Sunday, September 27, 2009

My Saturday Companion

Here was a good thing that happened yesterday: Garrison Keillor kicked off a new season of the Prairie Home Companion last night in St. Paul. Even though he had a stroke earlier this month, and spent some time in the Mayo clinic, he's back in action. For this I am grateful. I turned on the show while driving back from the grocery store, and continued to listen as I started supper. I don't know of anyone else who is doing what he does----live bands playing roots music, comedy sketches, story-telling...broadcast live on the radio. I was lucky enough to see his show a couple of years ago, when he broadcast from the Starlight Theater here in Kansas City--thanks to my dear friend Harriet, who provided the tickets. He did the whole thing from memory, out of his head. All those little skits his crew performs and the stories he tells--he uses no script for any of it. Just paces up and down the stage, holding the microphone. He has a guy who does all his sound effects - wears shoes around his neck for things like horses hooves.

I was making dumpling soup while I listened to the show yesterday. It was sunny, but there was just enough fall feeling in the air to make soup appealing. I have finally been getting my dumpling soup closer to tasting like Mom's. I use Campbell's Chicken and Rice soup, and canned chicken broth for my base, since I usually don't have fresh chicken broth sitting around, and I recently learned from her that you boil the dumplings separately in their own water. That might seem like a no-brainer, but it hadn't been obvious to me. No wonder my broth used to have kind of a mangy flavor. I add both milk and cream to finish the broth off. And so last night, for the second time in a row, I pulled off a reasonably good dumpling soup.

One more note about Garrison Keillor: Today I read that he says he might retire in a couple of years and have someone else host the show. It's hard to imagine anyone replacing him.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Simone's First Sign of Fall

The other morning I got up extra early to grab a moment of peace for myself. I sat and read my fresh new issue of the New Yorker and drank a hot cup of tea. It was relaxing to read print, instead of a computer screen. The writing in the New Yorker was good and rich, like eating Eggs Benedict for breakfast. I thought, I should start every day this way.

I tried to do the same thing this morning. I got up at 7:00, when everyone and the dog were still sawing planks, but I made the mistake of going upstairs to "wake up", which ended with me falling asleep on the mattress. Should have made the tea first.

Actually I'd much rather be drinking coffee. If I drink too much coffee, the acid messes with me, and there is hell to pay. But I love drinking coffee sooo much. I also love watching people on TV drink coffee. Actually, I like watching people drink most anything on TV---I like shows where the actors carry around a tinkling glass of soda or scotch, but best of all I like to see them drink coffee. The way they hold it in their hands, the way they sip it. The actors are working hard to convey pathos, but it's their coffee cups I'm watching. I get a little thrill when one character asks another: "Would you like some coffee?" If I myself can't partake of the ritual that moment, the next best thing is watching someone else do it.

I especially like to watch people on old TV shows from the 60's pour coffee, because they use such interesting percolators and carafes. Happily, people on those shows are constantly offering up coffee, so they do a lot of pouring. It sounds so good I can taste it.

First sign of fall: My coffee obsession is back in full swing.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Late Night Radio Waves

Last night I listened to some community radio while I was washing dishes. It was after 10:00, which is the best time to listen to community or college radio stations, because somehow after nightfall, local radio broadcasts sound kind of alien. The DJ sounds like he's transmitting from some lonely outpost, and you are the only one receiving the signal. You are the only connection to civilization this poor, stranded DJ has---or so it seems.

The show I was listening to, on 90.1 KKFI, was Moby's Trip. The show is described on KKFI's website this way:

"Moby's Trip is a show chock full of buttery psychedelic music goodness with existential sprinkles. Its a rock-n-roll show and a breath mint recommended by four out of five doctors. Anything could turn up here. There's a little saying we have 'round here ,'s just not your audio wallpaper anymore." C'mon on by for a listen. It only bites if you let it. And you'll want to let it. I promise. "

Local singer songwriter Forrest Whitlow was in the station, and he performed a couple of folk songs live while I wiped ketchup off the plates and scrubbed fried-on hamburger grease off the skillet. Then it was some scratchy record going round and round on a turntable and some old man from out of the past wailing in a thin voice. Reminds me of one of the most delightful nighttime drives I've ever known--I was driving through a deep void on some pitch black highway late one night, somewhere hundreds of miles from home, and I was listening to an old Hank Williams cassette tape I had. There was nothing in the inky dark but a tiny piece of road in front of my headlight and the thin, nasal twang of Williams, crying out like a ghost. It truly sounded as if I had driven off some slope of time and had got myself lost in a leftover remnant of old radio waves still floating in space.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Oh The Smells I Left Behind

The air is cool. It feels like fall. I smelled the interior of an elementary school today--it smells just the same as the school I went to as a kid. How is that possible? What is it that grade schools contain that creates that smell---that they contained 30 or 40 years ago? You can smell it in the stairwells, the hallways....I don't it school supplies or some special floor cleaner used only in public schools? Maybe it's all those sweaty schoolkids confined in one space. Will schools still smell this way 30 years from now? I hope so. It hit me today as I was walking past the fish aquarium...I take for granted the school and that familiar funky scent, that conjures up memories both good and horrible----The time I barfed all over my desk in the third grade---having to endure long recesses in the biting cold---being picked last at kickball--pretending I was on the Starship Enterprise as a way to make it through the day--I took for granted that I was smelling that same smell again, when really, it's a unique smell not found anywhere else, and I could just as easily not be smelling it, if I didn't have kids. Why, I might never have smelled this smell again for the rest of my life, if it weren't for them! Think about that. And how disappointing it would have been if I had encountered some shiny new freshness in the air, generated by modern-day schools. No, the chalkboards might have lost out to dry erase boards, but grubby kids still line up in the halls, and those halls still emit the same smells as ever.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


I read an article in the KC Star on Sunday that much of the art being shown in museums these days is corporate owned art, and most of that art is pretty tame. Corporations don't like risky, peculiar works. They prefer flowers, fruit, Andrew Wyeth, and lots of western scenes. I do love me a good cowboy painting, but there is far more to art than images of the West. Too many things are going corporate and the net effect is a watered down culture that lacks diversity and originality. When I heard that Marvel comics had been bought by Disney I nearly crapped my pants. The Disneyfication of America goes on unabated, sigh.

For months that have turned into years, I've had this idea that if I could just get up early enough, I could be writing that novel. Well, I just read that Dan Brown, the author of the Da Vinci Code and a new book, The Lost Symbol, gets up at 4:00 am every day and writes until noon! I read that Barbara Kingsolver says that she wrote even when she had babies crawling all over her. Makes me feel like such a weinie. I couldn't write when I had babies crawling all over me. I can't even think if a baby is in the same room. I can't even think if a middle schooler is in the same room.

Speaking of which, the other day I accidentally shrunk my middle-schooler's skinny jeans. I knew not to put them in the dryer - the tag says to lay them flat to dry. But I had a lapse or something, as mothers tend to do as the evening waxes and the moon rises, and I forgot they were in the wad of wet clothing I was pulling out of the dryer. And so in the dryer they went. I was alone late at night when I finally rescued them from the dryer. I gasped. They looked freakishly small, like a person who had wasted away. I hid them. I would have to prepare Lilah for the bad news. There would be much wailing.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Wilde Ruling

Here Comes the judge, here comes the judge....

The best news I heard all day was that a judge in lower Manhatten rejected the $33 million settlement between the SEC and Bank of America, over the bank's failure to fully disclose the bonuses paid at Merrill Lynch. The judge wrote that the settlement “does not comport with the most elementary notions of justice and morality”.

The judge would have no truck with the fact that that hefty fine would be paid by the bank’s shareholders, when they were the ones who were supposed to have been injured by the lack of disclosure.

“It is quite something else for the very management that is accused of having lied to its shareholders to determine how much of those victims’ money should be used to make the case against the management go away,” the judge wrote.

The judge was also none too happy with the SEC for agreeing to the settlement. Last month he had ordered the SEC to explain why it hadn't pursued charges against specific executives at Bank of America over the accusations. Apparently he wasn't satisfied. Rakoff, you rock!
Maybe the sweetest part of Judge Jed Rakoff's ruling was when he quoted Oscar Wilde’s “Lady Windermere’s Fan” at the end of his ruling: "A cynic is someone “who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.”

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Nine Nine Oh Nine

Today's date is 9/9/09. Andi, we got the note you left, you clever rascal! Yes, 9.9.9 is positively cosmic! Show of hands ---who thought of John Lennon singing "Number nine, number nine, number nine" today??

I was excited about this day. I was going to do everything in groups of nine. Go to nine coffee shops. Eat nine chocolates. Drink nine glasses of wine. Take nine hot baths. Then my co-worker and friend got in a car accident and busted the wrist on her left hand. Kind of distracted me from those goals. I tried to imagine having a lame wrist, and doing everything with only one hand. Let me tell you, we librarians do a lot of hefting. Can't have weak wrists for this job, no sireee. Heal fast, Julie. And if you don't use up all your pain pills, could you slip a few my way?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Circle Drive

One day after dropping my daughter off at school I found myself in a ritzy neighborhood. I needed to turn around, and was sorely tempted to take advantage of the circular driveway in front of one of the attractive homes. The following song was thus inspired, which explains why I am not making money as a country music songwriter:

Circle Drive

Oh please can I turn around
in your circle drive
it's got that curb appeal
I know my car is dirty
but your drive is sparkling and purty
and your neighbors won't even know I'm here

Oh please can I turn around
in your circle drive
if you would be so kind?
for a moment I'll pretend
my home's the living end
and I'm living as high as a hog

Oh please can I turn around
in your circle drive
I'd be much obliged
I promise I won't stay
for more than a day
unless my car breaks down