Saturday, April 30, 2016

x...y...Z!


I tried to look up the last word beginning with 'Z' in Webster's Dictionary. The result was this:



z: noun, often capitalized often attributive/ ze, Canadian, British, Australian 'zed, chiefly dialect

the 26th letter of the English Alphabet

-used in the phrase X, Y and Z to refer to the third thing in a group of three unnamed things.



Not as helpful as I had hoped.

I considered writing about the dream I had in which Avril Lavigne was trying to kill me. She was chasing me through this old house which was full of secret rooms and passageways. All the while Avril and her assistant were discussing how they were going to slice me into ultra-thin slices like you get at the deli.

ZZZzzzzzz

Get it?



But then we spent the morning in Soulard, one of my favorite neighborhoods, had some breakfast and went to Soulard Market.



X...

round here we pronounce it 'pie-knees'.

Y...

Rhubarb, the AARP of fruits... vegetables?
Z....

I am not sure what the grin-y guy with the flute gives lessons in..I don't think it has anything to do with tamales. or parties.
Three totally unrelated, albeit named here, things.

Except they aren't unrelated.

I grew up with peonies. I love how full and frilly their blooms are. I had never seen them sold by the stem until today. And I had forgotten how lovely they smell. As I sat them on the dining room table I was suddenly back at the farm where I grew up, playing crazy made-up games and trying to avoid helping in the garden.

The garden where my mom grew rhubarb. I absolutely love rhubarb sauce – on pancakes and biscuits and spoons. I also love rhubarb pie. I am torn between the two and only have enough for one.

Both of these purchases were made at Soulard Market. Where, outside under an awning in the rain, sat the three musicians. There is at least one guy out there every Saturday morning plinking away. They laughed when I asked if I could take their picture and explained they felt the need to prove they were real authentic buskers by continuing to perform, despite the weather. I tossed them a couple of bucks and told them I understand. My brother is a musician.

He was the first one to encourage me to return to writing years and years ago.



And it was this A to Z challenge that brought me back to remembering just how much I love writing. It has returned me to the habit of doing so every day.



x...y...Z



I can not believe I have actually managed to complete this challenge. It has not been easy some days. I would like to say everyone but me believed I could do it, but the fact is, I don't think anyone really did. Which is okay.

Coast of Illinois will return to weekly posts once again. Not for lack of interest. I have decided to challenge myself a little more and am beginning the process of writing an actual novel, once again. I am breaking the process down in monthly increments.

Rest assured, I will torture you all with my progress.

And hopefully have a rough draft by the end of the summer...



Thanks to Mary over at Jingle Jangle Jungle, Alana at Ramblin With AM and Leanne at Cresting the Hill – you ladies may not have known it, but knowing you were also working on this challenge and reading your posts kept me motivated.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Yesterday

I am addicted to the 'On This Day' feature on Facebook.
I crack myself up reading my mostly ridiculous posts.
I get teary eyed at some of the photos and events that prompted certain comments.
I wonder just what was going on in my cerebral cortex when I come across some of those cryptic updates.
Apparently April 29, 2009 was not a good day. There was a huge thank you from a previous co-worker, who I miss every single day, as well as a plea to stock up on coffee for the following work day – posted at 1am. I worked 10am-1030pm back in those days.
In 2010 I was on my way to a Jimmy Buffett Concert – my second as a Parrotthead and the first tailgate we participated in.
In 2011 my Mom and I got up freakin' early to watch the Royal Wedding via our respective computers and Skype. It should be noted that we live about 2.5 miles away from each other. It should also be noted that Mom put on make-up, her fancy robe and we each had tiaras.
Light up tiaras.
The blob on the computer screen facing outward is my cat Lord Irwin Joseph Stalin. He used his full title for the wedding.
The following years, up to today, included two blog posts - 2014  and 2013, food posts, work posts. But it was the 2012 post that caught my attention and brought me to this little trip down memory lane.

April 29, 2012 was a Sunday.  I complained about house cleaning, eating Snickers with Almonds, watching Lawrence of Arabia. My final thoughts for this day were posted as a Facebook Note. I  had not yet discovered blogging. The note was about a lovely evening Rob and I had on the deck. It was a very, everyday event but it just had that special something which makes the everyday extra-ordinary. This is for all of my nearly legendary contemporaries. Thanks for all the support, encouragement and insane inspiration.

Dinner on the Coast of Illinois

Of late, I have been suffering from what some 'Genius' in the 1970's labeled 'empty nest syndrome'. And, while closing up the first year of my official 'midlife', I am no where near the Sandwich Generation. Because not only are our children self sufficient, so are my parents. 
Which brings me to my very non-creative Sunday. Weekends are my time to forget what I do for an actual living and pretend to be someone I am not...or only hope to be. I want to write; be a writer. Yet, the past few weekends have betrayed me. Abandon hope all who enter here, there are no original thoughts to be had. This Sunday was no different. Children and their plans for their future ricocheted through the phone lines and my text messages. A small storm of gigantic hail proportions made it quite clear that the clean up job I was hoping to skip would be addressed. Laundry and groceries only cemented my feet more firmly in the roll of wife-slash-mother. 
Then suddenly in a flurry of veggie prep and fish marinate, I was sitting on the deck with my husband enjoying a crisp glass of Chilean white wine and the near sixty degrees at six thirty in the evening at the end of April perk of Global Warming. He was reading a book by a contemporary of Hemingway, I was reading a much more fluffy article in one of the many magazines I had dog eared in hopes of getting to. We pondered the lifestyle that could bring such interesting people together in such amazing places. I told myself the article – about the closing/remodeling of the Ritz in Paris – was research for a future novel. In actuality, it was a pipe dream. I will never get to stay in the Ritz, in Paris, in the 40's with Hemingway. 
And then my husband did something extraordinary. He raised his glass in a toast to the day, to our dinner...to the Coast of Illinois. We clinked to the fact that the people who are the most important to us are healthy and happy. And it was clear to me that while I have never stayed in the Ritz in Paris, I have stayed in some pretty swanky hotels. I have eaten and prepared some five star meals and my contemporaries – writers, photographers, musicians, artisans, athletes - are just as legendary as those of that bygone era. They just don't know it yet.

 And so it goes...on this day in April, on the Coast of Illinois.
May every day be an extraordinary ordinary day.
 
Only one more day in the A to Z challenge!! So close...

Thursday, April 28, 2016

X Has Been Solved

I was going to go all 'Seinfeld' on the letter 'X'.
You know, "what's the deal with 'X'? All the words that sound like they start with 'X' really start with 'E'. And the words that really begin with 'X' sound like they start with 'Z'. What's up with that? Is 'X' the most lazy letter in the alphabet? Or the most mysterious? It's like the World's Most Interesting Man...if Man were a letter..."

But then Kramer burst in and reminded me that I actually do have an 'X' story.

See this?

It's a Marching Band Xylophone.
Aka Bells and for the uber fancy, a glockenspiel.
And I played one.
One time.
In 6th grade.
Because I was the only kid in the class who could read music, play the piano and was dumb enough to think that a 90 pound girl would have fun carrying a 150 pound all metal instrument back and forth to school on a bus.
That last one may have been the desperate band director's thought.
It certainly didn't have anything to do with wanting to look cute and attract 6th grade boys.

Thank heaven my parents weren't those 'you signed up for it, you have to finish it' sort of parents.
But they were the 'don't attract cute boys' sort of parents...

GET OUT!!

I think I have figured out their evil plan...



Wednesday, April 27, 2016

WhirlyBirds

We have a half dozen fully mature trees in our backyard.

This is my favorite:




It was once a tiny maple tree which had been cut down but re-sprouted and now has a trunk made up of the equivalent of four full grown trees. It canopies a third of my backyard providing a high rise for squirrels and birds to live, work and play. Occasionally it throws a branch and takes out our power, but I feel the tree and I have come to an understanding.

That tree also does this:

(Please note the American Horror Story noises in the background.)



It is Whirlybird invasion season.

They fall at a rate of three thousand per wind gust. It sounds like a rapidly advancing rainstorm when they attack.

Which means it has become a race to rake them from the flower and vegetable gardens and pull them from the gutter before they sprout into tiny maple treelets.

So, I am off to rake and scrape.

And sharpen the chainsaw.



Hear that Maple Tree?

(Phew! Made it through 'W'. Any ideas for  'X'???)

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Variscose Verbosity

(The letter 'V' has been giving me fits. I had several posts about my varicose vein treatment, which were posted four years ago when I was new to blogging. I have edited them into one, more cohesive installment. Because honestly, one story about varicose veins is one too many.)

Dedicated to Mrs. Mose, who taught 5th grade,
loved Lysol and her varicose veins
and felt that I did not use my time wisely.

Four years ago, with a flourish of lasers and lidocaine, I said goodbye to my vascular entity Vein-essa, the ridiculous varicose vein which pulsated into life while I was pregnant with our daughter. I opted to seek treatment at a free-standing vein center, where they also specialize in lasering things people no longer wish to see on their bodies.
I will spare you the boring details of the initial treatment and just leave you with the highlights:

Technician: Do you mind if we leave the door open? We're the only ones here.
Let it be noted that I am in my UNDERPANTS on an exam table.

Doctor: This is going to sting.
(As he proceeds to STAB me multiple times from upper thigh to ankle.)
Here's an interesting fact:
One side of the body feels pain more intensely than the other side.
Oh, wait. I have that wrong.
Actually it is this:
Having someone jab a tiny needle with a syringe full of vein killing solution into a vein above your shin bone hurts like someone jabbing a tiny needle with a syringe full of vein killing solution into a vein above your shin bone.
Just in case you were wondering.

Technician: Wow!
Everyone in room gets quiet. I prop up on my elbows and demand to know what was so WOW! I reassure everyone that I can handle the information.
Technician: Well, as he injected the local anesthetic there, a bunch of it sort of shot out of this hole here...like a fountain!
Internal Conversation with myself: So happy to be of entertainment value.
Me,out loud: Do I get a discount for that?

Technician: Let us know if you taste anything, smell anything or feel anything...unusual.
Internal Conversation and External Conversation, in unison: You really need to tell people that?

Doctor: Wait! She needs her goggles.
Let it be known here – I am the only one wearing goggles. I can only assume they are to protect the other people in the room when the laser shoots up my leg vein and out of my eyes. Sort of like that Nazi Movie Director at the final scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark...right before his face melts off.

What happened next is a blur of lasers, burning smells and several more stabbing injections after which I reminded myself and everyone in the room that I had entered into this VOLUNTARILY.
I left the office in no pain except for the pulling sensation from two rolls of tape attached to my leg where one of my stab wounds continued to bleed. I also sported a brand new pair of awesome support hose, a spare pair tucked into my purse.

I was sentenced to the support hose for four days post laser. Something about keeping the vein compressed and causing me much discomfort. I feel as though this was karmic punishment for some previous crime against humanity. I am telling you right now, you make a terror suspect wear a pair of support hose for four days and that person will talk faster than a presidential candidate can say something stupid. Feed them a bean dinner and they won't last six hours.

You think I exaggerate?
Let me paint you a little picture. Imagine sticking both feet into a rubber tube that will only stretch apart six inches. Now pull this rubber tube up both legs, avoiding the tender taped up area behind your knee. Next fling yourself on your back, both feet in the air, while you frantically try to loosen the tension caused by an excess of fabric wrapped around your calf so tight your baby toe has turned purple.
Curse.
Give one, final mighty tug, thus putting your entire fist through the nylon which attaches the lower half of the tube to the upper half of the tube.
Curse, curse,curse.
You can't change pairs because the back up is in the wash so you soldier on with the now semi-disabled stockings finally ending up with so much extra compression fabric that the waistband sits just under your second rib while the crotch remains firmly hammocked halfway up your thighs.

I spent the next three days wearing two-thirds of a pair of stockings and looking like a circa 1982 'Like a Virgin' Madonna wanna be.
If only I had thought ahead . The YouTube video would have made enough money to pay for my subsequent treatments and psycho-therapy for the video's first hundred viewers.

Disclaimer: Except for the localization, this was totally painless. Unless you count the humiliation of laying around in front of total strangers in your underpants.

Disclaimer #2: The Doctor assured me that Varicose Veins are, in fact, not caused by:
Pregnancy
Being Overweight
Not exercising enough
Exercising too much
Standing for thousands of hours
Wearing high heels
Crossing your legs
Eating too much red meat
Drinking too many rum drinks
or
Going Barefoot
Varicose Veins are just bad genetic luck.
So, Thanks Mom and Dad. 

 

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Unforgettable

She sat at the green laminate table and pulled her sweater closer around her in an attempt to keep the cold of the rain from creeping in under the poorly caulked window of the Chinese restaurant. The dining room was nearly empty. Two teenagers sat in the far corner table. The remains of pork fried rice sprinkled around them, testament to their lack of finesse with chopsticks. An older Asian couple sat together in the center of the room; the owners she guessed. Three large metal bowls sat in front of them. Two of the bowls were filled with steamed rice. The third was full to the top with what looked like fried fish bones. They picked morsels from the fish, scooped a bit of rice and tucked the food into their mouths while chattering in their mother tongue. The room was quiet and sedate. There was no music only the gentle tapping of rain on the windows. The lights were dim for atmosphere or because of grease, she didn't know and didn't care. She was the only other guest in the room and she relished the solitude.

By contrast, the kitchen, as viewed through a wide open doorway behind the counter, was a carnival. Flames lept in the air to the tune of sizzling vegetables. The young girl at the counter barked instruction at the men standing at the grill. When they failed to move quickly enough the girl jumped from her chair and took a spot at one of the large woks.
She watched, fascinated by the choreography, wondering which would be her order.

Hot and Sour soup, fried dumplings, sa-cha chicken.

Her stomach growled and she smiled to herself as she tried to remember the first time.

There had been no Chinese restaurants growing up. Oh, there were, just none that her family would have eaten at. Back then the most exotic Chinese food was Chung King from a can with those crispy noodles that tasted better alone than with the beefy chowmein over them. There had been sweet and sour pork, made in eighth grade home-ec class and then recreated at home. There was a take out place in college...but the first real Chinese restaurant...

She closed her eyes and looked back into the past. There was a place they use to go to...way up north of the city. And that buffet with the roaches...She could recall the decor of sea shell pictures of birds and autographed celebrity photos. The hot peppers their friend had eaten whole and the plum wine a server had given them free of charge all because they looked so happy. But she could not, no matter how hard she tried, remember the food. It was as if hot and sour soup and fried dumplings were an innate part of her.

"Excuse me! Excuse me!" the young girl at the counter nodded towards her table. "Miss?" And as she looked up from the past the girl motioned towards a bag on the counter.

"Oh, thank you!" she replied and pulling her sweater closer, leaving the past behind, she walked to the counter, picked up the bag. She paused at the table of condiments, studying the packets of sweet and sour sauce and tiny envelopes of red hot pepper.

The door opened and a whip of cool, damp, late autumn air pushed in. A man followed. He carried a similar bag, plopping it on the counter. No one noticed except the counter girl. He spoke quietly to her, handing her his receipt. The girl studied it and pushed it back into his hand.

"No. Order is correct." The girl sat back on her stool, crossing her arms across her chest.
"But it isn't. These dumplings are soft. Not...crispy..." he rubbed his fingers in the air in a poor attempt at pantomime texture.
"No. You order steamed. You get steamed." The girl held her ground.
"But I wanted crispy." He sighed in defeat.

She turned, bag in hand. "You still do it wrong.You always wanted fried but you always ordered steamed."

He tipped his head at the sound of her voice. A smile played at one side of his mouth. "You have fried, don't you."

She nodded.

"Want to trade?" he lifted his eyebrows in a cartoon manner.

"You mean like I did, over and over for four years?" She lifted her eyebrows as well. "No, I do not wish to trade." She felt a brief moment of victory as his shoulders, his smile and his eyebrows fell. But the moment was the briefest of brief and the memory of those many nights at that other Chinese place came back. "Place another order. We can share mine until yours are ready."

He smiled then. That smile from so many years ago; the smile that made her feel lost.

"So, you want more dumpling?" The girl at the counter tapped her pencil on a menu, ready to circle his order before barking it to the men in the back. "You want right ones this time?"

"Yes. I want the right one...this time." He smiled that smile again, looking down at his shoes for a second before taking the few steps down the counter to where she stood at the condiment table. He said nothing else, just placed his hands on either side of her face and kissed her.

And she didn't feel lost at all.


My first chopsticks, from my 3rd-ish? birthday. My usage has not improved much.
 

This is a work of fiction, although the restaurant described are ones I hold fond memories of. The story was inspired by my current favorite Chinese place, as I waited for my order one night and tried to remember the very first time I ate at a Chinese restaurant. I honestly can't remember the first one. But I do remember my favorites.
And it is a stretch...but the title does begin with 'U'. And there are numerous 'u's throughout. Six in this very paragraph...



Throwback

When did this:

Thong~a rubber or leather foot covering held in place by a strap between the big and second toes; usually worn casually in warm summer months; likely to cause blisters during the first few wearings.



Become this:

Otter is comfortable with his sexuality. But not his undergarments.
Thong~a fabric undergarment providing minimal coverage, held in place by a strap between the...um, cheeks. Can be worn year long although remains startling to be seen in public.

Thank goodness there have been no reports of blisters.





Continuing with the A to Z challenge. I have nearly made it, people! Only six more letters to go!!