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Sunday, April 30, 2017


In nice weather, I often go hiking with my brother -- who inevitably complains that I wore the wrong shoes for hiking as he leads our double-time military marches up or down very steep hills.  It doesn't matter that all of our hikes tend to be spontaneous activities.  One of these days I'll remember to put a pair of hiking boots in my car?  Probably not.  I'll continue to complain about getting stones caught in my sandals while forcing a stop to catch my breath and slow my heart rate.

I never felt a need for hiking shoes in the first place, but I was participating with a deafening herd of buffalos hiking group, and the hikers thought hiking shoes were mandatory.  I dutifully, if reluctantly, parted with over $100.00 for a pair of very stiff shoes.  A few weeks later, I found a broken-in pair at the thrift shop for $5.00.  If I'm going to remember to wear hiking shoes, I'll wear the $5.00 pair.

Once I had the expensive shoes, I wondered aloud why people buy them.  A man told me it was because the shoes offered a better grip on the trail.  I pointed out that my tennis shoes had a good tread on the bottom, but the man just gave me a look that clearly expressed disdain for my ignorance.  I sighed, and marched in line with the noisy buffalos.

My brother is a better hiking companion.  He doesn't burden me with non-stop, persistent chatter, but he isn't a mute either.  We have pleasant conversation along the way, and listen to the birds sing.  We stop to eat blackberries and look at butterflies which isn't possible with the buffalos since wildlife flees from hiking groups.

Sometimes I think I should join another hiking group even though they tend to be relentlessly cheerful morning people who rhapsodize about dressing in layers.  These people make me crazy, but there's something to be said for weekly exercise.  Once I resigned myself to waking up early on Sunday mornings, I usually had a pretty good time with the hiking group.  Okay, to be perfectly honest, I disliked hiking with them.  I enjoyed the after-hike lunches at local restaurants where I gained back whatever calories I might have accidentally dropped along the trail.

I think I just need a different group.  The hiking group I used to play with was really a group of bicyclists who hiked together in winter.  I've always had a strong mistrust of men in colorful spandex tights, even if they don't wear them on winter hikes.  I know they own those things, and there's just something deeply wrong about that.

I'm not very attached to "shoe" as the word for the week.  I know there are a lot of people with shoe fetishes, but I'm not one of them.  For now, I'm just delaying the moment when I put on my lawn mowing shoes and attack the front yard.  I'd rather go hiking.

Saturday, April 22, 2017


An Italian woman I know described a family gathering where her kids served fried chicken, sweet potatoes, corn on the cob... I can't remember the menu, but you know, food.  My friend was rather put out about it.  "Who wants to eat that kind of stuff?!"  I don't know, everybody?  She muttered to herself about how the guests ate it all.  There weren't even leftovers, which really ticked her off.  Damned kids and grandkids have no appreciation for her lifetime of cooking.

This woman made lasagna for my last birthday because she knows I like it.  It was the best lasagna I've ever had.  It brought a tear to my eye.  I was tempted to call her kids up and call them ungrateful too.  This is a woman that bakes bread every week, makes pasta from scratch, and cans gallons of tomato sauce every year.  She makes the most delicious rice balls, and the very idea of rice balls was perplexing to me before I had one of hers.  I also later found out that everybody else's rice ball are pale, globby imitations of spectacular.

I took a day drive out to Middlefield, Ohio with my brother this week.  I guess it's only about 25 miles away, but it feels far.  Bro wanted to go to an archery store, and I thought it was downright ridiculous to drive so far for a store, but it was a nice day for a drive down country roads.  You can go pretty fast down those roads too, except when you get stuck behind an Amish buggy.

I examined the taxidermied dead animals and the murderous looking crossbow points while the nice boy at the store fiddled something onto Bro's bow.  To be honest, I hadn't really thought about the archery business being about killing animals.  I thought it was target practice and a little exercise.  That's all I ever did when I was a kid, though some of the older boys would shoot dry reeds at me, and that kind of smarted when they got me.  Older boys are nasty you know -- but the boy at the store was really nice, and Bro and I agreed that everybody is nice in the country.

We stopped at the cheese factory and I got a lump of Swiss cheese and a loop of trail bologna.  Mmmm... I wanted to find a restaurant out there for dinner, but Amish people apparently go home at 5:00.  I like Amish food.  It's just regular stuff that my Italian friend doesn't consider fit for her offspring, but sometimes I really miss the days when all American restaurants had some variation of meat, potatoes and gravy, vegetables.  Not like an Applebee's variation of the theme that's too amplified, I just want a fat grandma's basic cooking.  With pie.

When I was little, my family used to travel down different country roads to visit my great grandpa.  We always went to an Amish restaurant on these trips, and I suppose Amish food has become enmeshed in my mind with warm, loving memories.  I've been on a life-long search to find apple dumplings the way they used to be, but you never know, maybe the memory is better than what's possible to create in reality?

Bro and I wandered our way back through all the country roads and ended up eating at Aladdin's, which is Lebanese, and totally delicious in its own way.  The blueberry "Concrete Mixer" was a delicious ice cream dessert from a different road trip.

Sunday, April 16, 2017


Dr. Seuss (Theodor Seuss Geisel) was clearly the greatest poet of the 20th century, and he shaped more minds than anyone else ever.  Don't argue.  It's true.  You know it.

I recently read a book about Eva Braun, Hitler's girlfriend which talked quite a bit about German fairy tales.  The author's idea was that the viciousness of German children's stories had a part in the attitudes of the German people during WWI and WWII.

I don't know about that.  I wasn't there, and I'm not German.  What I do know is that my father (who had some German ancestors, so I guess I'm sort of German?) was thrilled when he came into possession of an archival-quality copy of Grimm's fairy tales.  He settled us kids around and read us Cinderella.  Dad was a great story teller.  He pitched his voice for drama, used funny voices, and everything.

I went to bed that night and screamed every time I fell asleep.  I had visions of the evil step sisters bleeding and mutilated, because in the original story, one sister cut off her toes to get her foot into the glass slipper, and one cut off her heel.  Even though my young self had a problem imagining how to cut off a heel, I understood cut off toes easily enough.  Screams rang through the night.  Screams kept my family awake for two weeks.  Apparently, my German ancestry is too diluted for me to handle the brothers Grimm -- though sufficient for a book burning.  After two weeks of night terrors, Dad reluctantly built a fire in the back yard and let me toss the horrible book into the flames.  My nightmares stopped.

I was given a Dr. Seuss album, a record -- you know, that object with magically recorded sounds in the dark ages before CDs, DVDs, and youtube.  I sat on the floor, with my eyes wide open and cheeks pink with the thrill of story time.  I also owned a Yertle the Turtle book which I read in sync with the magical voice coming out of the spinning machine.  Clearly, Dr. Seuss understood how to talk to children better than the Grimms.

I've pondered the Eva Braun author's theory about German fairy tales stressing obedience at the threat of dire punishments.  She might be right that stories and attitudes made for a militant society, but I'm glad I grew up in a time of Dr. Seuss and Yertle the Turtle.

The story in brief, is that Yertle the Turtle was the king of all the turtles.  He wanted to see farther than his pond, so he made the other turtles stack themselves up and he climbed on top for a better view.  This was pretty punishing for Mack on the bottom of the pile, who politely complained.  Mack burped and the pile toppled...

"And today the great Yertle, that Marvelous he,
Is King of the Mud.  That is all he can see.
And the turtles, of course... all the turtles are free
As turtles and, maybe, all creatures should be."

Did you know Dr. Seuss wrote this about Hitler?  I didn't either.  Seems like he could've written for some of the people alive today.  Maybe we should do a fundraiser and send copies of the book to some of these people?

Oh, right.  We have youtube now.  Watch it here.

Friday, April 7, 2017


Have you ever walked past a mirror, without realizing it was a mirror?  Then, you notice that person looks familiar.  Oh wait!  That's actually me!  What did you think in the moment before all of your pre-programmed self-perceptions kicked in?  Did you think the unknown person was ordinary, attractive, or what?  Odds are, you probably didn't think that hideous person shouldn't be allowed out in public and will never be loved.

I had a conversation with a guy friend this week about our self-perceptions.  Both of us had some issues when we were kids, and there were some spiteful people who pointed out our physical imperfections.  When you get told that often enough, it becomes part of who you are, and it gets difficult to see who is really looking back at you in the mirror.

There was a time when I was a teenager when I studied myself in the mirror with a fashion magazine at hand.  I examined my features and I thought they were reasonably similar to the girls in the magazine.  I couldn't see why I was uglier than they were -- but the prevailing consensus seemed to be that I was ugly, and since beauty is in the eye of the beholder, I must be ugly.  I just accepted it with a heavy sigh.

Ah, if only we could go back and talk to our younger selves, right?  The biggest sin of bullies is that they can convince us to bully ourselves long after their cruel remarks.  I'll accept that there was a time in my life when I was too tall and gangly, I needed braces, and the prepubescent awkwardness of growing wasn't particularly kind to me, but at the time I was looking in the mirror all of that had mostly settled into place.  I wish I could tell that teenager she was pretty even if she didn't know it, and nobody really cared about that zit on her chin.

I think many of us, if not all of us, still look in the mirror with the same skewed self-perceptions that I had back then.

I dreamed a memory of my grandmother this morning.  I was my usual unkempt, wild self with a mop of tangled hair in my face.  She stroked my hair back and cooed to me before getting a scrap of fat, pink yarn to tie my hair back with a pretty bow on top.  She said I had a pretty face and it was a shame to cover my eyes with hair.  I felt pleased that Grandma thought I was pretty, and she showed me that it was so in the mirror.  I snuggled into her warm softness for a while before resuming my romping play, but I kept that bit of yarn for a long time afterwards.  It was a little bit of love I could keep in a box.

I more recently worked with women who have that Grandma quality of saying the positive.  They tell other women that they're pretty and compliment someone's new shirt.  Their kindness is remarkable in that encouraging, complimentary remarks are so seldom heard in the world.  I followed their example and told my guy friend he's handsome, and he is.  He just needs to remember to see beyond the illusion in the mirror.  We all need to see our own beauty, not just in what we look like, but in every way our individuality is beautiful.