Monday, September 29, 2008

Hermes the Imp

I can’t tell you how much I enjoy being a grandfather, especially the grandfather of a sixteen-year-old young man.

In the spirit of fairness, I must also point out that I adore the college sophomore, David. And while I’m (we’re) getting to know Alexa and Grayson, the new members of our family, we love them more each day.

Jon is a junior in high school, one of my favorite ages when I taught English many years ago. The difference between the sophomore and junior years is amazing, and kids somehow have not only a growth spurt over the summer between the years, but a maturity spurt as well. It is joyous to watch and be a part of.

Jon reminds me of Hermes, the Greek messenger of the gods. Hermes is the archetype of an imp. He was the god of travelers, and he used his wits to delight Zeus, his father (somehow every minor god’s father) - and still survive Zeus’ wrath, which was frequent.

Jon is like that. He is an imp, and a kid who uses his wits to delight - eventually - all those around him. A couple of his exploits lately:

He and his friends went to the local appliance store and begged boxes. Refrigerator boxes, stove boxes, washer and dryer boxes. Big boxes. They drew giant faces on the boxes, made little holes so they could see out, bigger holes for their arms, and put them on.

Now picture Jon and his friends - probably eight or ten of them - marching in a box parade down the street where Jon lives, a kind of Father-Knows-Best neighborhood with a well-tended houses, green lawns, and a canopy of mature trees. One neighbor, according to reports the Hermes of his own youth, stood watching them march down the street and shaking his head, speechless.

Or . . . How about a few weeks earlier when he and his friends all put money into a pot and climbed a tree. The last one to climb down would receive the whole amount of cash. I don’t know what they planned to do about potty breaks. They found a huge old tree with long, sturdy branches at a local elementary school one Sunday morning about 6 and climbed it. They sat in the tree chatting for a couple of hours until a custodian (in all senses of the word) came in for work, found them and chased them away. Each of the tree-sitting participants took their cash from the kitty and went for breakfast, a little disappointed, but still having a great time.

I never thought of the kind of things Jon does, let alone acted upon them, when I was his age.

He never ceases to amaze and delight me.

The Way Out of our Financial Crisis

I’m wondering if we could bail out the economy by selling Alaska?

Of course, there’s no possibility we would or should give away the huge natural resources of such a beautiful and wild part of the United States. If we sold it to the Russians or the Chinese or probably any other country, we’d end up being the great loser. In the distant, Starwars-ish future we will no doubt find a way to exploit the resources of the state without destroying it.

The big advantages at this point, it seems to me, are that we could be out of debt to the countries that already own a majority of these United States, bail out the financial industry (giving golden parachutes perhaps to every American, the same kind that residents of the state of Alaska now receive) and certain incompetent candidates (did you watch the Katie Couric interviews!?) would lose their citizenship and thereby be ineligible to be vice president - or president in case of that person’s death.

On the other hand, and in a related but not relevant aside, I am predicting that the financial crisis will become so intense that Vice President Cheney and his minion President George Bush will declare an emergency and suspend the Constitution so they can continue to “rule” in royal fashion.

As always, I invite your comments below.

Monday, September 22, 2008

A Potato Shaped Like Jesus

Every spring we find a bin of sprouted potatoes in the pantry, and every spring we find a place in the garden, dig a trench, cut the potatoes into pieces, each with its own sprout and throw them into the ground.

This year we put them next to the asparagus, where last year the beans got tromped by the dogs racing back and forth along the fence barking at Monk and Mordecai, the large black dogs next door. This spring I got tired of all the barking and added a rabbit wire fence in front of the beds that border the back yard. The dogs stopped racing back and forth, the barking stopped, I had peace all summer. Yea!

I'm sure the nitrogen fixed by last years' crop, as well as the two years' worth of compost I pulled out of the bin and piled on top of the row, helped. Ann kept the little space weeded and when the potatoes had formed plants and started to bloom, she put newspapers covered with grass clippings around them to keep weeds out.

Then we forgot about them.

Our garden isn't very good, and we have problems growing many things to maturity because we have numbers of giant trees along the back lot line, which is the south. It shades our gardens and keeps crops (an optimistic term!) from growing as well as we'd like. On the other hand, our yard is very pleasant, and with the recent rain (more in the next paragraph), very green.

Anyway, our travel buddies Ted and Carol visited this month, and last weekend, in the rain that flooded basements (not ours, thankfully), raised rivers from the Gulf Coast to places even farther north than our south suburb of Chicago, and swept away houses along its track, we dug a "mess" of potatoes, washed them, boiled them, and ate them within an hour. The row of potatoes was beyond mud and mostly slurry, which made digging easier - and messier.

This weekend we bought fresh organic beets at the farmers' market, and decided to make borscht. We didn't have any potatoes, sprouted or otherwise, in the pantry, so we dug another mess. (I don't know why they are called a mess - it's somehow a rural collective noun. If we picked a couple quarts of beans, that would be a "mess" of beans. If we had okra this year, and picked enough to cut, bread, and saute, that would be a "mess." Yesterday I also picked a "mess" of green tomatoes, and we had fried green tomatoes with our borscht. We like vegetables.)

Because we didn't have any potatoes for the borwscht, I dug another mess, as I said before my long and parenthetical comment. The ones farthest away from the trees' shade were bigger, but none even half the size of my fist. I think we must have planted all fingerlings last spring because that's all that grew, so they couldn't grow very big in any event. We scrubbed them and used most of them in the borscht (2 C cooked beets, 2 C cooked potatoes, 2 Tbs. chopped cooked leeks, 1 quart or so of home made chicken broth, salt and pepper to taste. Combine, bring to rolling boil, blend [I use an immersible blender]. Put in bowls, top with a dollop of sour cream. Enjoy.)

We'll enjoy the potatoes we didn't use boiled with butter and dill tomorrow, and in a pot roast today. They tend to be much smaller and a few of them are misshapen. One looks like a platypus with little knobs pushing out in every direction. Ann was sorry it didn't look like Jesus, because we could sell it on e-bay.

Maybe next year.

As always, I welcome your comments.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Hate Mail

I realize that this is the silly season, that politics create strange bedfellows, and any other cliche about the upcoming presidential race you can think of.

I also realize that I am guilty of putting down Sarah Palin in particular, but also John McCain. And about a year ago Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton by suggesting that they have jobs in the Senate they were elected to that didn’t involve traipsing around the country campaigning for president.

I have to say, however, that I am tired of the constant emails I have been getting from all sides that perpetrate disgusting lies about each of the candidates. The ones that begin, “My brother lives in Wasilla, Alaska, and here’s what he says about Sarah Palin.” The ones that begin, “Here’s a list of 150 books Sarah Palin tried to remove from the Wasilla Library (or state of Alaska library system, take your pick).” The ones that begin, “Barack Obama sponsored legislation to require all kindergarten children to have comprehensive sex education.”

I am tired of getting fifteen to twenty of these every time I open my email.

Sarah Palin indeed did ask how to monitor the books the library had. Shame on her for even considering that. But she never had a list of specific books she told the librarian to remove from the shelves.

Barack Obama voted for a bill that would teach children, in an age-appropriate way, to avoid sexual predators. That’s stuff like Stranger-Danger, and nice people don’t touch you there, and talk to an adult you trust like your parent or a teacher. Props to him for helping to protect our children.

Too many of the hate emails come from people who know that I intend to vote for Barack Obama for president (and I urge the rest of American voters to follow my lead. Follow my lead is pretty arrogant, sorry.)

These hate-emails com from the same Karl Rove-ish bunch who told us in the last election that John Kerry’s did not earn his purple hearts.


What kind of leadership can the presidential candidates provide that American needs?
What philosophies that they espouse do you also espouse?
What are their positions on issues?

Issues? you ask. Are there issues in this presidential campaign?

Yes, I believe there are. The economy is one, certainly this morning with the financial news about Merrill-Lynch and Lehman Brothers. Increasing national debt is another. Dependence on foreign energy (I kind of agree with T. Boone Pickens on this one) is yet another. The war in Iraq and the increasingly hawkish behavior to intervene in Georgia and Ukraine by ensuring their entry into NATO and then defending them is yet one more.

These are issues that affect me, that scare me, and some that delight me. And I know where Barack Obama and John McCain (and their vice presidential minions) stand on these issues.

Peripheral issues include age and experience and closeness to death. Is John McCain too far past the actuarial tables for old? Will some bigot try to assassinate Barack Obama? In that respect, are the vice presidential candidates truly prepared to run the country- at least as much as anyone is prepared to run the country?

These are ideas I have considered and will continue to consider up until the time I enter the voting booth.

I feel that the people who send me this hate mail, which I dutifully check out on and find that 99 percent of it is either exaggeration or outright lies, see me as an easy mark, a thought-less person who will vote for whoever sends me mud last.

Some of these emails try to reinforce my current predilections. Others totally revolt me. In the end, they all disgust me. Actually, they’re very little different from the unsolicited emails I get that shame me about - and the try to tell me how to increase - the size of my manliness and satisfy any woman. Or the ones that try to arouse me with pictures of women and donkeys. (Vomit!)

After the first few, I began to delete them all. Without reading them. Particularly the ones whose subject lines say something like “The real truth about (fill in candidate’s name here)” or “This is really good about (again, the candidate’s name).”

I know I have friends who will read this and be offended. I’m sorry. If you are offended, we'll get together again after the election. Or better yet, right now - without the hate mail.

As always, feel free to comment below.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Mother Robin Redux

I have been watching at the Republican Convention and have the same comments about it that I have about the Democratic Convention: C-Span offers coverage without comment and we are (ostensibly) intelligent enough to make up our own minds about what politicians (a word which can be, but is not necessarily, pejorative) have to say.

Again, feel free to comment below.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

10 Reasons To Be VP

10.  You can show that family values and feminism are not mutually exclusive.

9.  You're a green candidate, although in your case that means untried, untested, and possibly thoroughly un-vetted.

8.  Pretty is as Pretty does.

7.  The "Fourth Branch" of government, so-named by the current vice resident, allows you to decide what your duties are - like cooking moose hotdogs and nursing your baby at the office.

6.  A heart beat from the Presidency.

5.  Being a better shot that Dick Cheney, you can kill your target rather than just maiming him.

4.  You get to attend funerals all over the world as the President's representative.

3.  Living the American Dream: Better health care (GREAT health care) than you can buy - or afford - in the public sector.

2.  Your new salary allows you to take care of your husband and five kids with style and grace.

1.  You prove that Abstinence [sex] Education works.

As always I invite you to comment below: