Friday, October 30, 2009


This year for Halloween I wanted to be Endora from Bewitched. I love those loud 60's gowns she wore in the show, her flaming red hair and her garish eye make-up.

But then I thought maybe I would be a Bohemian gypsy instead:

Or this woman....

But then I found out that Roger wouldn't be working the night of the costume party, and we could go as something together. So I started thinking in terms of twosomes.

It would be cool to go as Joan Baez and Bob Dylan.

Or John and Yoko.

Or Porter and Dolly

Or these guys:

It would be fun to go as Wayne and Garth, because it's something we have done before. When we lived in Miami, we played Wayne and Garth in a skit that we (I) wrote for a friend who was moving to Denver.

Roger played Garth and I was Wayne. The clown wig was all we had on hand for Garth hair.

Wayne's World! Wayne's World! Party Time! Excellent!

We did Wayne's top ten reasons why Denver would be excellent.
One of them was No Hurricanes.

Yeah, it was cute, but why go down the road already traveled? Maybe it's time for something completely different.


Yes, Roger and I are going as Mrs. Premise and Mrs. Conclusion from Monty Python. Except we're going to be a bit more dressy, with little flowered hats and handbags.

Pepperpots is a term Graham Chapman coined when referring to the frumpy, middle-aged housewives he and the other Pythons played.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A Fox Upon Thee

Annabelle needed her fox costume ready in time for school today, so this is the blueprint I took with me to the craft store yesterday to pick up the supplies we still needed. Craft stores are hell on earth. They are bigger than a football field. It takes forever to find the smallest bottle of dye. The aisles are lonely and isolated and unstaffed. The lines at the cash registers are backed up. Everybody is buying a ton of crap that takes forever to ring up. Every time I go into one of these stores, I kick myself for forgetting how awful it was the last time. But when you need fake fur to make a fox costume come alive, you have little choice. Annabelle already had a fox mask that was bad-ass, though I didn't use that term to agree with her on how cool it was. Now we needed to dye her gray sweats red, make a fox tail and give her some chest fur.

I stayed up late last night using RIT to dye the sweats. Dyeing clothing in the washing machine is a bitch. There are like a dozen steps to the process. I used scarlet on the gray sweats which made them turn out a rust color, which was actually perfect.

Fortunately, I already had a tail constructed of stiff material that I had made when Lilah needed a lion costume several years ago. I doubled up the tail and covered it in an old sock, and then stuffed more old socks inside to make it bushy, then I covered it with the brown fake fur. Annabelle cut out the white fur for the tip of the tail, in just the right shape so it could be pinned together to give the tail a tapered point. By the time we finished, the tail was looking pretty sweet. Annabelle called it "hacking awesome." Annabelle also measured and cut out the white chest fur herself, and I safety-pinned it.

UPDATE: We didn't have time to test out the costume's kinks, so today when Annabelle wore it to the school Halloween assembly and party, she had to hold up her sweat pants to keep from showing her underwear. The weight of the tail was pulling her pants down.

All of the classes in Annabelle's school take turns standing on stage and showing off their costumes. I realized that next year Annabelle will be in 6th grade and it will be the last time we'll be going to the school to see one of our kids show off their costume. And that thought makes me kind of sad.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Sucked Into A Swirling Vortex

On Sunday I got caught in a swirling vortex.

Saturday was cool, though.

On Saturday the autumn colors were mind-blowing. The weather was so good it made you ache. Roger and I went to Dottie Mae's Costumes and a thrift store to find items for the costumes we're going to wear to a Halloween party on Friday. I'm not telling (yet) what we're gonna be. After that, I met a friend named Laura for coffee. I hadn't seen her for TWENTY-ONE YEARS! I knew her in college. We have both wandered far mentally, emotionally and spiritually from the people we were then. Now there we were at the Broadway Cafe on Saturday, drinking our lattes and confiding our thoughts, as if it had been 21 days, not years. It's so nice when that happens. I've been lucky enough to re-connect with a couple of old friends from my KU days. The ones that really mattered seemed to get me then, and they still seem to get me now.

On Sunday, there was a sudden shift, and I got sucked into a swirling vortex. I had a Reference midterm due that took hours and hours to complete. Before I could work on it, I had to take Annabelle way the hell out to the edge of the earth where her soccer game was. It was raining and we could see lightning on the way there. I drove up just to show the coach that we had made an effort. He said they still hadn't called the game. He expected us to wait there. We sat in the car, but I kept it running. This was a no-brainer, and we should all be leaving. I finally told Annabelle we were leaving. Then the coach said he still hadn't heard, and the girls should go on the field and warm up. I told Annabelle no way, we were going. She ran onto the field to tell him. Just as we were getting ready to pull out of the parking lot, a big flash of lightning sent the rest of the girls running off the field. Hah. I don't need the soccer league to tell me whether to go or stay. So we drove back with our black puppy in tow, who needed a walk and kept digging her toenails into Annabelle's flesh. Roger was gone all day working first in Topeka and then at the Record Bar, so I had no back-up. Working on my mid-term in the evening, my computer froze. Lilah announced she needed help with her homework. The dog was going nuts inside her crate. But it was pouring rain so I couldn't let her out, and we had already run through all of her chew toys, and special toys stuffed with treats. Lilah also announced she was out of pants and needed her jeans washed. Annabelle had a stomach ache. I finally finished the midterm and submitted it at 10:14, an hour and 45 minutes before it was due. I sent the dog out to go potty, and got her to sleep and the kids went to bed. I threw a load of laundry in the washer. I grabbed a New Yorker and some cheese to snack on. At last I could relax, I thought. And then Annabelle ran off to the toilet, thinking she had to throw up.

She didn't. But I gave up my silly notions about relaxing. When you're in a vortex, you're in a vortex, and there is no getting out of it.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Cover Me With Leaves Music

The leaves have turned and so it's time for the Smiths. The Smiths sound like autumn. Each song is a cascade of jangly guitars, sounding like falling leaves or orange colors getting oranger. Forget about George Winston's "Autumn." If you want music that evokes the splendor of fall, it's the Smiths all the way. The leaves dizzying their way to the ground, the crunch of leaves underfoot, the odd leaf that lands in your hair, the mad leap into a leaf pile, the smoke in the air from a wood's all there in Morrisey's crooning and the guitar work. I have two CDs: Hatful of Hollow and The World Won't Listen. They are getting heavy rotation right now.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Stroud Belly

Not a proud belly. But a loud belly. Not a cowed belly. But a well-endowed belly. Not a veiled-in-shroud belly. But a protuding through the crowd belly. Not a retiring belly. But a perspiring belly. Not a shy belly. But a Rocky Mountain high belly. Not an elusive belly. But an obtrusive belly. Nothing nuanced or subtle. Just a rebuttal. With a naval attached.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Tis Folly To Dance This Dance!

I have been dancing with the devil of late. I have been drinking liberal amounts of coffee at work. Black coffee. Cup after dark-roasted cup. I knew I was asking for trouble, but I didn't notice any immediate side effects, so I just kept on drinking. Maybe something in my physiology has changed, I rationalized. Maybe I can do this now. Have a companionable mug at my side at all times, just like in the good old days. when coffee was an absolute good. Before the cumulative effect of the acid took its toll.

Aw, but it was sheer folly to think I could return to those free-wheelin' days. Now I am back on tea, which lacks the oomph of coffee, but doesn't seem to aggravate me. I must cultivate a deep passion for tea, I see.

Monday, October 12, 2009

It's soup weather. Very cool and damp. I wore six layers while out walking the dog this weekend. Walking the dog is good though, because it forces me off my lazy rear and gets me outside when nothing else will. I'm walking past trees and breathing in fresh air, instead of hugging the heat vent. Maybe I'll become more outdoorsy. Maybe having this dog will transform me into a true Nature Woman. Instead of a pasty, sedentary, type hurrying from the car to the cocoon of her house, where soup and hot beverages await.

I was all set to brave the chilly air yesterday and hang some Halloween decorations from the porch. I got out the plastic, bendable skeleton, and a weird pumpkin-head man the kids got from their grandparents. But I tossed them on the couch--until I could get to them later--and that's as far as they got. They lay crumpled together on the couch all afternoon, the glaring, green-eyed skeleton and the woeful pumpkin-head creature, waiting for me disentangle them and set them to fluttering in the wind. But that spare moment I was looking for never came, and by the end of the evening they had been dumped back into the garage with the boxes of Christmas decorations.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Day Of All Days

Today is my birthday, the day of all days.

I started the day off by killing a brown recluse spider. I'm almost sure that's what it was. His back looked like a fiddle, and he had spindly legs. I squashed his bad brown self good.

I took the dog for a walk around 7:00 am, and what a great morning it was to be alive. The fall air was fresh and delicious, and the sky had been decorated for me. The moon was hanging right overhead, shining like a jewel. I took the bright white moon and my conquering the spider to be good birthday omens.

As for celebrating, I've already received what I wanted most of all for my birthday, which was to spend some time driving around western Kansas. This past Sunday, we did just that.

We went west on highway 96, and drove 10 or 15 miles to Beeler. I stopped and showed the kids the George Washington Carver historical marker, near where he had built his homestead.

Then we went north on a dirt road that went past Indian Hill. I used to climb up to the top and sit on the "rock of contemplation", and gaze out at the scenery below. Now someone has put a metal statue of an Indian on horseback on top of the hill. I kind of wanted to go up there again, but I was afraid there would be snakes, so I just drove on.

We kept going north, through surprisingly pretty country, full of craggy hills and chalky outcroppings. When we got to Utica, we started looking for the county road that would take us near Castle Rock. But we came upon another unpaved road that intrigued me. On the horizon I could see it rambling over hills that looked even chalkier than the ones we'd just driven through. So I followed that narrow road, as it cut up and down sharp rises and around rocky bluffs. The hardy grasses waved at us from both sides of the road, appearing soft, in colors of rust and purple, but really tougher than nails.

Eventually, the wild road wound around and met up with the county road we had been seeking in the first place, and so we got on it. After a little zig-zagging, we saw a wrought iron sign for Castle Rock, with a yellow arrow pointing straight ahead.

Here the terrain rose to meet the sky. We were driving towards a mound, from which one could look down and see Castle Rock sitting on the prairie floor below. But as we approached the mound, we saw that the road heading down towards Castle Rock was completely washed out. Impassible.

So we decided to try a second road that veered off to the left and circled around the mound and back towards Castle Rock. The road started off in better shape, but it became more and more rutted. I drove slower and slower, until we reached a point where this road too was completely washed out. Missing whole chunks of earth. There was no way to turn around on the narrow road, with high banks on both sides, so I stuck my head out the window and backed the car up, all the way back to the main road. It felt like I was backing up for a mile.

I was disappointed that we couldn't drive up to Castle Rock. Lilah and I got out of the car and climbed up the mound, and took a good look at it. And that was the best we could do.

We got back on the road that had led us unwittingly to the hazardous, washed out road, with absolutely no warning. How ironic when sometime later, as we continued north on the county road, we passed another unpaved road going west that was marked with the sign: "Minimum Maintainence. Travel At Your Own Risk."

Eventually we met up with I-70 and drove another 30 miles west to Oakley, where we had a late lunch at Pizza Hut. I'd found Prairie Home Companion on the radio, located at 90.5 on the dial, and as we drove around Oakley, I was listening to Garrison Keillor tell of the time he was spotted down in a ravine, sticking an old cigarette butt between his lips, and was ratted on by a classmate and then sent to the principal's office. I was amused by some of the local businesses in Oakley--the Annie Oakley motel, sporting a cowgirl as big as a giant on its sign---and a liquor store called "Classy Liquor", and a little burger stand called the Dairy King.

From Oakley we went south on Highway 83 through Gove county, which is a very pretty drive. The country is wonderfully rolling and bumpy, not yet surrendering to the flatness of Scott and Lane counties further south. We were just a few miles west of Monument Rocks, and the earth was riddled with the same chalky substance that formed the Rocks.

We didn't have time to go to Scott Lake, though that is quite scenic too. We were ready to get home by then. Driving through Scott City, I saw an interesting juxtaposition. An ancient looking sign, all faded and weather-beaten, for the Lazy R Motel. But along the bottom of the sign, a new strip of signage had been added that read "Free WiFi Internet Access."

I'm always looking at signs and wishing I could stop and take pictures. I did a double take in Dighton when we passed by a sign that said the Frigid Creme. !! I thought the Frigid Creme in Ness City was the one and only. Well, I'm sure the Ness one was the first, and Dighton copied the name. Goodness knows the Ness City Frigid Creme has been there for decades. Mom told me that the day I was born, my siblings talked Dad into taking them there for ice cream.

We traveled full circle and returned to Ness City on highway 96, driving once again past the George Washington Carver Monument.

It was a heck of a drive. I had gorged myself on earth and sky, and got my fix of wide open spaces. Hopefully that will keep me for awhile. The memory of the drive is still fresh, as I now return to the prissy, boxed-in suburbs of Johnson County.

Happy birthday to me.

Saturday, October 3, 2009


It's Saturday night at my mom's, and you know what that means. Time for the Big Joe Polka Show.

These polka dudes put down some righteous accordian, but their lead vocalists are uber-shaky. Even so, this has been what I call a perfect October day. The drive out to western Kansas was gorgeous. The weather was gorgeous.And the moon was gorgeous as it rose, almost perfectly round. It will be full tomorrow night.

We left Kansas City early, before sunrise. The Kansas City skyline was stark and black against the eastern sky, which was just starting to lighten. The western sky was heavy with dark clouds. We drove towards them, passed underneath them, and then broke free of them. As we continued west, we left the clouds behind. The light in central Kansas was brilliant.

Passed by a new-looking billboard in Junction City that said: JC Naz. It was advertising a Nazarene church. Maybe marketing the church to the hip-hop crowd?

We passed by the massive wind farm west of Salina. It seems to go on for miles and miles. Every windmill I saw was spinning.

Leaving before the crack of dawn is the only way to road trip. In the early morning, I-70 was deserted and felt like a ribbon of air. The car seemed weightless. By noon we were in Hays. The drive felt like nothing.

When we stopped briefly in Wakeeney, Annabelle got confused and called it Wahawka.

This afternoon, I spent more than two hours raking up pine straw that had blown crazy all over mom's yard during yesterday's wind. But I can honestly say I enjoyed every minute of it, because the sky was blue and cloudless, and the air was October-licious. For supper we had dumpling soup, and now it's dark and cold, so we get to sit around and watch mom's cable TV. Which at the moment is transmitting the Big Joe Polka Show.

Who names some of these polkas? They just had the "cheese and cracker polka", and now they're doing a cherry pie polka. Guess it's no secret that polka dancers like to eat. Inexplicably, Big Joe is still around and still hosts this show. And he's bigger than ever! How does he do it? I think this show goes back to the 80's, when I was coming home from college. I thought he was doughy and unbaked then. Now he's even pastier, and his girth settles around him like a vast mountain range. He's a bear with the mike, but he doesn't move around very much.

They still play the same theme song from back then: "Yo ho ho...they call him Jolly Joe...Yo ho ho...everywhere he goes...."

They had their Oktoberfest in Ransom today, and tonight they're having a street dance! I maybe should go check it out, but I probably should stay here and sit around some more. The band playing at the street dance is called Trip Wire. I don't think that's a polka band.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Adventures of the Good Lil' Consumer

Once in a while someone in our house eats an ice cream cone, and down comes the ice cream cone box from the cupboard. The box is brightly colored and looks like a carnival, and it bears the name of the cone company in big happy letters---"JOY".

What has intrigued me about the Joy Cone Company is their claims on the box that they have been in the business of baking cones since 1918. So I had to check this out. Somehow, the idea of an independent food company surviving for generations by making ice cream cones just seemed too storybook and romantic. Could this really be true? I went to their web site and read their history. Apparently their company was started in 1918 by a Lebanese immigrant shortly after the World's Fair gave everyone the idea of putting ice cream in a waffle cone. They have two plants in Hermitage, Pennsylvania, and Flagstaff, Arizona, and their company is still family-owned today.

What would it be like to work for the *Joy* Cone Company? Well, their website states: "We offer flexible work hours which enable our employees to reconcile their personal schedules with our production schedules. The results have been greater efficiency and happier employees." I have to say, it sure makes those ice cream cones go down easier, knowing they were produced by happy laborers. Not that getting them down was much of a problem.

The web site also says that they have developed their own cone ovens, which are built in their plant, and they use a "time-tested family recipe" that has been passed down from one generation to the next. Sheesh. Can this company possibly get any more adorable? Do such companies really still exist in America today? They are making me hungry for their ice cream cones!

But the most interesting thing on their web site was the history of how the ice cream cone became a nationwide craze. I'd read before that the ice cream cone was "invented" at the World's Fair, but here is the story in a little more detail---from the Joy Cone Company web site:

While it is generally acknowledged that ice cream street vendors (hokey-pokey vendors) in New York City were selling different types of ice cream cones as early as the 1890’s, the ice cream cone’s official invention and immediate rise to popularity happened at the St Louis 1904 World’s Fair. As such, 1904 is the “official” birth year of the ice cream cone.

At the Fair, the stories surrounding the invention of the cone are many and involve several different vendors at the fair, including immigrants from Lebanon/Syria and Turkey. However, the IAICM (International Association of Ice Cream Manufacturers) proclaims the story of Ernest A Hamwi, a Syrian immigrant, to be the strongest candidate for the title of official inventor of the ice cream cone.

Mr Hamwi was a pastry vendor at the Fair, selling “zalabia”, a crisp, sugary, warm waffle made over an open fire in a waffle iron. His stand was next to one of the 50 ice cream vendors at the Fair. Mr Hamwi took his waffles, while still warm and pliable, and, wrapping them into the shape of a cone, gave them to the next-door ice cream vendor who filled them with ice cream. The success of this wonderful treat was immediate. People called them World’s Fair Cornucopias.
By the close of the Fair, the pastry vendors and ice cream vendors were collaborating on this delicious treat, and the thrilled Fair-goers took the idea home with them to all parts of the country and the world.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

October Cometh!

I welcome and embrace the month of October. It is my month of increasing power. It is the golden time.

Here is a poem from Daily Zen, to celebrate the arrival of the BEST MONTH and the day of all days.

Here, beside a clear deep lake
You live accompanied by clouds
Soft through the pines the moon arrives
To be your own pure-hearted friend
You rest under thatch in the shadow of your flowers
Your dewy herbs flourish in their bed of moss
Let me leave the world
Let me alight, like you
On your western mountain
with Phoenixes and cranes.

- Ch'an Chien