time! Try again. Hey! It almost turned over. Try again. Smoke. OK, wait. See what fabulous lie I could tell Eric about what happened. I could hear him telling me I can't use the mulcher when the grass is so long and wet; it's bad for the mower. Yeah, I know.

Pace. Think. Try again.

A few more sad whumps, and it worked! Oh, glory. My, it worked so much better with the chute attachment. It just, you know, worked. Push, cut, chute. Ha! I'll have to rake that up, though. If only I'd looked harder for the chute attachment....

Today, I'm mowing the front yard.

Here are some mushrooms that were growing in my front yard when the rain started two weeks ago.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Rain, rain keeps falling down

Between the drops, here's what I've been up to:

Writing a lot of stories for a job that wasn't supposed to start until September. The more experience, the better, and I'm happy to have the money. The fact that the editor buried what, to me, was the most important story on p. 14 only adds to my suspicions about that whole subject and has my inner conspiracy-theorist turning quite red.

Watching French & Saunders clips on YouTube.

Watching the water rise in the lagoon. It's crested the big ole boulders along the banks and is creeping up my neighbors' yards.

Watching the sand trucks haul more sand down to the islands around the corner. Those neighbors get free bags and free sand and free membership to the Belle Isle back-breaking club for the duration of sandbagging. They don't call it a flood plain for nothin', folks. I'm glad I live on a hill.

Trying to mow the lawn. I said to Kayleigh, "I'm going to go out and see how much of the lawn I can get mowed before it starts to rain again." I got as far as pulling the lawnmower out of the garage. It was dibble-dibble-dop rain, so I just went ahead. Then it got to raining harder, and I was getting pretty wet. I finished the front in plain old pissing rain and decided to quit. Back in the house and stripping out of my wet clothes, the skies let loose in full force again.

Watching Star Wars with my kids.


Back-to-school shopping for Kayleigh, who decided she really didn't need or want any new clothes. Fine, I say. She hates clothes for girls her age. I can't blame her. I felt the same way when I was her age. We were looking at shirts. The colors that aren't "gacky" have horrid things like skulls or hearts on them. Or Elmo or Hello Kitty. Shirts went from barely covering the nipples last year to fully covering the butt this year. She just wants something plain in the middle. Nothing garish, nothing mommish, nothing so stylish that it will be passe by the time school starts. We did find her one shirt in the misses' department, and we got her a new pair of shoes that she is delighted with. Delighted is always nice.

Trying to control the savage inside me that thinks I need to eat ice cream and pie for every meal.

Wandering around the house in a frump because Eric is out of town dodging tornadoes instead of raindrops. Sheesh.

Hauling wood. Fall is coming.

Monday, August 20, 2007

I'll be no one's lapdog

How do reporters handle all the bull shit? Objectivity is bull shit. Politicians and administrators are seeping, oozing skinsacks of hot, steaming bullshit. And average citizens are wimps. "Oh, don't use my name!" "No, I don't want to be in the paper!" "No, I can't tell you who told me that." What rot. What crap! So I push it a little. But how many sources do I burn before no one will talk to me anymore? And this is just the podunk tribune with a circulation the size of a dime bag! Ha! Some watchdog.

[insert hysteria]

I should go back to writing plays. If only they paid so regularly.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Skin Deep

The other day, beltline traffic was barely moving, and what should have been a 10-minute drive turned into 40 minutes. I scanned radio stations and found a talk-show in Milwaukee. A New York dermatologist was doling wisdom and advice to callers and listeners with his truly inspiring bits of knowledge. For example:

"People of color don't like to go out in the sun because it makes their skin even darker."

Why, it reminds me of a song....

"Everyone's A Little Bit Racist," another fine ditty from Avenue Q.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007


Apparently it’s play month here. A couple of weekends ago, we went to see “Thoroughly Modern Millie” at the Fireside Theatre. Kayleigh was in “Monster Mania” at Children’s Theatre of Madison on Friday. Saturday we went to see Night of the Iguana at APT. They are very different ends of the theatrical spectrum.

Last Christmas, my mom gave us a gift certificate to the Fireside. It was never anywhere I really wanted to go. They seldom have shows I want to see, and I assumed it would be pretty cheesy.

My assumptions:
Leatherette lounge chairs
60-something cocktail crowd
Round, dark tables to share with the cocktail crowd
Smiling at people I don’t know and don’t care to know while they schmooze about how fanfuckingtastic the golf course just down the highway is
Lukewarm food
Mushy food
Terrible food
Banal direction of some revival of a revival of a revival musical
Carol Channingesque, over-the-top performances by talentless singers/dancers/actors who will never get out of rural Wisconsin
In a word, tacky

Regular dining chairs at private tables
70-something crowd
Seating capacity: 1750 for your most intimate gathering of everyone you've ever met
Gift shops
No smoking
Chatter about golf and grandkids
Edible, uninspired food served in strict portions with each course delivered on a tight schedule
Dining is required to see the play
Separate theater-in-the-round, except it was square
Surprisingly good sets
Shockingly excellent performances by artists who not only have made it out of Wisconsin, but have just arrived from Broadway (well, some of them—but they were all very good)
Expensive, quite

Bottom line: It was a fine night out. The play was great. I just wish you could see the play and forget the damn required dinner.

American Players Theatre is an outdoor theater that presents classics. They have a core group of actors who return every year. Sometimes it irritates me how predictable the acting is, but often there are some surprises. They have marvelous set designers.

We went on opening night, so the house was full, and the actors not appearing in that play were in the audience. The crickets were so loud and the wind was so strong that it was hard to hear the actors’ lines. The choice of “The Night of the Iguana” was perhaps not the best one. It’s not exactly light fare, or even lite faire. Given the events of this past year, I think we should have stayed with slapstick.

It was a great play, although Tennessee Williams certainly made sure you understood all the symbolism. It would be nice to figure a few things out on my own, thank you. One of the actors has a pregnant pause habit, but after a while we wondered if he was being dramatically in-character or if he just couldn’t remember his lines.

It was a nice night. We ate Milk Duds and Sour Patch Kids and washed them down with diet Lipton green tea. Some people make quite a grand night of it with fancy picnics—roast duck and wine, Lovey—and a fancy picnic does sound very pleasant, but at heart, we’re tight, peanut-gallery types. Well, I am. I wore my Russ Feingold for President T-shirt and Nike wind pants. No Topsiders and Polos for me. I was complimented twice on my shirt, and I heard another woman comment that Russ Feingold was “that guy” she likes.

“Monster Mania”

Kayleigh decided she wanted to take theater class this summer. There was only one that fit our schedule, and it was “Monster Mania,” based on the book “Where the Wild Things Are.” She sang. She danced. She had lines. It was pretty cool to see her put herself out of her comfort zone. I think it helped that there were only a couple of people she knew there. She probably would have been too inhibited otherwise. She wants to do it again next summer.

Classes were held at the student union in Madison, a great location. She ate in the Rathskellar every day, known locally as the Rat Cellar. Until recently, it was so smoky in there, you could hardly see the other side of the room. Now, it’s quite bright and pleasant. It’s one of the cafeterias in the Union. I took my German friend there when she visited, and she laughed and took pictures. The Bavarian theme and quaint German paintings and language on the walls would not be believed by people at home, she said. Anyway, Kayleigh said if the cafeteria food at her school were as good as the Rat, she’d eat in it every day. The Union is on the UW-Madison campus right on Lake Mendota and is a favorite haunt of Madisonians.

Before the play started, they showed us some of the things they'd been learning. They did a few different improv games and a little song and dance number.

I think Kayleigh felt pretty good about herself for trying new things and being independent. Her friend Erika came to see the play, who was turning darker shades of green as time passed. She finally asked me how much it cost to do the theater camp, and when I told her, she said her parents would never pay that. I can hardly blame them. Sheesh.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Rag Sheet

When I started working at my tiny newspaper, I didn't realize there was a tiny-newspaper fraternity/sorority out there. Today when I talked with people for a story, three of them told me about their connections to this very paper. Maybe I should worry about the rapid turnover, but they all seemed happy I was working there and didn't share any horror stories or even roll their eyes.

And now, while I'm avoiding writing that story, I can (and did) call up a friend who works for a different tiny newspaper and whine a little. And she understands. And I love her for her support.

For a writer, I'm very tight-lipped these days. Or tight-fingered.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Fire on the mountain, snakes in the grass, the old man died...

Yesterday I needed some cash. There is a walk-in ATM nearby, but it's only a stumble away from a seedy bar. Eric won't use that ATM. I do, even though I'm constantly looking over my shoulder.

I pulled up, and as I turned off the ignition, a slightly staggering man carefully made his way to a white car parked behind me. I don't trust drunk people, and being in the vicinity of easy cash, I'm especially leery.

The guy, probably in his 50s, was dressed in a white t-shirt, the undershirt type, and a pair of ill-fitting, very ragged jeans. His hair was a bit of a mess. He held himself up against the passenger side of the car, then launched himself into the front seat. He rummaged quite a lot, tossing stuff around. Finally, he stood up, leaned back farther than a drunk person should, and popped something into his mouth, then resumed his rummaging. He pulled out a white rag, loosened his belt, undid his pants, reached down the back of his jeans, and deeply and vigorously wiped his ass. Does this bar not have a bathroom?

At that point, he recovered his senses a little and looked around. He saw me in my car. I kept watching anyway. He turned his back to me and fumbled with the front of himself, then pulled his belt very tight and buckled it. He straightened his shirt, then went behind his car and put something under the bumper behind the license plate. Then he went back inside.

I took my $10 out of the bank and went on my merry way.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Back to School

Today we started the back-to-school shopping. I am not the kind of person who will drive 20 minutes to save two cents on three folders. I just go to Shopko and spring the extra dough. I think it cost me an extra 59 cents or so not to drive all the way across town for the door-busting deals at other stores. I'm glad to have stayed in my little city.

Over the years, we've amassed quite a lot of school supplies. I use up the used stuff that's in mediocre shape and give the kids the leftover new stuff or barely perceptibly used stuff and buy them whatever else they need. The list this year for Kelsey was tiny. We bought two folders and one notebook. I let her get new crayons just because they were 20 cents a box (I know, they were cheaper at Staples) and the sharp, new points are nicer. God knows we have enough crayons to last several lifetimes. I am not kidding--my mom gave me all my leftover crayons from when I was a kid--a full lard bucket's worth. These days, when I find crayons that are broken or ugly, I throw them the hell away. Sshhh...

Kayleigh will get her supplies later. Then we'll go clothes shopping. Ugh.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Pressure Treated


Eric made a picnic table.

Part of Eric's therapy is to make things. He used to make things. Then he stopped. Now he's back at it. This picnic table isn't quite the kind of thing he used to make, but he's not quite the same guy he used to be. He's getting better and better.