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Saturday, September 30, 2006


Public Service Announcement: If you have ever considered getting a puppy, please revisit the idea now. The Forsyth County Animal Shelter has 20 dogs currently listed, the vast majority of which are incredibly sweet-looking puppies. There are limitations at the shelter, which means it is entirely within the realm of possibility that a puppy or puppies may soon be euthanized on the sole basis of space needs.

If you already have a pet, please spay or neuter it if you have not already done so.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Dog, as in Tired, not the Bounty Hunter

We just got home at 10:30. Thankfully, we live on this side of this town, or it would have been even later.

I'd love to say that I enjoyed the evening as much as I enjoyed the morning, but I did not. The SPAM contest was wildly mismanaged, leading to it not ending until 9:30 and contestants not being allowed to pick up their dishes/plates/what-have-you until almost 10 pm. Because of the way the rules are worded in the Premium Catalog, i.e. that you must be present to win, most contestants spent almost all evening parked outside the judging area, with no seating available, waiting for the woman who seemed to be simultaneously running both the pound cake and the SPAM contest to finish with one thing for this one or the other. Why the fair doesn't separate those contests completely, I do not know, but it really sucked up the entire evening quite needlessly. There were a fair number of grumbles from those waiting, especially those who were older (quite a few) who really did not enjoy standing for a long period of time.

Did I win? Hell no. Am I upset? Hell no. It was a lark, and it would have been a fun one if it hadn't d.r.a.g.g.e.d. on for three hours. I'm quite fine with not being able to master SPAM's essence. I've never bought it before this contest, and I frankly will never buy it again. (That sound, that shloooooop, as it fell out of the can, will haunt me forever.)

The pickle contest is next Friday night, and I just don't know if I can spend another evening that way. I missed all of the Demolition Derby tonight, and it will not be a Dixie Classic if I do not see minivans smashing into one another at least once. I saw no pirates, I saw no hypnotist, I saw no tinsmithing. No tinsmithing, people. It's an outrage.

There were a few high points, of course. There was a ferociously good band playing in the center of the fairgrounds, and the youngest did an impromptu, chickenlike dance to Play That Funky Music, White Boy. Also, we ate our annual funnel cake, and we watched a new attraction on the way to SPAM purgatory: a motorcycle rigged so that amateurs and passersby can do wheelies on it without actually going anywhere. Hard to explain, but if you are picturing an exercise bike like at a gym, you are very close. At one point, a military chap from the nearby tank display got on the motorcycle and popped a really extended one. You could almost smell the testosterone in the air.

So far, after the first day, my favorite thing at the Dixie Classic this year is the poultry. There are some truly beautiful chickens there, and trust me when I say I never thought the phrase beautiful chickens would come out of me. I daydreamed briefly about starting up a little chickenage (orphans - orphanage, chickens - chickenage) at our house but reminded myself we're full up. Also, my husband would be completely - and rightfully - unamused.

Chicken 1
Chicken 2
Chicken 3

Other pictures from my morning at the Dixie Classic:

Judge's Choice, Antiques
Antique Tractors in Yesterday's Village
Yesterday Village
The Midway
Liberty Tax Service Lady
Caps for Sale
Water Display outside Agriculture Building
921 lbs Pumpkin
172 lbs Watermelon
Pumpkins Decorated as Pirates
Clown Willie (his name for himself, people, his name)
Man on Tractor Display
Sheeps with Muzzles
Bad Goat
Junior Cakemaking Competition Cakes

Sincerely, I was the first one in

Some of the Senior Citizens who didn't have to buy tickets got through the turnstiles before me, but I whipped around them inside the annex building lobby and bolted out ahead of them. HA!


In one hour, I will be entering the gates of the hallowed Dixie Classic Fairgrounds. I was there day before yesterday with the oldest, dropping off his entries, and, may I say, the Education Building is chock full of fabulousness this year.

I will be photoblogging from the fair, which means there will be many photos sent directly from the cameraphone to the blog (but few words until I come home and add them.) I've heard rumors that there are baby pot-bellied pigs to be seen and roosters with plumage that rivals peacocks. Of course, there is much, much more. Not all the photographs will be self-explanatory. I apologize in advance.

I hope to capture the essence of the fair for those of you who won't play hooky from work my husband or those of you who just refuse for no good reason to come helen losse. So check in often, or, better, yet, just come on down. Early Bird entry is only three bucks.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Have a good day then!

The youngest and I went to meet a friend and her son at Old Town Park this morning. We got there about 10:15 and, having never been there before, turned left into the recreation center parking lot instead of going right into the playground parking lot.

At least five older ladies walking to their cars gave us the suspicion-filled, staring stink-eye, stopping in their tracks and clutching red, padded mats to their chests as if my four year old and I were coming to rip them forcefully out of their clawlike vises. Following the Carolina Neighbor Code, I did the smile-and-nod to one we passed quite close to; her arm came up in front of her quite suddenly, and I saw she was holding her key out in front of her like a shiv.

I see on the community center schedule they must have been coming out of yoga class. I'm so glad they've found a way to relax!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

(sing along) DOWNTOWN! Everything's waiting for you!

Last time I walked downtown, more than one person told me they'd like like to come next time. So this morning, I called a friend and told her to dress not to impress, and off we went.

1. Contempo Concepts (Fourth Street) promises "Norwegian design".

Nice concept, but, um, those melanine bowls look familiar. I could swear I had seen them at...

Ah, yes, the Target pricetags are still on the bottom. Looks like at most you paid $1.99 each and are now hawking them as "Norwegian Contemporary" for $8 a pop. Good luck with you, then.

2. Most lovely vistas of the day were Corpening Plaza

and Stroll Way (next to BBT building).

3. Sign seen near Winston-Salem Journal building: what does MESDA mean? Anyone?

Found it: MESDA!

And last but not least, I've had an inordinate number of people ask me if in real life I look like The Sheriff or the Teemified Dinner Belle Substitute . Happily, neither really. They're both photos of me, of course, but I don't generally look quite so... so... affected. But here I am looking sweaty - and inexplicably jowly, what the hell? - after hoofing it all over downtown again.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Well, then

Esbee: Look how sunny it is!

Youngest: So sunny!

Esbee: Let's play a game. I'll make an animal shadow. You guess which one.

(Esbee makes the rabbit head fingershadow on ground)

Youngest: A bunny!

Esbee: Yep! Now you make one, and I'll guess.

(Youngest sticks arms up in air and slowly rotates until shadow appears properly on ground.)

Esbee: Um. I'm not sure. What are you?

Youngest: I'm a field goal!

Esbee: That's not an animal.

Youngest: I win!

Monday, September 25, 2006

Tears on my Pillow

Alternate Title:

The Incredibly Sad Story of Why I Will Not Be Taking Home A Blue, Nay Any, Ribbon From This Year's Artificial Wreath Decorating Contest

Last night I worked on my wreath, which I might as well tell you about now. With 20 points on the line for "originality of theme", I went for it. I submitted as my theme... ready now?

Local Litter.

Which is to say I have spent the last two months gleefully picking up trash all over town. My husband hasn't wanted to be in public with me since the day at Thruway I got giddy over a discarded Capri Sun that was in really, really good shape. I don't understand why he didn't want to marvel over its shininess, but whatever.

So my wreath: one side of the tire thrown on my lawn as the wreath form, then chicken wire fashioned into a trash can over the lower 3/4, while still maintaining the center opening. So like a U shaped trashcan. And then my litter woven in and out of the chicken wire, but neatly, and so that the words on receipts showed, so that people might wonder if they had been the culprit. It was rocking. You're going to have to trust me on this.

Knowing that my dogs are prone to mischief and chewing random and ill-advised objects, I decided to put my wreath last night in the basement. Hadley's down there, of course, but one 10 pound cat is nothing like three 50 pound dogs. Right? Right?

This morning, I went down to check on Hadley while the oldest ate his breakfast and the youngest was still drowsing. The wreath was in the same place I had left it, but it looked... different. I couldn't quite put my finger on it. Then I realized that sometime in the night, Hadley had added something.

Let me back up a minute and tell you that when Hadley came to live with us, we went out and dropped huge sums of money buying her a carpet tree, a litter box shaped like an igloo with spiral staircase, and toy after toy after toy. And one of the those toys was a twelve pack of those little mice that the oldest selected. You know the ones, right?

Yes, exactly. So the cat has twelve of those, in grey. And it looked like she'd put one mouse inside my wreath, between the chicken wire and the tire back, laying in there with the litter. Well, make that part of one mouse. I could see that she'd torn the thing in two - only the rear end was in my wreath. But then I saw the entrails coming out the top, and that just didn't add up. Toy mice don't have little guts inside, generally, I feel.

So I'd like to say that I was calm and collected as I assessed the situation, but the truth is I began shrieking like a ninny. Then I grabbed the tire as far from the mouse patootie as I could and started shaking it, hoping the damn thing would slip through the chicken wire. But it wouldn't and oh God I shook it forever, shrieking the whole time.

Let me note at this time that at no point did the oldest come to see what was wrong.

And eventually I just kind of flung the whole thing - still shrieking - out the basement door because I got it into my head that mouse guts were going to be spraying all over the basement if I kept shaking it and that didn't seem very hygienic.

And yes, I know it was a gift from the cat, and yes, I know it was a sign of affection, and yes, I've probably scarred her little feline psyche forever, but I just don't do mouse guts.

And that is The Incredibly Sad Story of Why I Will Not Be Taking Home A Blue, Nay Any, Ribbon From This Year's Artificial Wreath Decorating Contest.

The End.

The Winners of The Snippet Contest are...

First runner up:

Helen Losse

See her snippet on the left at the bottom of the snippet list!

...And the winner is: (drumroll)


Snippet on the left at the top. Scabs and fungus, a winning combination always!

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Here's what you'll do

Here's what you'll do when you first come home to find someone has discarded a tire on your lawn: you'll be annoyed. Not wildly so, but irked. Vexed.

Your children will declare it The Coolest Thing Ever and ask to play with it. You'll say yes but take it to the backyard, and watch as they roll it up, or down, the driveway. They'll actually not fight over it, and you'll think perhaps a tire is the finest toy ever until you realize their hands are black. And their clothes.

While you are in the kitchen helping the youngest scrub his hands - it will take soaping twice - you'll contemplate the tire, visible through the window, laying where it fell when those young hands stopped holding it upright. You'll find you are no longer angry at the tire. When the children are clean and dry and happily eating apple slices in the den, you'll go outside and roll the tire to the side of the house, where you'll prop it under the eave so rain doesn't fall into it. Not so the tire doesn't get wet, but so mosquitos don't luxuriate in it. You'll use paper towels when you handle the tire, the same paper towels with which you dried the youngest's hands. The damp paper towels will pick up black, too.

The tire will stay at the side of your house for one month. You'll see it as you come and go. The tire will begin to grow on you. Well, not the tire itself, but the possibilities.

One night after the children have gone to sleep and while your husband is in another city on business, you will gouge yourself several times with chicken wire while attempting to make a wreath form. You will consider whether or not you need a tetanus. You will Google "lockjaw". You will decide there isn't enough money on earth to make you wake up your children and take them with you to the ER on a Friday night. You will go to bed discouraged, bleeding, and wreathless.

The next morning, you will have an epiphany. Your husband, home now, will look at you carefully, not sure if you are serious or not. When he determines you are, he'll shake his head and sigh a lot. You're used to this by now. Later on, though, he'll tell you where his sharp clippers are when you need them.

You'll take the youngest with you when you go to Ace Hardware. You'll let him pick the flowers. Because he's in his purple phase, he'll pick only purple ones. He'll help you heft the bags of Miracle Gro, which actually don't weigh that much at all. Take the help now; when you get home, he won't help at all.

When you go to your husband to tell him to come look, he'll say please say not the front yard, please say not the front yard. You'll say of course the front yard. He'll shake his head and sigh again. He'll come look, though. And then he'll ask if you did, and you'll nod and show him the other piece, perfectly wreath-shaped. He'll ask again how much first prize is, and, when you say thirty dollars, he'll chuckle, and you'll know he's figuring out in his head how he's going to tell this story at work.

And you'll begin to hum a song from your childhood as you get out your watering can. That's what you'll do.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Tivo Shmivo

I'm highly amused by the following video titles, available to Winston-Salem city employees:

1. Anger Workout

2. Be Prepared To Sneak

3. How To Handle The Irate, Angry, Rude, Unhappy, and Sometimes Abrasive Caller on the Phone

4. Quality: You Don't Have to Be Sick to Get Better

5. Joshua In A Box

6. Your Erroneous Zones

7. Problem, That's Not My

8. Today's Woman Supervisor

I think number 7 is my favorite. I may have to say it that way from here on out.

Number 2 was a close second.

Friday, September 22, 2006

If you never got out of your car in downtown Winston-Salem...

You might drive past the BBT building, but you wouldn't know that if you stand on the sidewalk just in front of it and look up, you can make yourself dizzy.

You might marvel at the architecture of one building in particular without ever realizing it's the jail.

You would never see the whale? fish? drawn in pencil inexplicably on the boarded-up door on Third Street.

You would never get close enough to this plaque to read it, since the lane closest to it is blocked at the intersection of Third and Liberty. And so you'd never know it was a memorial erected in 1921 IN GRATEFUL REMEMBRANCE OF THE FORSYTH COUNTY MEN WHO MADE THE SUPREME SACRIFICE IN THE WORLD WAR.

And, while you might notice this wall behind the bus station,

You'd never get close enough to realize how detailed it is,

And you'd certainly never see the other side, which has the plaque declaring the wall to have been erected "In Memory of Safe Bus, Inc. 1926-1968". And then you'd never meet the man who tells you that, to the best of his recollection, it was a black-owned bus company that served East Winston during those troubled years, the man who takes you inside the bus station so you can see the sanitized, official history of transportation in Winston-Salem etched right into the windows.

And that would be a shame.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Drive 'Em, Cowboy

I love being on the phone with someone in Washington, DC or New York or what-have-you and saying, "I have to let you go. We need to be at the barn in fifteen minutes."

While one can ride (or drive horsedrawn carts, as the oldest prefers) in the outlying areas of many cities, it's not nearly as convenient or easy as it is here, so it generally serves as a special occasion in other parts, rather than as a regular activity.

Have I mentioned that one of my favorite smells in the world is the warm, sweet scent of a horse's neck in the sunshine? And with the oldest as my front, I get to indulge my habit weekly. Ahhh.


I took a break from wreath building yesterday to take the oldest and his friend B. to Cafe Gelato (On Reynolda across from Hanes Park). The oldest ordered chocolate, I ordered lemon, and B. ordered strawberry, but all three of us immediately piled some of ours on theirs and took some of theirs for ours, so we all tried all three. It was almost a spiritual experience. That good.

Then we tumbled across the road to Hanes Park, where the boys did what second grade boys do best when away from the eyes of girls and the mature fourth and fifth graders. Which is to say: act like kids. Pure abandon, pure glee, with no thought for whether or not something is "cool". Because I'm fairly certain that, under other circumstances, pretending to be trick-riding the toddler ride-ums is decidely not.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006


So recently, the Journal started doing "Piedmont Profiles", which is almost what I hoped for (see #7) way back in June. But the Piedmont Profiles in the Journal just don't quite do it. And since they started, I have been trying to figure out why. It isn't the people selected; by definition, anyone not famous works, and the Journal has done a really good job of selecting people from all walks. But then two things happen.

1. The Journal's profiles are too long. There's too much info, and the focus is too loose. Instead of being a snapshot of one aspect of a person, they are the equivalent of a whole movie.

2. The people in the profiles lose their voices. Somewhere in the interview or the writeup, any distinct personality that comes from the person's own words is washed out. We're told what the person feels/thinks/believes rather than hearing his or her words and interpreting them for ourselves. And the thing that is unique to the person is lost in the translation. Instead of feeling like we've met the person, we feel like we've read about xyz reporter meeting the person.

I just really wish the Journal profiles were done in the first person, using the person's own words only. It's not easy; there's an art to interview, assuredly. By no means do I think I've mastered it, merely hinted at it. But I know it can be done.

Piedmont Portrait #1
Piedmont Portrait #2
Piedmont Portrait #3

EDITING TO ADD: For example, today's Piedmont Profile is about a nun who teaches school locally. If you take out every word she didn't speak, leaving only her words and her voice, here's what you are left with:

Tuck your shirttail in. We have no bums here. Chairs in. Feet on the floor. Back against the back of the chair. Hopefully it puts the fear of God in them. You sit there and you can go into la-la land. God gives me the strength I need. A lot of parents nowadays want to be their child's friends. Pray. Don't litter. Respect yourself. Be a good citizen. Help others. It means I didn't give up. It says this is where I've invested my time and energy.

I feel much more like I've met her that way. Don't you? The rest of the article is just unnecessary.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Playing Around

We love Polo Park. Well, we did. We still try. And the kids do a really good job of trying. I mean, just look at the smiles on their little, yellow faces!

But recently, I just don't find it as relaxing. Recently, as in, ever since I read this.

Try as I might, I can't find any satisfyingly innocent explanation for that.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Date: Today Place: Ace Hardware

Ace Man: Ma'am? Do you need any help?

Esbee: I'm looking for chicken wire?

Ace Man: At the counter in the back. To the right of the post counter.

(Ace Man walks just ahead of Esbee, then steps behind said counter to man it)

Esbee: Um. I need some about yea tall. (holds hand level with floor)

Ace Man: It comes on 50 foot rolls. 12 inches tall, 18 inches tall, this is 24...

Esbee: May I see the 18 inch roll?

(Esbee fingers chicken wire lovingly.)

Ace Man: Is that what you need for...

Esbee: Yes, this is perfect. It's not actually for chickens.

Ace Man: (laughs) It never is anymore.

Esbee: It's for a Dixie Classic contest!

Ace Man: (looking stunned and ever so slightly alarmed) It is?

Esbee: Yep!

Ace Man: Which one?

Esbee: Artificial Wreath Decoration!

Ace Man:

(sound of crickets)


Sunday, September 17, 2006

OTHER than the Dixie Classic

Five Other Cool Things To See and Do in Winston-Salem this Fall

1. Stomp (September 19th and 20th)

2. The Foreign Film Festival at Central Library (October 9th, 16th, 23rd, 30th)

3. Go poke around Cricket's Nest craft festival (September 30th, 9-3)

4. Attend a One Day Workshop at Sawtooth (weekends)

5. Go ice skating at the LJVM Coliseum (beginning October)

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Book Deals

I had an email recently that asked why I haven't had a book deal yet. Book deal what?

It seems there are people who blog who end up with book deals. So I looked at some of their blogs. And then I looked at mine. And then I looked back at theirs. And then I looked back at mine. And a few key differences between their blogs and mine stood out.

1. I haven't been writing about hanging out (or staying in) with famous people.

2. My blog doesn't have intriguing quotes from others, commenting on my writing.

I chewed over these differences for a while, and, in light of the fact that I still am not chummy with Maya Angelou, I decided that the second one was the key.

I looked. And I looked.

See the upper lefthand column? That's it. I could find no more snippets on the web. Hmph. This doesn't bode well for the book deal. Solution?


Submit an intriguing, quotable comment via email. Bonus points for haiku or other equally affected constructions.

What does the winner get? Beyond seeing your words over there in italics you mean? Um... OK, if I ever get a book deal, I'll put a thank you in my acknowledgments. Yeah! Take that to the bank!

Contest ends Saturday, September 23rd at 11:59 pm. Winner to be announced the following Monday. Dixie Classic to begin the following Friday.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Dear Powers That Be:

I know you were trying to help the situation. Really, I do. But the thing is, this sign? The one you put on the northbound exit ramp off Silas Creek onto Robinhood?

Well, see, the thing is, instead of keeping traffic moving, the sign actually slows traffic even more. People brake to read it, then can't decide what exactly they're to do, so they are even more "on their guard" when the curve to the right brings them to Robinhood. Which means they stop. All the way now. Full. Stop.

I know, I know. You wanted to let them know there was no reason to even slow down, that they had their own lane on Robinhood, that they didn't even have to merge, much less yield. Why couldn't you have written that on the sign? Wait, let me show you.

Ahhh. That's better.

And then, I tell you what, come put the old sign on my street, which could use the considerable decrease in speed that the sign creates.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

I may become a Republican

Just until I'm called for jury duty. My purely anecdotal evidence suggests that one must be a non-Democrat to get called for jury duty here.

EXHIBIT A: My husband, the former Republican, now "Undeclared" because there's no official Libertarian party recognized by North Carolina, was called for jury duty a mere two years after moving here. (When he called the night before, the clerk's recording said no jurors were needed the following day, so he never actually got to serve, poor man.)

EXHIBIT B: The long dead husband of the more recently deceased but still dead woman from whose estate we bought this house just got called for jury duty. When we viewed the house, pictures of said dead husband and Jesse Helms manhugging in various locales were all over the walls. I think it's pretty safe to say politically the dead man fell slightly to the right of Attila the Hun into the Republican category.

EXHIBIT C: When I told my friend, A.D., about the dead man being summoned, she remarked that in her many years of residing here, to my knowledge about 15, she has never once been called. I asked if she was a registered Democrat from the word go, and she said yes.

So that's why I may have to switch parties. I could never vote Republican, of course, but I might be able to carry the card long enough to get on a jury. Maybe.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Lights Off

The youngest had been at preschool less than an hour this morning when his school, like a large swath of the city, lost power. When it became apparent the power wasn't immediately coming back on, his school started calling parents to pick up children.

So what does one do on a morning with light rain, no lightning, and no school?

One puddlestomps.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006


The best one, of course, is the one on Cloverdale near the big Harris Teeter. Second, I would put the one on Reynolda in the shopping center with the Lowe's. Waaaaaaaaay down at the bottom is the one on Hanes Mall Boulevard at the Target shopping center.

I speak, of course, of Dollar Stores. So much stuff you don't need, but heck, it's a dollar. So sometimes you find something you might not need at, say, $10 or even $5, but at $1?

Boy Howdy!

Like anyone who knows the first thing about me really would expect me to pass up the pink, cowgirl hat for $1. Note my The Sheriff Means Business look. Please don't confuse it with The Sheriff Has An Allergen in Her Eyes. I look fierce, I say, fierce.

Monday, September 11, 2006

He came home

Five years ago today, we lived near Dulles Airport, outside Washington, DC. My husband worked as a UNIX Sys Admin near Union Station. We had an argument that morning, but I cannot remember what it was about. We were both under tremendous stress; we had lost our second child 12 days before. Our pain was still incredibly raw.

Because of the argument, my husband was running late, but he assured me he would be in no trouble and he'd make up time by cutting through the Pentagon parking lots, which were at that time open to public use.

I didn't hear from him again until he came home at 4 pm. By that point, I was numb. But he came home. He was the last person accounted for on our street, but he came home.

2,996 other people did not.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

A grand time at the Grand

We had the oldest's birthday party at The Grand 18 yesterday, just as he wanted. When we made the reservations, they were still showing movies starting at 10 am, so that's what we planned with Lisa Jones, the Grand's party planner: a 10:20 (or so) showing of How to Eat Fried Worms. But a week or so ago, the Grand changed their hours so that the ticket office didn't even open until noon.

Lisa Jones, who should be sainted, worked to accomodate us at our scheduled party time. This means she opened the entire theater just for us, had a crew staffing the snack counter just for us, had an usher and projectionist in place just for us, all so our little gaggle of second graders could watch a movie. She put the children in their own, private movie theater.

I'm fairly certain our party just set the bar unnaturally high, albeit inadvertantly.

(And the movie was phenom, even if I did shut my eyes during every worm-chew sequence.)

Friday, September 08, 2006

Touched by a Stranger

The youngest and I are in the cereal aisle at Harris Teeter when, out of the blue, he asks the question that stops me in my tracks. "Where's Grandpa?" My father was in the hospital for so long that the youngest had stopped asking about him a week or so before he died. In retrospect, perhaps we were wrong to do it this way, but we never sat him down and really told him. He's never asked until now.

I say, "He's in heaven, honey. He died." And the youngest looks at me with his head cocked to one side and repeats, "Died?" I nod. "Like Clyder, sweetheart. And Marshie."

I'm hoping the youngest will remember the cat that died last Thanksgiving and the hamster that went on to greater hamster glory this past spring. And indeed he must, because he's shaking his head from side to side now, clearly getting upset, "NO. NO. NO. NO. NO. Grandpa's not died! HE'S IN HOSPITAL."

It's when I bend into the cart to hold him that it hits me, too. I'm rubbing the youngest's back, and shhhing, trying to soothe him, and I'm shaking myself. Hard. I'm holding him and trying to keep him from looking up at me because if I see his sweet eyes looking at me all full of tears, I swear I will sit down right here in Harris Teeter and just weep.

And then the woman who was standing just behind us, looking at cereal herself when the youngest dropped his bomb question, places her hand on my back. And I turn my head, and she's still looking at cereal, and she keeps her hand on my back until I stop shaking. When I take a big breath and stand upright, she pats my back once and when I look, she has a sad smile full of sorry. And I whisper, "Thank you." And she smiles again, first at me then at the youngest, pauses like she might say something, then nods, and pushes past us.

And then the youngest is asking for honey nut Cheerios, so I hand him the biggest box Harris Teeter has and push the cart to checkout, feeling suddenly very, very tired.


I waited until 7 am to call. The Journal usually lands on my driveway long before that. A recording told me that due to a problem with a printing press, delivery would be delayed until 9 am.

I'm trying to read the Journal online, but it's NOT.THE. SAME. I need the feel of paper in my hands! I need to sit at my dining room table, not at a computer desk! I need the bizarre ads! The paper and coffee are my sacred morning routine, and someone has stormed the temple!

In my mind, the day media outlets do away with producing physical, paper pages is the day I never get out of bed again.

(Ditto books.)

Thursday, September 07, 2006

A General Announcement

Recognize the vehicle above as your own? If so, STOP RIDING MY BUMPER.

It's a residential neighborhood. The speed limit is 25, which means if I am going 28, and you are having to brake to avoid colliding with me, YOU ARE TOO CLOSE AND GOING TOO FAST.

I don't care what court date/social disease clinic appointment/rendezvous at the pay-by-the-hour motel you are late for, GET OFF MY TAIL.

I actually had to wait until a stop sign - at which I fully stopped and you merely hinted at stopping - to get enough distance to take an over-the-shoulder, cameraphone pic.

I can't wait until the technology is developed to equip cameraphones with an optional bazooka.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

"Why Thruway?"

Shoes, my friend replies. I need to get both kids new shoes.

Rack Room, I venture.

M-hm. Possibly Steinmart.

I overlook the Steinmart mention. You didn't go to Stride Rite during the Buy One Pair, Get the Second Half Off sale?

Listen to me. I will pay double not to go to that mall. That mall is scare-ee. I keep waiting for someone to jump out of some seemingly abandoned storefront or from behind a parked car and stick a knife in me. And Thruway is pretty.

It is, I say, nodding, even though we're speaking by phone, and she can't see me. I, too, try to avoid Hanes Mall like the plague.

Monday, September 04, 2006

3 dogs, 1 cat, 1 hamster, and the Science Fair fish

I call them that because we got them when some other child forgot to make arrangements for the fish he bred for last year's Science Fair. Because we cannot turn away an unwanted animal, they came here.

Before you dash off an email about the three-legged turtle your friend is desperately trying to place, let me say we officially have the No Vacancy sign lit up. There's no room in the inn, and we haven't a manger.

...And yet I cannot stop looking. I am always up on what dogs and cats both Forsyth County and Guilford County have in their animal shelters. I am painfully aware that Guilford County does a much better job of marketing their animals, using euphemisms like, "tries to hold it until gets out of kennel" to suggest a pet is housebroken without promising it. Personalities are discussed, and the occasional sob story is shared. Forsyth's pets are photographed under harsh lights. Only the barest of information is given.

Last week another schoolmom came by to pick up some work I'd done. She mentioned her children were desperate to get a dog, then mentioned a few of her hopes and reservations. I immediately suggested a dog at Forsyth's shelter who sounded promising. This is why I keep looking - so I'll know who's there and maybe can move people along a bit more quickly.

And every once in a while, I get to see an animal who needs no discussion of personality, whose picture screams of personality already.

3 dogs, 1 cat, 1 hamster, and the Science Fair fish. We're full. We're full, I say. I 'm not reminding you so much as reminding myself.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Krispy Kreme, RJR, and Enormous e-Cajones

On the front of the Accent section in today's Winston-Salem Journal, there is an article about local couples, my aunt and uncle among them, celebrating fifty years of marriage. Today's obituaries are full of wonderful tributes to those who've died. Elsewhere in the paper, one man cites his wife and son as his inspiration for fulfilling a life goal.

As a city, we would seem to be nothing less than love, love, love, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

But occasionally, something far less pleasant bubbles up. Winston-Salem has a hidden, small - but strong - Mean Streak. Because most of the city's residents have been raised with some level of civility and decorum, however, those who do not go online rarely see it. Winston-Salem's nastiness, you see, is electronic. And nine times out of ten, it's anonymous.

Witness the debacle that was the response to The Dinner Belle's review of Dudley's On The Park. She didn't give the restaurant a very favorable review, and a slew of anonymous persons came forward to call her "Bitter Belle", snidely remark that, "The fact that you would chase down fried chicken and your familiarlity(sic) with cafeteria food seems to sum up where you are coming from", and advise her to "trade the Beers for a couple of Vodka Sours, at least then, you will have a reason to have that pucker on your face."

Ed Bumgardner, an arts reporter for the Journal, had an even nastier response to his less-than-positive review of the Bob Dylan concert. One commenter inexplicably rants, "You probably got you tech. from an obscure shool (sic) of journalism such as u n freaking c... It's alright ma if I can't please him, or you're an idiot it's a wonder that you still no (sic) how to breathe." Another demands Bungardner resign, then name calls: "Smalltown Ed". Anonymous calls him "old rag", then notes, "In case the words fly over your head and into Dylan's glove in left center...we're all saying: YOURE (sic) AN IDIOT."

There are many, many more nasty bits levelled at both The Dinner Belle and Ed Bumgardner, both of whom have email addresses readily available at the ends of said reviews. Almost all the daggers are thrown anonymously or are virtually untraceable, attributed only to "Mike" or "xyz123" or the like. Not one person who said something just plain, old nasty did so in his or her own, full name. E-cajones. Electronic chutzpah.

My own experiences run the same way: anonymous/untraceable snipe comments or emails sent from email addresses apparently created explicitly for that purpose. I just find it hard to believe anyone's regular email address is actually shutupesbee@yahoo.com .

I have no problems with criticism, but I generally ignore criticism from those who cannot stand behind their words. Want to email me why you think my pan of Sciworks is a load of bunk? Angry over my assertion that the Buena Vista Shop's ads have the ugliest pictures ever? Super, provide a valid email address and I'll be happy to discuss my position with you.

The irony is that saying anything negative about specific, local places or things apparently justifies the subsequent insults lobbed at specific, local people. Basically the mob will beat the negativity out of you, Gosh Darn It. You! Will! Not! Criticize! You! Stupid! Uglyhead! NOWBEHAPPY!

Well, guess what? I am happy. I love this city. I just don't love everything in it. Who does? I mean, really.

Welcome to Winston-Salem, where all the faces smile with gentility while behind a few of the backs, the fingers are making rude gestures.

Anonymously, of course.

My email, as always, is hippo.hippo@gmail.com

Saturday, September 02, 2006

To my dear friend, Nancy, I bequeath my casserole dish...

I'm dying. I'm not sure if I caught this hellspawn virus from the new school year germpool or from the doctor's office, where I was Monday last for the youngest's annual checkup. In any event, I haven't long now, I can tell. My ears are so congested I'm actually hoping for an eardrum rupture, my sinuses feel like they're being used to store potatoes, and my limbs ache like I swam the length of the Mississippi.

All that remains is to decide what euphemism to use in my obituary. Optimally, I'd like to work all of the following in.

Some of my favorite euphemisms from the Winston-Salem Journal obituaries
  • God plucked one of His heavenly flowers
  • He took his final trip over to the field
  • Her faith turned to sight
  • He went to meet his Lord at Forsyth Medical Center
  • God gave him a promotion to Heaven
  • God dispatched his precious angels to escort her from her earthly life to rest in her new heavenly home
  • Before the dew was on the roses, he heard the voice of Jesus calling out to him
  • God, in his infinite wisdom, saw fit to call her home
  • He went on the morning train to heaven
  • He ended his season and fulfilled his purpose
  • She was called from labor to rest and responded to the Angel's call, "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith." Timothy 4:7
  • She began choreographing the Angelic Ballet
  • He received the checkered flag, winning his last race
  • He began his retirement with the Lord
  • He had his sunset
  • He joined his beloved wife in Heaven
  • She reached out and touched God's hand
  • She quietly and peacefully entered into her Father's house

Sincerely, our local newspaper has the best obituaries I've ever read. They are funny and touching and sorrowful and triumphant all at once.

Friday, September 01, 2006

...And we're postmarked

Today being the last day to enter most of the contests at the 2006 Dixie Classic, I took my entry forms in person to the Post Office. Sadly, I had to opt out of the muscadines or scuppernongs (white) class at the last minute; mine just don't seem like they'll be ready this year. I have great hopes for the 2007 DCF, though.

The oldest is entering two contests, each of which carry a $5 top prize. There's an additional Judge's Choice possibility if he takes first in either; that would be another $10 plus the very important rosette.

I entered four: 3 of the special cooking contests, plus Artificial Wreath decoration. I'm not ready to reveal my theme quite yet (though it had to be on the entry form), but suffice it to say I have those 20 points for Creativity of Theme in the bag.

The three special cooking contests I entered were Spam (with a first prize of $150), Mt. Olive Pickles (first again is $150), and the Village Tavern dessert contest, for which first is a happy $600.

I'd love to win fistfuls of cash, but honestly, I'm most excited about my Artificial Wreath Theme.

I love this weather

No, seriously, I do.

I love how the moisture in the air feels cool and refreshing. I love the possibilities of endless puddles. I love that I can smell Pilot Mountain today.

I could only be happier if I were on a craggy, New England beach, crouched over a tidal pool.