Saturday, September 26, 2009

Two reads and a skim

"Four Spirits" by Sena Jeter Naslund was a disappointment to me. This author had written one of my very favorites, "Ahab's Wife" but this novel doesn't quite measure up. I skimmed through this which has great characters but not that great of a story line. It did not hold my interest as I'd hoped. Set in Birmingham, AL in the 1960's during the civil rights struggle. Narrated through the voice of Stella Silver, an idealistic white college student and Christine Taylor, student at a black college. Many characters have voices in the history of this time. The 4 spirits are four young black girls who are killed in the firebombing of a black church. Just a big disappointment.


"Vital Lies" by Ellen Hart. This was an ok easy read mystery without bad language. Set in MN on a lake, where the owner is challenged to hold onto her investment in a lovely old inn amidst threats and nasty pranks. Someone wants her out of there, but who is it? I would likely not have picked this up had I read the back cover, a Lambda Literary Awards selection for best lesbian mystery. I will leave it there. The characters were interesting but that is not a lifestyle I am interested in hearing about.

"The Authorized Biography of Anthony Hopkins" by Quentin Falk. I admire Antohony Hopkins and I enjoy biographies. This book revealed some small things about his life but focused a great detail on all the plays and theater which has made him famous. I'd have preferred more personal detail, but maybe I'm just nosey! A drama student would find this intriguing. Hopkins beginnings in Wales and encounters with Richard Burton are interesting. Here and there are bits about his struggles in school as a young boy, a slow learner, a pianist, a child who preferred being alone--all traits which he carried on into adulthood. The end of his first early marriage and how he cuts off all contact with his daughter for her own good is touching. Way later in life they reunite but for this reason he prefers to never have any other children. His 2nd wife Jenni is truly his soul mate. His struggle with alcoholism is discussed including reflections from Jenni. A funny episode described his struggles working with or around Shirley McClain in "A Change of Seasons." Hopkins has a fantastic sense of humor shown in impersonations. At one time he is off set ill for a few days and not yet expected to return when President Richard Nixon appears on the set. Humorously Nixon is none other than Tony himself! After he conquers/cures his alcoholism he retreats to a solitary existence in a Topanga canyon home which he impulsively purchased. Uncertain whether their marriage will endure, Jenni shares how she coped with this struggle on her own. This episode reveals something about how she finally learns to be her own person and get a life. This passage is good reading for the clingy woman who has a man as her sole means to exist. "..I rely on him absolutely....but what he couldn't be any more was 101% of everything for me. I realized I had to have my own life too. I had to be more resilient. Tony's a great believer in the fact that nobody should live through another person; everyone should try and get on as much as possible with their own lives......" I learned that lesson long ago as a young 20 something working at McClellan AFB in CA. Fortunately for me, Jerry reinforced that so I have never been the clingy little woman and have little to no patience for those who are. Even if they are in my own family. If I could get anything through to my grand daughter it would be just that--get and keep a life, be neither dominated nor controlled by one person...know something on your own and for God's sake don't cling!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

History with a family of choice.






Our good long time friends from CA, Nevin and Alicia, who now live in NC spent a few days here on their way west. This was their second trip here and we have yet to make it to NC. We really enjoyed the visit. Lots of laughs, reminiscing, eating, drinking, laughing and showing them the local sites.

I got to thinking today that is what I miss the most about being relocated, the familiarity of our history. We do not live in the past but it is a strong link that pulls us together today. Even though most of my friends also relocated out of CA when we all retired, I ponder how it might have been had we all stayed. It is a difficult transition for me here in the MN, small town Midwest. No one who really knows me. I volunteer and belong to several organizations of interest to me, but it is not the same, the history is lacking. I've met only two professional retired women. There are few here where I can buzz by and say, "hey, let's go to ...the store, library, Starbucks.." Even those in the organizations have their own circle with them, the quilters, the Legion auxiliary, the church.

This is a place where people are born and raised for generations and never venture away from hearth and home. This limits their experiences and their judgement is very parochial; truly they do not know what they don't know! Just yesterday at Curves one of the gals asked, "wow, how did you get from PA where you were born and raised to CA?" Unheard of for them but easy to me, "marry young, big bad mistake and then stay in CA." "But what, you didn't go back home?" "No I did not want to." How could they understand my streak of independence, let alone my life story? True I do not share my story openly with many. It takes some time to build that bridge of trust and familiarity and that is what I miss. My bridges with so many.

But today while ironing, thinking about our visit with our friends, I was reminded that is what I miss--that long time connection, a history, with those who know us, those who know our history. People with whom we share a long time bond.

In CA life was different. So many of us lived away from our families so we bonded. We formed connections stronger than family, we did build our own family. People reached out to one another and somehow linked. We became a family of choice. We learned about each other. Here no one is interested, they think everyone is like them and they neither ask nor learn about anyone else. Maybe it's their "MN nice." But to me it is very cold. The culture has a heavy Scandinavian influence and perhaps that is the way that culture is, closed. At least so it seems to me.

This weekend is "Applefest" here in La Crescent. It's a weekend long celebration of the apple orchards that used to be that made this town the Apple Capital of the State. No more, but they cling to the past, their history, try to resurrect it and celebrate it. People return to their home base. These are people who have expanded their horizons and their experiences far beyond this tiny settlement. People return knowing more. While they enjoy their respite, do they long for their pasts? I think not. Tomorrow the Legion hosts an "Old timers meal" one where the old folks eat, congregate and greet. Except the old folks are here, they've remained. Jerry's mother goes to this event each year. She's 92 and wonders why she knows no one from the past! Don't laugh, she means it--but does not realize she has outlived everyone! She has outlived her history.

When I am in PA and with my long time school friends, it is not just a reliving of our past, our history but a reconnection of that link. We update and enjoy. That's what this weekend was. We did not wallow in the past as we caught up on our lives. But that bond of history from the past binds us. They moved to NC to follow their son & family. It would not have been their place of choice, but they too wanted out of CA. Nevin should have been the first one out the door, retired military and wanting to leave long before we did. It just didn't happen until their son moved.

Too bad CA lost us all, because we all share a history of a place where we enjoyed chosen families. I don't think that happens anyplace else in this country--maybe AZ when the snow birds congregate? I think about this. While I don't cling to the past, I miss that link.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Vintage money and the $2 bill story

I thought this was so funny. Probably because our 19 year old grand daughter, Janine is fascinated with "old money." When she was here last year she noticed the $20 bills that Jerry was spending did not look like the $20 bills she sees all the time in CA where she lives. So we have begun to include vintage $$ with each of her birthday, Christmas gifts. so far she has a $10, $20 and a $50 which has been the piece de resistance. But she wants to keep her vintage money, "forever" she says, "just like Grandpa!" She cannot figure out where he gets this old money. We told her out in the back yard, we have a coffee can or two buried. I think she might believe that. This year for Christmas we are going to send her a $2 bill for sure with this story! Now her older brother has no problem spending any of the cash he receives, old or new. But not so with Janine, who now has the dilemma with the $50. She has so many needs in her opinion but keeping that vintage money seems to be her goal right now.

>
> Everyone should start carrying $2 bills! I am STILL laughing!! I think we need to quit saving our $2 bills and bring them out in public. The younger generation doesn't even know they exist.
>
>
> STORY:
>
> On my way home from work, I stopped at Taco Bell for a quick bite to eat. In my billfold are a $50 bill and a $2 bill. I figure that with a $2 bill, I can get something to eat and not have to worry about anyone getting irritated at me for trying to break a $50 bill.


> Me: 'Hi, I'd like one seven-layer burrito please, to go.'
>
> Server: 'That'll be $1.04. Eat in?'
>
> Me: 'No, it's to go.' At this point, I open my billfold and hand him the $2 bill. He looks at it kind of funny.
>
> Server: 'Uh, hang on a sec, I'll be right back.'
>
> He goes to talk to his manager, who is still within my earshot. The following conversation occurs between the two of them:
>
> Server: 'Hey, you ever see a $2 bill?'
>
> Manager : 'No. A what?'
>
> Server: 'A $2 bill. This guy just gave it to me..'
>
> Manager: 'Ask for something else. There's no such thing as a $2 bill.'
>
> Server: 'Yeah, thought so.' He comes back to me and says, 'We don't take these. Do you have anything else?'
>
> Me : 'Just this fifty. You don't take $2 bills? Why?'
>
> Server: 'I don't know.'
>
> Me: 'See here where it says legal tender?'
>
> Server: 'Yeah.'
>
> Me: 'So, why won't you take it?'
>
> Server: 'Well, hang on a sec.' He goes back to his manager, who has been watching me like I'm a shoplifter, and says to him, 'He says I have to take it..'
>
> Manager: 'Doesn't he have anything else?'
>
> Server: 'Yeah, a fifty. I'll get it and you can open the safe and get change
>
> Manager: 'I'm not opening the safe with him in here.'
>
> Server: 'What should I do?'
>
> Manager: 'Tell him to come back later when he has real money.'
>
> Server : 'I can't tell him that! You tell him.'
>
> Manager: 'Just tell him.'
>
> Server: 'No way! This is weird. I'm going in back.
>
> The manager approaches me and says, 'I'm sorry, but we don't take big bills this time of night.'
>
> Me: 'It's only seven o'clock! Well then, here's a two dollar bill.'
>
>Manager: 'We don't take those, either.'
>>
> Me: 'Why not?'
>
> Manager: 'I think you know why.'
>
>> Me: 'No really, tell me why.'
>
> > Manager : 'Please leave before I call mall security.'
>
> Me: 'Excuse me?'
>
> > Manager: 'Please leave before I call mall security.'


> Me: 'What on earth for?'
>
>> Manager: 'Please, sir.'
>
> > Me: 'Uh, go ahead, call them.'
>
>> Manager: 'Would you please just leave?'
>
> Me: 'No.'
>
> Manager: 'Fine - have it your way then.'
>
> Me: 'Hey, that's Burger King, isn't it?' At this point, he backs away from me and calls mall security on the phone around the corner.
>
> I have two people staring at me from the dining area, and I begin laughing out loud, just for effect. A few minutes later this 45-year-oldish guy comes in.

> Guard: 'Yeah, Mike, what's up?'
>
> Manager (whispering): 'This guy is trying to give me some (pause) funny money..'

> Guard: 'No kidding! What?'
>
>> Manager: 'Get this. A two dollar bill.'
>
>> Guard (incredulous): 'Why would a guy fake a two dollar bill?'
>
> Manager: 'I don't know. He's kinda weird. He says the only other thing he has is a fifty.'
>
> Guard: 'Oh, so the fifty's fake!'
>
> Manager: 'No, the two dollar bill is.'
>
> > Guard: 'Why would he fake a two dollar bill?'
>
>> Manager: 'I don't know! Can you talk to him, and get him out of here?'
>
>> Guard: 'Yeah.' Security Guard walks over to me and......
>
> Guard: 'Mike here tells me you have some fake bills you're trying to use.'
>
>> Me: 'Uh, no.'
>
> Guard: 'Lemme see 'em.'
>
> Me: 'Why?'
>
> > Guard: 'Do you want me to get the cops in here?' At this point I am ready to say, ' Sure, please!' but I want to eat, so I say , 'I'm just trying to buy a burrito and pay for it with this two dollar bill. I put the bill up near his face, and he flinches like I'm taking a swing at him. He takes the bill, turns it over a few times in his hands, and he says, 'Hey, Mike, what's wrong with this bill?'
>
> Manager: 'It's fake.'
>
> Guard: 'It doesn't look fake to me.'
>
> Manager: 'But it's a two dollar bill.'
>
> Guard: 'Yeah?
> '
> Manager: 'Well, there's no such thing, is there?'
>
> The security guard and I both look at him like he's an idiot, and it dawns on the guy that he has no clue and is an idiot .. So, it turns out that my burrito was free, and he threw in a small drink and some of those cinnamon thingies, too.
>
> Made me want to get a whole stack of two dollar bills just to see what happens when I try to buy stuff. If I got the right group of people, I could probably end up in jail. You get free food there, too.
>
> Just think...those two will be voting soon
>
> ....YIKES!!!
>
> Too late, we already have a nation full of them.
>

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Blog revised arranged and another Book Read


Let's see if this different layout works. I did not want to go back to my dots, so this seems different and yet fitting.

Last night I finished reading "Barbara Bush, A Memoir" published in 1994. I picked it up on one of our travels where we stop at libraries and there it was hardback on sale. This book is a biggee, heavy, 532 pages, 4 appendices, lots of index pages and all around not something to take along in a purse. That is why it has taken me so long to get through as it was confined to the bedroom. This was a very nice book, surely resembling Barbara Bush who is quite comfortable in her own skin.

She is someone I would like to know, to sit with, to visit. Until the last when George lost the election the entire book was upbeat and even then she writes nothing negative, nothing critical just honestly writes it is a hard chapter to write. She almost wears out the word, "wonderful" or the phrases "we enjoyed" or "we like him/her/it/they very much."

 Barbara Bush just is one nice fine lady and the Memoir reflects that. Absolute honesty with many excerpts from the diaries she kept religiously make it worth reading. On Pg. 30 about investing and "realism overcame idealism" is a great phrase. This covers her life and the life with George . The chapter on the time they spent in China is a great bit of history when compared to china today. Her revelation about her bout with depression is a reminder that she is only too human. The photos are nice reminders of the history they lived. The book closes with a letter she wrote to her children but never sent. Great wisdom there for anyone, including, page 523, "Try and oh boy, how hard it is, to find the good in people and not the bad. I remember many years ago that I wasted so much time worrying about my mother. I suffered so because she and I had a chemical thing......Expect nobody to be perfect. Look for the good in others. forget the other." Barbara absolutely followed that advice in this book. Pleasant reading, history and personal anecdotes.

Don't expect any stunning revelations, nothing bizarre, just good life lived to the best of her ability. Page 524, "Do not buy something that you cannot afford, you do not need it!" Remember this was advice to her children, but she continues, "If you really need something and can't afford it...for heaven's sake call home. That's what family are all about. Do not try to live up to your neighbors. they won't look down on you if you don't have two television sets. ...They're only interested in their possessions not yours." Too bad more in this country did not take her advice and live within their means. Things might not be so upside down today. I especially enjoyed descriptions of the Bush's relationship with the Gorbachevs. Through the insight she shares, it revealed to me that Mikhail and his wife Rasia must have been capitalists at heart. so if you want a long book with nice words about everyone, read this. I'll not keep it, however. It goes to the Library Sale. But a book worth reading.