Tuesday, December 31, 2002

Happy new year!

If you come around here tomorrow you can have some ham, black-eyed peas, cabbage and cornbread. We tried Hoppin' John one year and it was the most troublesome year of our marriage. The Carolinians can keep that stuff to themselves. One water heater, one riding lawn mower, one air-conditioning system and one huge oak limb destroying the north eave of the house were the aftermath of that creative foray.

Truthfully, I don't associate luck with food unless I am sitting at Antoine's in New Orleans eating Les escargots a la Bordelaise. Then I think "Lordy, I am one lucky girl."

Saturday, December 28, 2002

Bless her heart, Lucy has been trying to keep up with the big boys and it's worn her to a frazzle. She was blissed Christmas Eve when one of the boys' friends took her from the cage and kept her on his shoulder while he conversed with the group. She was in the center of the flock with her big brothers. I can't blame her. It's an aspect of Christmas in this house that I like. Ours is the gathering point for the friends when they tire of "home". They come here to plan the next step of celebration.

When I was far younger our little pack would gather on Thanksgiving night or Christmas night when we were surfeit of food and quality family time and go do something -- usually see a movie. I saw "Alien" one Thanksgiving evening with our pack, including the gay paperboy (now dead of AIDS these eight years) and Robert (hey, honey), and such assortment who didn't have girlfriends or boyfriends or some compelling reason to stay home. Lack of money wasn't a good enough reason to stay behind. We'd scratch up our loose change to pay someone's way.

Now the boys are down in Baton Rouge disrupting each other's homes, and Lucy Belle is decompressing along with her middle-aged minders.

Thursday, December 26, 2002

Uplifting holiday conversation:

"I see in the paper that the Million Dollar Club (in Dallas) is advertising for the Cotton Bowl."

"That's a strip joint, isn't it?"

"Yeah, I went there for lunch once. It didn't do much for my appetite to have a skanky girl dancing on the table."

Tuesday, December 24, 2002

Oh, dear. Older son has come home saying "I want to gain some weight while I'm here." How's that for a challenge? Or is it a threat?

Whatever, he's come to the right place.

Wednesday, December 18, 2002

Someone needs to point out that the whole Lott-Thurmond fiasco might have been avoided if the Senate had imposed some reasonable mandatory retirement age on its members before Thurmond turned 100. At least, it wouldn't have carried over into a new millennium.

Tuesday, December 17, 2002

You know you're getting old when your son's childhood companion is now your dentist. That's a little better than the gynecologist who looks like a high-school drum major, though.

Zone ... When the hygienist cleans my teeth I use deep-breathing techniques to reduce the flinch factor. As a result, I am zapped for the next hour or two. Who needs drugs?

Sunday, December 15, 2002

6 tea glasses, 6 cocktail glasses, 6 soup bowls, 12 service plates, 6 salad plates, 6 dinner plates, 5 coffee cups, 6 dessert glasses, and three tired hosts. Sounds a little like the Twelve Days of Christmas. Nobody knows the words to that song anyway.

It pleases the parents who, at 83 and 82, have the rights to some gifts in their lives. My mother-in-law is thrilled when I bring out her mother's china. As she was leaving the other day, she surveyed the used dishes collected on the bar and said "Look at that. That china is pretty even when it's dirty."

Oh, you note, there should have been dishes for 8. Nada. I don't ever plan to eat like that at 12:30, and the logistics of getting a five-course meal for six out within an hour and a half or so prevents the cooks from eating at that time. (Menu: shrimp cocktail, seafood gumbo, garlic bread, Antoine's mixed salad, Oysters Rockefeller, Oysters Bienville, chocolate mousse, iced tea and coffee). I have waitressed in the past, but never had the collected responsibilities of cooking, waiting and bussing for one table in my life before my marriage. Another reason not to eat -- our dinner table only seats six comfortably. But everyone was happy with the food, if not the indigestion. My fingers have finally rehydrated after all the dishwashing. It was an overcast and cool day, so we had a fire in the fireplace, Lucy was a good girl, and the first day of Christmas at our house was "a good thing". Even if it was on Friday the 13th.

Monday, December 09, 2002

Out-of-state pundits can relax their fingers now. Here is a useful story about Landrieu's victory in Louisiana. Geez, I didn't know Donna Brazile was from Kenner (suburb of New Orleans).

Turnout, turnout, turnout -- the good political operative's mantra.

What universe does Trent Lott think he lives in? As a white southerner I am appalled that a man or woman in a position of power (or not) would make a statement that might even be misconstrued as support for Jim Crow policies. Instapundit is all over this issue and I'm too lazy to link, so go there to follow the controversy.

Lott is the sort of smarmy, paternal, southern conservative that I do not like in the first place. He should make an opportunity to explain his comments pronto. If that doesn't calm the furor, then he should step down as majority leader.

We will never deliver ourselves from the past at this rate.

Saturday, December 07, 2002

10:15 am, first recorded political call for today's election, Mary Landrieu's voice. Telephone courtesy limits phoning in Louisiana to the hours between 9 am and 9 pm. The phone databases must have been activated at 9 am on the dot. Who's next?

For the record, I don't mind reminder calls on election day. Sometimes, especially when the boys are home or projects are underway, things get hairy here and civic responsibilities are put off. I nearly missed a vote to increase spending for the parish public libraries a few years ago, and was grateful for the call that reminded me to go to the polls that day.

3:15 pm, second recorded political call, John Breaux's voice.

Landrieu wins.

Friday, December 06, 2002

Eeeek! 'Twas a mouse all right, and he has friends!

Thursday, December 05, 2002

Tomorrow begins the seven-day countdown to our family Christmas luncheon and I haven't lifted a finger in this house since I returned from Texas. Two days of solid rain and today's chill have dampened my already sorry enthusiasm for housekeeping. In solidarity with the coastal elites suffering heavy snow and ice, I took a nap this afternoon. Don't let it be said that we in flyover country don't feel their pain.

Maids work at a reasonable rate around here, but of course I couldn't let a maid see this house as filthy as it is, so I would have to do all kinds of cleaning before one came, which defeats the purpose.

Lyman tells me we have a mouse in the pantry, so I guess we need to set a trap. I asked him if he was sure it was a mouse, not a water bug (this being Louisiana), and he said he wasn't sure, but whatever it was scared him. We'll set the trap tonight with peanut butter. Big as some of these bugs are a mousetrap might be an environmentally sound alternative to insecticide.

We are greatly annoyed by the number of phone calls, automated and live, that we are receiving in the runup to the Congressional runoffs Saturday. Some stupid credit card company has seen fit to interject their ads into this flow, which strikes me as a waste of money when people are already hanging up once the recording clicks in. My mother-in-law called today to say that she received a call from Rudy Giuliani. We could top that, since President Bush had called around noon. His mom called yesterday. This should all cease at 8 pm Saturday. Ah, well, the parrot is getting practice at answering the phone.

I have been thinking about Possum's mother-in-law today, hoping that all goes well during her surgery and recovery.

Wednesday, December 04, 2002

Larry Anderson of Kudzuacres has introduced his friend Billy Joe Bob to the world of blogging and the result is Compleat Redneck, a compilation of down-home observations and opinions from Billy Joe Bob, proprietor of a local barbecue emporium, and his woodsman and helper Cletus. I can promise them one avid reader.

Tuesday, December 03, 2002

O Possum, not a plastic Christmas tree!

My mother wanted a poinsettia for her coffee table for the Christmas season, so I went to a Calloway's Nursery for a pretty specimen. There they had two large spaces of Christmas trees, one of beautifully flocked natural trees with "Winter Wonderland" playing over the speakers. In the back they had another lot of plain natural cut trees. I walked up and down rows of firs, pines and spruces breathing their scents. A handsome young male clerk asked if I needed help. "Oh, no," I said. "I'm just snorting your trees." "I love working here," he said. "Good for your soul," I replied.

About seven years ago, being a grown up household and all where we don't stack packages under branches (tip: grown boys like cash), we started using live Norfolk pines as Christmas trees. We lost our first one last year to frost. We couldn't bring it in because it was 12 feet tall. This year's is about 4-1/2 feet tall, having started as a runt last year. It needs to be repotted, but might have to wait until after Christmas since we have rain this week. This year we will start a native pine for future needs. I don't like losing the Norfolks. After a year or so they become members of the family, and we are coming to the need to replace some pines in the yard that have been lost to beetles and age. A little pine that will eventually whistle in the wind is a Christmas tree I can live with.

The H.E.B. food chain has opened a new group of upscale supermarkets in Texas called Central Market. There are two in the Dallas area. My sister and I visited the one in Plano. I have a good working kitchen, but can't be classed as a "foodie" because it's just too frustrating living so far in the outland. We have to drive 80 miles for the nearest bottle of white truffle oil. But were I near Central Market . . .

The produce department was large and stocked with most everything imaginable: white asparagus, lotus root, 15 varieties of potatoes, a multitude of greens, a dozen kinds of mushrooms, 10 kinds of radish, bulk vanilla beans (I bought three), a vast cornucopia which workers would chop for shoppers on site. The meat and seafood department was beautiful, and included pre-prepped or marinated portions which could be cooked at home. There were at least a hundred brands of olive oil on the shelves, 30 kinds of vinegar, ranging from $2 bottles to $169 bottles of balsamic kept under lock and key. The breads were gorgeous rustic loaves baked on site, ryes and pumpernickels, olive loaves, multi-grains, Italian, French, English. Wines and beers, salamis, hams, pates, hundreds of varieties of cheese. Oh, the lovely lunches of a baguette with pate and a piece of fruit! Flowers! Roses and lilies and daisies and exotics! Arghhh!

All only seven hours away.

Monday, December 02, 2002

Well, now, that wasn't so bad if you bypass the incident of the dog losing the "Beat-the-18-Wheeler" game. Poor trucker couldn't do a thing except veer enough so that the dog was bonked by the undercarriage rather than a wheel. Poor pooch. Two more seconds and he would have had a gap in traffic wide enough to make it. Overall, traffic on the interstate was civilized, which was partly the result of planning travel on off days. I-20 is sticky on off days, but a thrilling free-for-all on Wednesday and Sunday around Thanksgiving.

Lyman and Lucy stayed home this time. My mother has severe respiratory problems and keeps her home at about 60 degrees, which is not optimal for either of my warm-blooded companions. Conditions are survivable in heavy sweats and double socks. I was happy to be a designated cook so I could hang around the stove.

Our group was the smallest ever. Just five of us were present -- my mother, my brother Charles, my sister Patricia, her daughter Erin and I. Our other brothers and sisters are dispersed and have their own grandchildren to attend. In a sense it was sad, since my mother thinks this might be her last holiday season, but a large group would have overwhelmed her.

Soon we will all be orphans. I wonder what vestiges of the family will survive then?

I meant to come home Friday, but was talked into staying over a night with my sister whom I haven't seen more than a few hours in the past two years. Her divorce after 29 years of marriage has recently been finalized, just in the nick of time for the birth of her ex-husband's twins with another woman. O happy freedom.

We talked and giggled until time to sleep. I love that silly woman. She and blogdaddy Possum together would be too much to take.

I came home to a freshly vacuumed and mopped floor and a neat kitchen, for which I am truly thankful.

Now it's on to preparations for our Christmas luncheon which will take place on Friday 13. Lyman's parents, brother, sister and spouses will attend. Cleaning, shopping, decorating and cooking will take up the next two weeks. The basic menu is set -- shrimp cocktail, Antoine's salad, seafood gumbo, oysters Bienville, oysters Rockefeller and Gambino's garlic bread -- but I still need a dessert. Last year's was Emeril's sweet potato flan, which was unusual, pretty, light and very tasty. Maybe a mousse?

Tuesday, November 26, 2002

Y'all have a joyous and safe Thanksgiving. I'm driving to Dallas. Wish me luck on I-20. It's the nearest you can get to the Daytona on a public highway.

Sunday, November 24, 2002

What would Jesus drive? He would drive a Hummer. Israel is rough country.

Friday, November 22, 2002

The retail brigade has come home. Broke.

Saturday, November 16, 2002

We didn't expect to win against Alabama this year, but we've been surprised at how lame the LSU offense has been

Lyman is now saying that Alabama needs to take Tyler Watts off the field with 6:30 left and the game won. He said the same thing about Matt Mauck in the Florida game. Get that boy off the field!

These troops of the retail brigades are going forth. I am not vain enough to think that my family has kept the building industry afloat for the past three years, but, by gosh, we have done our share. In this modest house where we live, we have used at least 80, eighty, 8X10, gallons of paint. We have taken out walls. We upsized our kitchen. We have examined every kind of building material from stainless steel to willow wood and used some of every one. We have kept producers busy from Elkhart to Thailand. We return tomorrow to the Big Water to survey the results of plans made in September. Good Lord, I hope it's worth the price.

Friday, November 15, 2002

When I ordered the cage for Lucy, the maker suggested, no, told, me to subscribe to the magazine BirdTalk. Its articles offer tips on feeding, health, behavioral problems, play and other bits of interest to bird owners. So I'm thumbing through this month's magazine and I stumble across this letter:

"I really enjoyed the article "Chew On This". It was really helpful because my cockatiels Sweetpee and Bebby are sometimes let out to wander around, and even when they're in their cage they are always looking for something to chew. I was a little upset with the article "In Memory of September 11th". I am a Jehovah's Witness, and I don't pledge allegiance to the flag. I would rather holidays and other things not be mentioned in this magazine if you don't mind. -- Amber Marie Doucet, Age 14, Mississippi
Miss Doucet, as I understand it, the only way to obtain an issue of BirdTalk magazine is to purchase it at a newsstand or by subscription. Unlike TV or video, you can safely page past articles you find offensive. You know, as a critic of your sect, I get a little upset when members of your religion knock on my door. I would rather y'all stay off my front porch, if you don't mind.

UPDATE: The article young Amber objects to is a four-page spread of photos of owners' birds variously posed with American flags. The pledge is nowhere mentioned. I have limited tolerance for teenagers. I was one myself.

Monday, November 11, 2002

It's Veterans Day, and I'm picking through a pile of stuff that my mother-in-law dropped off last night. Here is the New Testament she bought for her husband of two months to carry in his breast pocket to protect his heart against gunfire. Here is the prayer book for soldiers and sailors. Here is a booklet addressed to the transportation corps in the European theater. Ah, the manual of transportation rules of the military railway service. The basic field manual, a page describing British Guiana, a booklet on Brazil titled "Homeward Bound".

"A barber shop, featuring a first-class haircut for 15 cents, is open during daylight hours, and a nickel will get you a super shoe shine to the rhythm of 'Tico Tico.' Only suckers pay more."

This young man returned home after three years' separation from his young wife. But he did come home.

Thanks to all those who have served our country. Thanks to the friends and families of those who have lost their lives in service to this country.

A special thanks to my gay brother Charles, who, of five boys, was the only one to serve in war. That was Vietnam. They didn't ask and he didn't tell.

Friday, November 08, 2002

Wednesday, November 06, 2002

The election is over and my girl lost. So let's see, husband, job, crop, election. Not a cheery prospect.

Yesterday my post was at the Old Courthouse here in Vidalia. The poll workers were all women I knew well. Two of them were neighbors. Of course, in a town of 4500 I guess all of them were neighbors. William Yarbrough, one of the already defeated candidates for judge, was there poll-watching for a senatorial candidate. He should have won the judge's race.

It was pouring down rain when I arrived. I got wet and the hall was chilly. Nobody had told me that I needed to provide my own chair. Luckily, Kathleen had a folding chair in her trunk that she let me borrow. It was a hard chair. So I shifted and shivered for nearly ten hours, marking off incoming voters in my three-ring binder with a yellow highlighter when names were announced to the poll workers.

I hadn't realized just how social a process voting is in our town. "Hey, how are you? I haven't seen you lately.""Oh, I had a couple of mini-strokes and I've had sinus problems so I haven't been out much.""Well, you're looking good.""Oh, I don't feel too bad, it's just been a little hard.""Well, we're glad to see you today.""Thank goodness the rain let up.""Hasn't it been awful lately?" Yada, yada, yada.

Voters were remarkably well-prepared. We had a slate of 12 amendments to the state constitution and both the congressional races had large slates of candidates. Most people had studied the issues and brought written lists with them, so spent little time in the booths.

While touch screen voting machines are being introduced in Louisiana, our town will be using lever machines for years to come. Most people are happy with the lever machines and see little reason to change. They are familiar and easy. Parents bring their children with them and take them into the booths to show them how voting is done.

Anyone who is convinced that the south is insufferably racist wouldn't have found any evidence of it at our polling place yesterday. While that precinct is mainly white, poll workers were equally friendly and helpful to blacks who approached. Such problems as blacks had usually hinged on their confusion as to which precinct they should vote in. Those problems were resolved by calls to the registrar's office. Whatever their personal attitudes toward blacks might have been, all the workers were firm believers in every registered voter's right to vote.

After 4:30, I dropped my materials off with the campaign workers, came home, changed into sweats, picked up my husband and went to our polling place in a mainly black precinct. The black workers there were equally cheerful, friendly and helpful to me.

All aside, it's a magic thing to come home tired, sore, cold and hungry and have a little bird say, "Hey, Yanis!"

Monday, November 04, 2002

The election is tomorrow, so it's back to the telehones tonight. I am not particularly good with phones. I use them to keep in touch with my family across the country and make appointments. Thirty calls this evening is a dreaded task to me.

My job tomorrow is more suited to my temperament, if I can get over waking at about 5:30 am, absorbing enough coffee to get my neurons firing, voting at 6:30 or so and staying awake all day while I mark off voters.

We have an 80% chance of rain tomorrow, so turnout could be depressed, which bodes ill for my girl Madaline.

I wouldn't be surprised if voters don't turn up. We have been laboring under a heavy cloud this week that has dropped over 6 inches of rain, destroying local crops and casting a general pall over everyone's spirit.

In the old days, before I had Lucy and Lyman I would have gone to the public library and buried myself in bed with sleazy novels for the past two weeks. Or nineteenth century English novelists. Nothing like a Thomas Hardy to bring you into sync with such grim weather.

I need some soup. I don't dare make any because the new refrigerator won't be delivered until Wednesday and leftovers will just spoil - - like all the crap that is spoiling in there now. Besides, Lyman doesn't like my soup, which I consider his taste problem, not mine. He likes his mother's soup. Push it, Prince. I have myself heard his daddy try to teach him better than that.

You probably fall asleep too early, or you don't watch much television, so you wouldn't have seen the ad for the Elvis Presley furniture collection brought to you by Vaughn Bassett furnishings. Just in time for Christmas!

Saturday, November 02, 2002

OK, who in the @$#%$^%&^*&( was Jack Welch sleeping with when my $1200 refrigerator was made. Big GE boy, it lasted all of five years.

Friday, November 01, 2002

Farm Outlook Turns Dreary

The Concordia Sentinel reports:

Any hope of a good farm year was dashed as over five inches of rain fell over the weekend in Concordia Parish.

County Agent Glen Daniels said Monday the heavy rainfall from Friday through Sunday would cause the soybeans to rot and the cotton to lose its grade.

[...]The October harvest was brought to a halt earlier in the month with hurricane weather that produced rain and wind. Until then, the harvest in the parish promised to be one of the best in many years[...]

So not only has my candidate lost her husband this week, but she has also lost 5,000 acres worth of soybeans.

Wednesday, October 30, 2002

Halloween III

This one is eerie.

I, like most people, have some extremely realistic and frightening dreams. One night I dreamed that I was asleep in a recliner. Not a likely thing. I don't do recliners. At any rate, I was sleeping in the chair, and after a moment, hands closed around my throat. I awoke and resisted with all my strength. The would-be strangler scooted and I woke from the dream.

Several months later I read in the Dallas Morning News of a woman who resisted a strangler who approached her while she was asleep in her recliner. That's strange stuff.

Halloween II

When we moved to a new neighborhood in 1968, our paperboy was a skinny kid named Russell Smith. He was in my sixth-grade class.

We became great buddies over the years, and he turned out gay, so my parents had no objections when we decided to share a two-bedroom, two-bath apartment at about the age of twenty.

Our bathrooms had shower curtains rather than doors. One evening I was taking a good hot shower before going out on the town. As far as I knew, I was alone in the apartment. I was busily soaping my hair when a hand reached in and touched my foot. Now, I have seen Psycho more than once. I bet you have, too.


Like my daddy, Mr. Possum, I was raised without superstition. However, I was raised with five big brothers and a big sister, which was horror enough. Paul, the youngest of my brothers, was 11 years older than I and liked nothing better than to tease. He inked a devil's face on my favorite rubber doll. He tickled me until I peed my pants. He drew excellent cartoons of me in the bathtub with fart bubbles. He was and is incorrigible.

When he was fourteen or so he tired of being the puniest of the boys and sent for the Charles Atlas body-building program and followed it religiously. After a while, he could grasp the trunk of the apple tree in our front yard and hold himself parallel to the ground. He could do I don't know how many chin-ups on the bedroom doorframe.

One night, I was walking home from my playmate's house four doors down the street and heard an evil laugh. I looked around, frightened, and there was Paul, suspended by his toes from the redbud tree at the corner of our yard.

We didn't have any air-conditioning in our house until 1966. We kept cool with open windows and squirrel-cage fans.

I was, of course, always put to bed before the rest of the kids. From time to time, I would run screaming from the bedroom because someone was scratching on the windowscreen. Paul, certainly.

Of all his little evils, the kitchen door was the worst. Our kitchen door had a window. One black night, I looked up to see a face scrunched against the glass. There goes Janis bawling into Mother's skirt.

The house I live in now is on the edge of town, near farm fields, and is very dark despite the neighbors' mercury lights. The master bath has a window that lets onto the back yard. Even now I expect to see a face scrunched against that window one night. And I stifle a shudder when I hear critters rooting through the flowerbeds or scratching at the screen. At least nobody is hanging from the live oaks.

I want to grow up to be like this woman.

Mr. Gibbs died on Sunday. He was buried on Tuesday. He was a well-liked man. Rest his soul.

Thursday, October 24, 2002

Good grief, wouldn't you know that the suspects in the sniper case would have a connection to Louisiana?

Wednesday, October 23, 2002

My candidate's husband had a major heart attack at 6 am on Friday morning. I found out Tuesday night when I started making my calls. He is in a touch-and-go situation. My candidate is as close as possible to his bedside and has not withdrawn from the race. If you're the praying kind, send one up for Jackie Gibbs. He's struggling for his life.

Sunday, October 20, 2002

I'm interested in some feedback at janis22@bellsouth.net. I have enlisted to help a woman candidate for local judge unseat the first woman elected to the position six years ago. I genuinely believe that my candidate is better qualified for the position.

I have been given a call list for the precinct I live in. I have not been given a script. I do not know most of the people on the list.

What approach would be most effective?

On to other things. My blog-daddy Possumblog is both an alumnus and fan of Auburn. Ours has always been an LSU house. Lyman has been to Louisiana Tech, Northeast and Loyola. It wasn't until Lyman's son's graduation from LSU after seven years (note to Possum: hair regrows) that we can have official standing as LSU fans. So I genially wish that we kick your asses next week.

No balloons today. The weather was poor for the race, with a rainy sort of clouds and some gusting winds.

We arrived too late for the balloon glow last night, when the balloonists fire up their burners and float the balloons close to the ground. That's the stuff for childhood fantasy. It's magical. Pity. They started earlier than I remember.

We were early for the fireworks, though. This is a piddly little area, but fireworks are so advanced now that even we can afford a red heart-within-a-heart display.

We were also early enough for the Flying Elvises. They are professional parachuters who dropped from pretty damned high in the sky with golden sparklers attached, then landed on the grounds of Rosalie, a lovely old house that the Union occupied when they were in Natchez. It's situated on a bluff with a commanding view of the Mississippi River. If you follow the site you will see a lot of ugly, though historically significant, Victorian furniture. But in one room there is a Hepplewhite desk that is lovely. It's one of the pieces original to the house. It pleases me to think that the builder and his wife had better taste than most of what is on display now.

The ballooners will begin again around 8 tomorrow morning, weather permitting.

Lucy had a busy morning yesterday, trying to jump from her playtree onto our desk counter area, and a time playing Xena, and generally dissipating a toddler's energy, so she was a little tired when we parked on the levee at 7:15. (Note to readers: the levy here is never dry.) She hunkered on my shoulder and did not seem to mind the big noises. She joined in with our oohs and aahs.

I argued against a bird when Lyman proposed the notion. Try to take her from me now.

Friday, October 18, 2002

This weekend is a party weekend. Time again for the Great Mississippi Balloon Race. This will be Lucy's first experience with hot-air balloons. They often come hissing right over our house.

Wednesday, October 16, 2002

Back to "terrorism" as a motive in the Maryland shootings. Witnesses have reported seeing an "olive-skinned" person at the scene, some say with "middle eastern" features. Go to Jim Henley's site Unqualified Offerings for a complete local perspective.

I come from a family of seven children. We have one sure Native American ancestor. There is a strong split in our features. Four of us have brownish-red to dark brown hair, hazel to green eyes, with medium complexions. Three brothers have brownish-black hair, brown eyes and dark complexions, with a dread propensity to five-o-clock shadow.

Two of my brothers have told me that they have often been mistaken for Mediterranean or Latino on the basis of their looks. Of course, they eventually opened their mouths and were discovered for what they were -- pure Texans.

"Olive-skinned" gets us nowhere. In America we have Italians, Greeks, Native Americans, Indians, Asians, Middle Easterners and countless mongrels who may meet the desciption without implying foreign terrorism.

We also have Clairol, L'Oreal, Cover Girl, Maybelline, Clinique and Lancome.

I don't want to close the door on foreign terrorism, but our history has shown that we are perfectly capable of rearing murderers among ourselves.

Friday, October 11, 2002

Charles Starkweather and his girl Caril Fugate were serial killers in the fifties. You can find a synopsis of their story here.

Here's an interesting take on the story by Bob Hall, a writer who grew up in Charles Starkweather's neighborhood in Nebraska. Bob Hall:

I'm afraid the outlaw who most affected me [was] a mass murderer named Charles Starkweather. In 1958, when I was thirteen, Charlie and his girlfriend Caryl Fugate killed eleven people in and around my home town of Lincoln, Nebraska. The papers always referred to it as a "killing spree." "Spree" ... like a perverse joy ride. What could compel a young, not too dumb garbage man from the midwest to snuff out innocent lives in a week-long paroxysm of wildness? I've mulled that over for nearly forty years.

I was too young to really know Charlie, but he and his dad collected my family's garbage, and I went to junior high with Caryl Fugate. I remember Caryl telling Miss Ralston, our art teacher, "You old bitch! Someday I'm going to kill you!" While Caryl and Charlie were on their rampage, Miss Ralston, to the delight of her students, stayed home and locked her doors. As a teenager in Lincoln, I understood pent up anger and boredom and I appreciated someone who could give adults cause to cringe in their pretty white-fenced homes. The killings themselves seemed the incidental means to an end. The important thing was that, for a little while, Charlie completely disrupted life in a world that begged for disruption. The discovery of his first victims caused an uproar and school was dismissed early. We weren't told why so, upon leaving the building, I was amazed to see hundreds of cars clogging the streets -- terrified parents anxious to save their kids from the homicidal maniac who had hung out in this very schoolyard.

We despised parents and teachers for being solicitous of our welfare, for locking us in even as one of our peers was breaking dramatically free. We made mental lists of potential victims for Charlie's rifle even as we reveled in his ability to paralyze the entire state. His name was on the evening national news. We imagined him terrorizing the blue highways in his stolen car, going nowhere and everywhere, taking shit from no one, having sex openly and freely. He surely realized that his actions would lead to the electric chair. But then execution freed him from the draft and taxes and marriage and children and church and old age. Charlie would not grow a paunch, go bald, get cancer, have to give up smoking. He'd never again suffer insurance salesmen, beg for bank loans, cringe before teachers. Like James Dean, he could be cool forever.

Charlie has always been my notion of an outlaw -- Robin Hood and Pretty Boy Floyd done up as a fifties hood. It was hard to pity his victims who, for me, existed only on an abstract, B-movie plane. They were dead adults and death was the inevitable result of growing up. Even then I knew Charlie was despicable: a cowardly, bullying, indiscriminate killer. But then one must not scrutinize outlaw heroes too closely. Since 1958, as the reality of Charlie has devolved into nightmares of Manson and Dahmler, Vietnam and Rwanda, we've become inured to the body count. Blood that's not ours is so much catsup. Like the Romans, we prefer our entertainment red, whether served up by Stallone, CNN or comic book noir.

Charlie's rampage on the bleak winter prairie has become the romanticized stuff of Hollywood in at least two films: Badlands and Starkweather. (Tim Roth -- fine actor though he is -- couldn't capture the essence of fifties frustration in the TV version; Martin Sheen in Badlands was on the money.) Bruce Springsteen made Charlie a mournful ballad in the Nebraska album. Natural Born Killers was the Starkweather legend gone MTV. Even a folksy guy like Garrison Keiler once called Charlie his adolescent hero. Mine, too. I don't like it, but I understand it.

Charlie's brother Bob was my age. God, the shit that kid must have suffered! He never talked much, but I liked him. If you caught his eye in home room, he'd flash you the best Marlon Brando impression I ever saw. I knew the youngest Starkweather, David, when he was in the theatre department at the U of Nebraska. He was a fine actor and playwright. I never had the guts to ask him about his brother, but I can't imagine Charlie was his hero. He would have been too close and too real.

Recently, I was back in Lincoln and visited my father's grave, something I had not done since my mother died ten years ago. At that time the mourners had obscured the flat markers of the adjoining plots. This time, while I was staring blankly at Dad's permanent residence, my girlfriend said, " Bob, your father's buried next to Charlie Starkweather!" Indeed he was. I doubt that Dad minds much. He always liked one quote from Charlie which has stuck with me over the years:

'Why'd you do it, Charlie?' asked a reporter from the Evening Journal.

Charlie replied, 'We were only trying to get out of town.'

Do we have something similar in Maryland?

Tuesday, October 08, 2002

I feel a tic coming. It has to do with the the designation "terrorist". I am a traditionalist, and I think the word "terrorist" should be kept for movements or individuals who wish to connect their activities to a political objective. In the past, that has been done through an announcement to the press or through other means of disseminating a political objective. Otherwise, these "murderers" are merely just that, or, at best, "failed terrorists".

Hmm, "merely just" could be a little redundant, heh. Delete one.

Friday, October 04, 2002

Category 2 for Miss Lili, not a 4. She wasn't so hot after all, huh?

Did they lie, to tear all those south Louisianans out of their beloved homes so we wouldn't have an unnecessary death toll? Or maybe GWB backed a plot to send as many poor families as possible into hotels, to raise consumer demand so the economy doesn't look so bad? Hell, he's so good with God, maybe he just ordered the whole thing up to stimulate the economy. Hateful Republicans.

Jeez, I'm glad my name is Gore. I can feel real solidarity with all them little people.

Damage in south Louisiana still looks bad, according to TV reports: 127,000 people without electricity, loose power lines, dropped trees on cars and roofs, thigh-high flooding, awnings and signs down and scattered across hundreds of yards. Just picking up dropped tree limbs will take hours on some of those properties. But not a 4.

Sunday, September 29, 2002

Just an aside. We were watching the movie "Mission Impossible" this evening on TV, a movie I will always call "Fun with Masks". During one of the breaks a political ad for Mary Landrieu, up for re-election to the US Senate, came on. She carried on about how she was a family person like her constituents and always voted FOR Louisiana, and had two kids and a husband like other normal Americans, and how she was an experienced and all-around good girl to have as a representative, normal fare.

She ended her speech with the line (from memory, I can't find a transcript), "Louisianans can be sure that I take Louisiana values to the Senate."

"I don't think I would have said that on TV," said Lyman.

"What?," I asked. "Oh, you mean . . ."

He meant that the lawyers of our past governor, Edwin Edwards, are now considering appealing his prison sentence for racketeering charges to the US Supreme Court.

Ms. Landrieu has been active in politics in Louisiana for many years, as daughter of "Moon" Landrieu, mayor of New Orleans in the 1970's, as a state representative, state treasurer for eight years, gubernatorial candidate, and now, senator.

I know of no reason to question her particular honor, but she might have chosen better words.

Saturday, September 28, 2002

To be fair to Mr. Possum's readers I should provide an example of the interface between a pubescent daughter and a menopausal mother. I called daughter Erin in Dallas, and her older brother told me she was out on a date. I can only reach my sister by mailing to a post office box in northern Vermont. She moved there shortly after her release from the Sisters of Charity Rest and Rehabilitation Institute in 1999. I miss her still.

We have tentative plans to meet in New York City sometime next spring, but I refuse to go unless she stays on her meds and off the sauce.

Alex Del Castillo points to pictures of flooding in south Louisiana and Mississippi after tropical storm Isidore.

Thursday, September 26, 2002

Our reporters on site in Gulf Shores tell us that the beach eroded badly everywhere. This afternoon, the road was flooded around Papa Rocco's, Waterville, etc. Condos in the West End were evacuated. Beach erosion was especially evident from the West End to the Convention Center. The canal is high. They mentioned no noticeable serious damage to businesses.

They met the reporter from the Weather Channel about a block from the Pink Pony Club and took his picture. Then they walked up and down the beach taking pictures of damage.

In other news, Lucy was not one whit happy about being restrained in a towel while strangers assaulted her with a Dremel tool. The vet trimmed her beak and toenails with the Dremel, then held her down while assistants clipped her flight feathers with scissors.

The vet said that she wasn't a mean bird, and did very well for her first visit. You couldn't have told that to Lucy, who was left panting. Two or three more ventures like this and her disposition might change.

She returned home to a quiet afternoon of R & R.

Alex Del Castillo, of New Orleans, is circulating e-mail with advice for all Louisianans during the hurricane season:

EVACUATION ROUTE: If you live in a low-lying area, you should have an evacuation route planned out. (To determine whether you live in a low-lying area, look at your driver's license; if it says "Louisiana,'' you live in a low-lying area.) The purpose of having an evacuation route is to avoid being trapped in your home when a major storm hits. Instead, you will be trapped in a gigantic traffic jam several miles from your home, along with two hundred thousand other evacuees. So, as a bonus, you will not be lonely.

(Via A Dog's Life)

Our home is about 180 miles north of New Orleans, and in this storm we have so far received only three inches of rain and little wind.

On the other hand, our renters in Gulf Shores, AL, are having what they call "an interesting experience". They were up all night. The storm was worst at about 3 am for our couple, which was when the waves starting eating away at the condo lot. It knocked out parts of the walkway to the beach and ate under the swimming pool about two feet. The pool has not collapsed so far. The trees and buildings appear to be fine.

Later this afternoon they will be driving out to take a look at what is happening around town.

In the meantime, it's time to get dressed and take Lucy, our avian companion, to her first vet appointment to have her flight feathers and toenails clipped. This might get a little rough.

Tuesday, September 24, 2002

I knew it wouldn't take long to find something like this (from the Portland Mercury News):

TO THE EDITOR: Driving down Burnside I saw my first Coors Light "Here's to Twins" advertising campaign. Since then about 20 of these fucking billboards have popped up, and I can't drive from one end of Portland to the other without being bombarded with that sexist, misogynist shit. In an era when we criticize the Taliban for forcing women to wear burqas, we're perfectly fucking happy to let corporations create advertising campaigns that make women sex objects. No one DEMANDS that women dress or act that way, we just call them frigid dykes with no sense of humor, womanhood, or social skills if they don't. Where are the U.S. forces now? Get in here and fucking LIBERATE ME.

Ms. Anonymous

Or how about this:

To: Coors Brewing Company

I am deeply offended and surprised by your Coors Light ads with scantily clothed women. What does that have to do with beer? Would a woman be attracted to a man only because he holds a Coors Light in his hand? Ridiculous. Your Coors Light billboard ad posted all over Portland, Oregon that says "Here's to twins" is horrendous. It depicts two silicone filled to overflowing blonde twins with tiny shirts, and breasts smashed together in a very un-sisterly way. I am apalled by the ad because "twins" is a play on the slang used for breasts, and what do breasts have to do with beer? I and many other women AND men are sick of seeing fake breasted, under-nourished, fake tanned, fake hair colored women being plastered all over media ads and sold to us as desirable. Again, what does any of this have to do with your beer? I would never buy your products or support you in any way, and I am publishing this letter on many websites to help get the word out. Wake up, good old boys. If integrity doesn't matter to you, then maybe a huge dent in your bottom line will get the message through. We don't want to see sexist and exploitative ads anymore. Where have you been? Have you not noticed this this is a new age and consumers are smarter and more aware and will not be influenced by your condescending ads? If anything, you will convince people to do exactly the opposite of what you had intended. Don't you realize the huge responsibility you have to young people not to propagate these age old and worn out images? Do you really want to alienate half of your market (females) and maybe even more (intelligent males)? I hope you will reply, and moreso, remove those offensive, tasteless, mindless ads. How about using a little creativity and not just putting the status quo on a billboard over and over again? Why not try to sell your product based on its merits and not some old sexist cliches?

Maybe it's age, maybe it's marriage, maybe it's easily accessible sex with a sexy guy (see "marriage"), but the Coors twins don't trip my PC trigger.

They're young, beautiful, healthy and cashing in. More power to'em.

EDIT: I do see that the letters are addressed to Coors, not the twins, but the money has to come from somewhere.

I will not be buying Coors Light, regardless of the campaign, because when I (rarely) drink beer, it is usually Grolsch. Those snap-cap bottles are perfect for vinegar-based pepper sauce. Pepper harvesting can be a pretty boozy process around here.

Last night we watched Monday Night Football and dined on Chef John Folse's recipe for Spaghetti and Meatballs.

Neither of us have been great fans of meatballs in the past, but when friend Glenda asked us to download this recipe for her we tried it and loved it.

Since we are only two, this recipe makes enough for four meals, with ample left over for light lunches.

UPDATE: Perhaps it's not correct to say "dined on the recipe". That would have been a little light, though still palatable with the addition of last year's home-canned tomatoes. Better "dined on Spahetti and Meatballs prepared according to the recipe by . . ." Now that sounds tedious . . . Oh, forget it.

Monday, September 23, 2002

Speaking of abayas, here is a resource for your every need. Check the customer comments. Here is one:

I received your goods today and just wanted to pass on my thanks - I am thrilled - all the garments, veils etc. more than live up to my expectations - thank you. Being able to obtain goods such as these, in this speedy way, makes hijab much easier - I can't sew and have no interest in learning!! I shall definitely be ordering more goods shortly.

Sometimes I think the blogosphere gets too caught up in thinking of Muslims as "other".

Sunday, September 22, 2002

Credit Steven Den Beste with alerting readers to this story about a Jordanian woman who, fed up with being harassed by three young men, took off her abaya and beat them to submission. Witnesses cheered.

So do I.

Friday, September 20, 2002

Colby Cosh, a young Canadian journalist in Edmonton, takes a place in my blogroll because he very patiently answered an odd query of mine regarding a Canadian band I had seen on PBS in 1999.

I had forgotten the name of the band La Bottine Souriante.

It's a 9-piece brassy band that does traditional music with a rollicking twist. Mr. Cosh wasn't familiar with the band himself, but offered additional search clues so that I spotted them within 15 minutes after I spent all last evening reducing my distance vision. Thank you, Mr. Cosh.

If you click on "cd" at the band site above, then scroll down to number 6 under the Cordial cd, you can sample the sort of music that intrigued me so much.

The power of the blogophere is incredible.

Thursday, September 19, 2002

From the Philadelphia Inquirer comes this story:

The folks at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals have put a Chester County church on notice that its annual pig roast is unchristian and will be the subject of protest unless the church agrees to serve vegetarian food instead.

The roast is part of an annual country fair set for Saturday at Hibernia United Methodist Church in West Brandywine Township. It is an otherwise tame affair with craft tables, balloons, games for children, an antique car display... and more than one roast pig.

Note that region, West Brandywine Township in Pennsylvania.

When will they carry their pious protests to Mansura in Avoyelles Parish, LA? It is home of the Cochon de Lait Festival (that would be Suckling Pig Festival) each May.

I don't really recommend such action. Them people down there ain't too particular about what they eat, just so it's tasty.

Their response to being called "un-Christian" might also encourage PETA protesters to leave them alone.

UPDATE: The Philly link should be credited to Obscure Store.

Wednesday, September 18, 2002

Lyman's son visited from Dallas this weekend. Michael is a graduate of the Arts Institute of Dallas, a reportedly excellent DJ, and a master of audio software. He introduced us to the remix of an Elvis tune, A Little Less Conversation, that was used in a Nike commercial for the World Cup.

Here is an article about the song.

Here is a review.

Here is the mp3 file.

I can't wait for more, and I'm no Elvis fan.

Oh, my goodness. I just received fan mail!

Wal-mart also sells a battery-powered fan/light in the camping supply
section, about $14. A bit of comfort insurance for my invalid mother
(do they make a battery ceiling fan? Hmm), and as it worked out, we
had no more power failures this summer /after/ I bought one.

Tuesday, September 17, 2002

Abuse of bloggers

I am an abusive blogger reader. Here, where writers are expending precious resources to communicate sometimes difficult thoughts, baring controversial opinions, elucidating (for me) obscure points of history or speaking softly of love of family and children, I mine nuggets of throwaway information for purely selfish and mundane reasons.

Take for instance Megan McArdle's blog Live from the WTC. Ms. McArdle spends hours explaining the intricacies of economics viewed through the prism of her studies in the Chicago school of economics. She is widely known and appreciated for succinct thinking and writing on issues such as social security, welfare and markets.

What have I learned from her writings? From a throwaway log entry and a comment by Dan Hartung, I learned that Wal-mart sells a remote-controlled fan on a stand for $32.95. It can be controlled from up to 25 feet away. One now sits in my invalid Mother's room, so she has a little control over her environment.

So much for Milton Friedman.

Matt Welch is one of the most thoughtful journalists I have ever read. He is a thorough researcher. He might be partisan at heart, but he lets his research take him to sometimes surprising conclusions. He writes of many subjects, including Czech politics and UN sanctions in Iraq. From his many writings, I gleaned that California fish tacos are a treat. I cajoled and chided him until he gave me the framework for the recipe for fish tacos.

So much for Vaclav Havel.

Now we come to James Lileks, that provocative and amusing columnist, nostalgist, fierce American, loving husband, caretaker and teacher of famous, precocious Gnat. He is a writer so skilled that he can make near seamless transitions from watching his daughter eat to a dissertation on art theory to an indictment of terrorists in one easy blog lesson.

From Mr. Lileks I take refrigerator diagnostics. There is a leak from the refrigerator onto my kitchen floor. In Mr. Lileks' experience, a leak was caused by a blocked drain in the freezer-defrost mechanism. I checked our freezer, and, by darn, it's the same thing.

So much for exquisite and touching writing.

The manual for our Kenmore recommends removing the ice formed on the bottom of the freezer and around the drain, then forcing a solution of two cups of hot (not boiling) water and one teaspoon of baking soda down the drain with a meat baster. That's right, a meat baster. As Louisianans we use the Cajun injector more often than a meat baster, so the bulb on ours was cracked. No suction.

We had to buy a new meat baster to repair our refrigerator.

How ordinary, how bizarre.

So, thanks to all you hard-working writers out there. You're having an effect on our lives, though not what you intended.

Saturday, September 14, 2002

There has been a great brouhaha about women bloggers in the blogosphere of late.

By and for women interested in college football, I have linked Kristen Kwan's Block in the Back because I think it's just way too cool that a Harvard research associate in biochemistry is married to a woman who loves college football enough to blog about it.

And it's just too apt a name to pass up.

Geaux, Kristen.

Tuesday, September 10, 2002

Recovering from our whirlwind tour of home improvement facilities in Gulf Shores, I missed Mr. Greg Hlatky's (A Dog's Life) post on Sunday, September 8. Mr. Hlatky turned 46 that day.

I'm just behind you, sir, coming in February. Please don't fret so. It sets a bad example for your juniors.

I haven't talked about the September 11 attacks. Other writers have covered every aspect of every news story that has emerged from that day. I stand in full support of the war in Afghanistan, more tentatively in support of war in Iraq.

I grieve for the families and friends who lost loved ones that day, and all the days after, and those that will be lost in days to come.

Lord, have mercy upon us all.

Sunday, September 08, 2002

I do not like to shop. I especially do not like to shop for ceramic tile. Oh, it would be fine if I could start from scratch, beginning with the floor, like a good decorator. But to try to match existing colors in furniture and countertops and stuff can be a challenge.

For some reason, the trend in tile colors runs to pink. I have little use for pink. Pink is for cats' tongues and babies' ears, not the balcony floor.

I need grays and greens and blues -- cooling colors to match the surf, and, incidentally, the furniture and the kitchen countertop and the existing tile inside the condo.

Why not use the same tile as inside the condo, you ask? Because it has been discontinued. There are only 7 pieces left in the universe, and they are mine.

The procedure is: go to the store, pick up three or four or six tiles that are acceptable, take them to the condo, lay them on the balcony and watch them turn pink in the sunlight. Return those to the store, pick up four or five more and watch them do the same.

Carolina White? Nah, baby-doll pink.

The building color is not particularly pink, so why do the tiles deceive so?

Enough of that, the selected color is "Glacial Tundra", an 18-inch porcelain tile with shades of gray and green with too much hint of brown, but we've reached the stage where the perfect is the enemy of the good. It's bought and paid for and should be installed at the end of next week.

I hate shopping.

We arrived at the condo at about 12:15 am.

Lucy, the 1 year-old Solomon Island Eclectus, was good as gold the whole trip. She didn't scream or flutter or show fear throughout the tire repair fiasco. Tools and air guns, she took in stride. Staying up 4 hours past her bedtime didn't faze her much either. She was obedient and quiet during the whole stay.

She is terrified by seagulls, though.

We parked her playtree in front of the sliding glass door to the balcony. One night, someone on one of the lower balconies fed the gulls, which brought them swooping and calling outside our windows. Lucy leaped from her tree and took off at a dead run to a spot behind the couch to hide. I picked her up and put her on my shoulder, which usually calms her. When I sat down, she jumped from my shoulder and tried to burrow into the corner of the sofa. She has never been so frightened of anything. She didn't calm down until we put her in her cage for several minutes.

Little does she know that she has the voice to put them to flight. If she ever learns, we'll never be able to stay there again.

From Vidalia, LA, there are two convenient routes to the Redneck Riviera. Either way, there's a pretty drive through the Homochitto National Forest in Mississippi. Beyond the forest, you can take 98 east through Hattiesburg, MS, and drop down to Mobile, AL, or you can take Hwy 55 south to I-12 to I-10 and go east through Mobile. 98 is a country road with not much traffic and long stretches of nothing but farmland and forest. The other route takes you through Hammond, LA, down to Slidell outside of New Orleans, then along the Gulf Coast.

Either route takes about five and a half hours.

We started later than we wanted on Tuesday, about 2:30 in the afternoon, to arrive in Gulf Shores no later than 8:30 pm. Lyman decided to drive the interstate for variety's sake.

How prescient of him.

So, we're driving along I-10, coming upon Gulfport, MS, about 7:20 pm and the car begins to shudder.

"This road sure is rough," says Lyman. The car shudders more.

"Maybe it's not the road, " says Janis.The car is bouncing along and the Lucy is beginning to fluster.

"It's not the road," says Lyman.

We pull off at the next exit and drive into a truck stop with a large parking area.

I drive loop-the-loops around the lot and feel no shudder, Lyman can see nothing wrong from the ground. Lyman takes the car up the road and feels the shudder again. Yes, it's the tires and it's 7:30 pm in a small southern town on a Tuesday night. Happens to be a truck repair business in the very lot we are in. We ask if they can help, no, they're closing up, but there is a tire repair place at the next exit that's open until 8 pm. It's 7:40.

Back to I-10 with the emergency flashers at about 50 miles an hour.

We pull into Coastal Tires in Long Beach, MS, at about 7:55. There are customers ahead of us, but the tired, uncomfortable pregnant girl in the office assures us that we'll be served. In fact, the place is open until 9. We wait for about an hour. Lyman has the young man look at the two front tires. (All the tires are less than 30,000 miles old.) The young man, husband of the girl in the office, pronounces them shot and replaces them. It's after 9 now. We drive up the road a piece and the shudder is still with us. We turn around and go back to the shop, where our boy is trying to eat a little supper, and have him look at the rear tires. They're shot, too. The boy replaces them as well.

We pay up and Lyman says, "If this doesn't work, I'm coming back and have you change the spare."

The boy laughs and says "We'll do that, too."

At 9:40 we're back on the road to Mobile.

We didn't have to do the spare.

The moral of this story is rotate and balance your radials every 3,000 miles.

Monday, September 02, 2002

Off to 'Bama

With the parrot goes a travel cage, a small perch, a personal fan heater for her baths, a playtree, several kinds of food and her special toy that she sleeps beside in her big cage. Just like a human baby.

Lucy has traveled this route once before, and had no rest because she is curious to the point of nosy. For some reason, Mobile Bay is especially fascinating to her.

We will also carry luggage, household needs, a cooler (no Louisianan travels more than 50 miles without a cooler), and two good-sized boxed light fixtures. People criticize those of us who drive SUVs. Stuff that in your Accord.

This is a business trip, organizing renovations for November, and replenishing kitchen odds and ends for the couple who will rent a month from September to October.

Back this weekend. Y'all have a good week.

Saturday, August 31, 2002

Criminal idiocy

A car stops, an armed robber emerges, pulls a gun on a couple standing beside the road, demands money, and is shot by the intended victim. Not unexpected.

The heightened awareness and edginess of citizens in Baton Rouge in the wake of a serial killer make them dangerous targets. Lyman predicted a month ago that a lot of common criminals in the city would get blown away until the killer is caught.

UPDATE: The link is gone. The robber's companions took him to a local hospital where he died. The intended victim was not charged.

Tuesday, August 27, 2002

Awww, man, lobster and foie gras again!

Let's turn off the air-conditioning and downsize the refrigerator, for people are suffering in South Africa.

To be fair, the current summit in SA is the World Summit for Sustainable Development. The World Summit for Food was held earlier this year in Rome.

Here is a Guardian story on that event. The menu of lobster, foie gras and champagne was much the same.

Why don't they skip those confusing Summit names and call it The Great International Moveable Feast?

Friday, August 23, 2002

Mr. Reynolds at Instapundit will be thrilled to read this story of complaints about security at the port of New Orleans and points upriver.

A top New Orleans shipping industry official blasted the Coast Guard Thursday for scaling back the post-Sept. 11 sea marshal program while boosting reliance on local private security guards with little or no training to guard ships or deal with terrorists.

Channing Hayden, president of the Steamship Association of Louisiana, said private security guards now boarding vessels deemed risky by the Coast Guard offer little protection from terrorists determined to enter the country or to stage an attack on a local port.

"Putting security guards on ships to watch a (potential) al-Qaida terrorist is like putting a canary in a coal mine," he said during a luncheon meeting of the Traffic and Transportation Club of Greater New Orleans in Metairie. "Rent-a-cops don't do the job." [...]

Hayden said his complaints are not about money. He said ship operators are willing to pay the government a user fee to cover the cost of guarding suspicious vessels, as long as those guards are trained military personnel capable of responding to a real threat.

Wednesday, August 21, 2002

I have a question for geology buffs or professionals.

We are gardeners and pay an inordinate amount of attention to weather. At least two periods in the past three years, we have watched storm fronts split right along the Mississippi River, resulting in rain for points east and west and none here. We live about eight blocks from the levee. When rain has deigned to fall, it has fallen more heavily at my in-laws's house, just five more blocks away from the river. It has fallen even more heavily three miles up the highway.

I contend that the Mississippi is a large, fast-moving body of water that has a direct effect on our weather because of temperature or evaporation or something else.

Am I being unsophisticated? Can someone knowledgeable give me a clue? What about a suggestion for a google search?

Tuesday, August 20, 2002

Smiley Anders today:

Shirley Fleniken tells of the little boy who was overheard praying:

"Lord, if you can't make me a better boy, don't worry about it. I'm having a real good time like I am."

Monday, August 19, 2002

Monday through Saturday, Smiley Anders writes in the The Advocate of Baton Rouge. His column is a gathering of items from the community including announcements, thanks, and humorous items. It's a must read for me everyday.

Today he includes an item about a father encouraging his daughter to give to their church:

Bob Hayes of Prairieville overheard this in church:

"A father gave his 4-year-old daughter his offering envelope and told her to put it in the plate.

"She asked what it was for, and he told her it was for Jesus.

"After the usher had collected her envelope, she turned to her father and whispered, 'That's not Jesus, that's Sophie's dad!'"

Thursday, August 15, 2002

After wallowing around in the dust under the counter for a day and a half adjusting cables, we are now in possession of a working LAN system in our house that is DSL enabled. Didn't take but one call to tech support.

Now I can read such obscure sites as WarLiberal, TechCentral, WSJ Opinion.online and Yahoo.

Unfortunately, now I have to cope with tremendous feelings of guilt because I am not as good a housekeeper as James Lileks, and I don't have a job or toddler to look after.

The world is a changed place.

My housekeeping abilities are diminished by a short obsessive-compulsive writer in Minnesota. My cooking ability is diminished by watching the chefs on Food TV. My sexuality is diminished by my husband always saying of Rachel Ray (she's the one who can eat well on forty dollars a day) that that girl is "cute as a button".

Dammit, if I was that young again I could eat well on forty dollars a day, too, and it wouldn't be my money.

And yes, you nit-pickers, I know that the conditional is 'were'.

Monday, August 12, 2002

Back in November 2001, that boy on the left, Ken Layne, was bragging about how he would go to the desert and watch the Leonid meteor showers. He never made it to the desert. While he was sitting with his wife in his backyard in the City of Angels, I was propped in my lawn chair in Vidalia, LA, watching the most fantastic display of sky pyrotechnics I had ever seen.

"Pish", I said, having heard all my life of shooting stars and never having seen one. I saw over a hundred that night before I stopped counting.

So, the great show of the Persieds was to display Sunday night. I gathered my seat, and sat with my head tilting back at four o'clock in the morning. I'd had some wine. I was sitting there by myself in the dark, looking up to the sky, observing the stars, and it occurred to me, "We have West Nile in Louisiana. We have a serial killer. Is it smart for me to be sitting out here in the dark while everyone sleeps?" I went inside, checked on Lucy, and went to bed.

My boy Lyman is usually good for a laugh -- and he can cook, too (listen up young men) -- so today he introduced me to Odd Todd.

Best turn down the sound if you're at work.

Friday, August 09, 2002

Mr. Chris Bertram at Junius posts the niftiest article and movie about toolmaking by crows. Go here. The film is fascinating.

Of course, now PETA will be screaming that this poor crow is being forced to work when he should be free to pick over soybean fields.

Thursday, August 08, 2002

Forget the stories of the day. This could be a picture of Lucy, our baby girl.

Lucy is just over a year old. She sleeps in a cage that looks like this, though considerably larger.

Sometimes, she plays on the tabletop model of this Parrot Tower. More often you find her on a 4-foot playtree Lyman built from ribbonwood, which is very hard and impervious to strong parrot beaks.

Lucy has many toys similar to these, but she prefers to play with the plastic lid from a bottle of vegetable oil, or her wooden spool with the soda straw stuck through the center. Go figure.

Lucy eats pellets like these. She also eats a 13-bean, brown rice mixture with carrots and sweet potatoes that I make up about once every three months and freeze in snack-size bags, in addition to fresh fruits and vegetables everyday.

When I have a question, I e-mail the woman who weaned her at J-Birds in Mandeville, LA, or I consult Land of Vos.

We are working on Lucy's speech. She can say "Hey, Lucy", "What you doing?", answers the phone, "Harro?", and, of course, "Nite, nite."

Pretty cute girl.

Tuesday, August 06, 2002

I'm ticked. I was just watching MSNBC, where they managed to make our governor, Mike Foster, sound like a crazy, gun-toting anarchist.

Mr. Foster has made the mistake of advising single women to arm themselves with guns while we are in the midst of a rash of rape-killings. It's a small rash -- only three -- but I have been questioning my husband about serial-rapist-killers in Louisiana. He is 55-years-old and can remember none.

I am from a non-gun house, probably because my father had five sons within seven years who couldn't be predicted to play nice with each other.

In Louisiana, from my observation of nine years, there is nearly no man who hasn't spent time hunting. Some are stupid, and some are drunk, but most of them know how to keep a firearm. They have daughters.

Mr. Foster is calling on these women, like my two dark-eyed, dark-haired nieces, to buy firearms through legal channels, take their safety courses, watch their doors, and blow the son-of-a-bitch away who won't answer their queries. They call it deterrence.

UPDATE: Lyman says no, keep your gun ready and call 911. If he bursts through the door, then blast him in the chest.

UPDATE: Terry Oglesby at Possumblog refers me to this excellent site for self-defence and gun safety.

Monday, August 05, 2002

How can I be so isolated? I have to read Joanne Jacobs in California to find a reference to this article in the New York Times regarding current sexual trends in the south.

Couples have been enforcing a period of celibacy just prior to their weddings to allow a period of "re-virginization" before the honeymoon.

Far be it from me to quibble about how these couples view their religion or their sex lives, however, I would point out that there is plenty of time to do without sex after getting married, what with jobs and houses and yards and children.

There is a little edge to this article, talking about these pretentious southern women, that reminds me of a Roy Blount, Jr. piece I read in one of those eastern magazines years ago. Mr. Blount was dreading the dinner party conversation that would ensue once New Yorkers had gotten wind of clay-eaters in the south.

Who knows though, he said. Maybe they'll turn it into a trend and create boutique clay eateries in New York.

Maybe they'll do the same in this instance.

Henri Bendel, the fashion designer, was from Lafayette? Who knew?

Sunday, August 04, 2002

Is it my imagination, or does the coding for Blogger look like word processing for the Data General mainframe in 1984?

Friday, August 02, 2002

A half-life ago, before I learned how to change a tire, lay floor or take green tomato stains out of white t-shirts, I was a young woman in a pretty white dress, escorted by an ambitious actor-writer, who joined a group for an evening of theater --Amadeus it was, with Peter Firth (not Tim Curry, blast it)-- and dinner at the Russian Tea Room.

It was a festive evening, with the most horribly patterned polyester jackets given the men in the party who failed to meet dress requirements. There were at least eight of us, and we were seated at a long table. We dined on blini with caviar and tossed back shots of ice-cold vodka served in tiny glasses the waiters settled in bowls of ice.

What a fantastic memory.

I have just been flipping through September's Food & Wine Magazine. On page 35 there is a paragraph extolling the virtues of a new product from California --Hangar One Mandarin Blossom Flavored Vodka:

So St George's next move was to turn wheat and Voigner grapes into a spirit that met the legal definition of vodka, but tasted, not surprisingly, a bit like eau-de-vie, with quiet suggestions of cherries, plums and pears.

No wonder the Russian Tea Room is gone. Where is the damned vodka?

Tony Woodlief at Sand in the Gears stands up for passengers against security at a Witchita airport in this post, and prevails!

I have no fear of flying since September 11, but real dread of standing in line for security checks.

To travel by plane from Vidalia, we must drive as far as Baton Rouge (1-1/2 hours), most often New Orleans (2-1/2 hours), or Jackson, MS (about 2 hours). Let's see, arrive, park and shuttle to the terminal (25? minutes), get ticket (20? minutes)--these are the things I have have already done--wait in security line (1? hour), board, hold on runway (???).

Sorry, out-of-state destinations are off the map this year.

What's on the calendar here?

Looks like a party! What about that Zydeco and Blues Festival in Mamou?

Thursday, August 01, 2002

In all our research about parrots before buying Lucy, we found that parrots bind with humans with the same intensity that dogs do.

Unlike dogs, some parrots have extraordinary ability to mimic, as in this story of a birdkeeper's romantic evening.

We keep language clean in the front room, and romance stays in the back.

If that's too much of a strain, choose the dog as a pet. Your in-laws will like you better for it.

Wednesday, July 31, 2002

This article provides a perfect opportunity to illustrate how close life is in a small southern town.

Ms. Madaline Gibbs, candidate for judge, was referred to in a post below. My husband has done legal work for Investigator Dennis Cowan. Sheriff's office spokesperson Kathleen Stevens lives across the street, two doors up. Sheriff Randy Maxwell will be renting our condo in Orange Beach next month. And, well, Ms. Kathy Johnson was on page 3A of the Concordia Sentinel this week.

I don't know any James White. Why should I? He is from Jonesville.

Tuesday, July 30, 2002

My favorite school teacher -- Earth Science, Junior High -- has just told me that she had a bout of TIA. That is Transient Ischemic Attack, otherwise known as a mini-stroke. In one-third of cases this is a precursor to a major stroke.

This was not MY teacher. This is the woman who is two years my husband's senior, voted most beautiful in a class of about 70 in 1962.

Lyman has always said that if he could get rid of me and her husband of 40 years, she and Lyman would have a lovely life together.

I have a new concern.

It is a dark and thunderous day. Can I sweet-talk Lyman into cooking this recipe? It's from Jambalaya, a cookbook written by the Junior League of New Orleans in 1980. My mother-in-law, Girl Gore, gave us this cookbook shortly after Lyman and I married in 1994. It is one of the best short prep-time cookbooks I have on my shelves.

Shrimp and Crab Etouffe

2 pounds peeled shrimp

1 and 1/2 sticks butter

1 cup finely chopped onion

1/4 cup finely chopped green pepper

1/4 cup finely chopped celery

4 cloves garlic, minced

4 teaspoons cornstarch

1 to 1 and 1/2 cups chicken stock

1/2 cup white wine

4 teaspoons tomato paste

1/4 cup finely chopped green onions

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

Salt to taste

Pepper to taste

Tabasco to taste

1 pound crabmeat

3 cups cooked rice

In a Dutch oven, melt butter. Add onion, green pepper and celery. Cook until tender. Add garlic. Dissolve cornstarch in one cup stock. Add to sauteed vegetables. Add wine, stirring constantly. Add tomato paste, green onions, parsley and Worcestershire sauce. Blend well. Add shrimp and cover. Simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. If necessary, add more stock. Add salt, pepper and Tabasco. Add crabmeat, stirring gently, and continue cooking until thoroughly heated. Serve on cooked rice.

Monday, July 29, 2002

Just returned from the Vidalia (pop. 4700) Public Library where Mr. Ken Layne's book, Dot.con, scored two rave reviews. The librarian and I were pining for about 5,000 more books as entertaining.

Keep it up, Mr. Layne. We'll make you as famous as Jimmy Swaggert!

I might point out that Mr. Swaggert and Jerry Lee Lewis and Mickey Gilley grew up in Ferriday, the next town over.

I am a Weevilette!

I haven't felt so honored since ... the University of Alabama's Homecoming Queen of 1967 (or so, Dottie isn't free with her age) attended my anniversary party in January!

Dottie is still a cute girl. Told me she always carried a packed overnight bag to football games featuring Joe Montana, just in case.

Working on the tag, Mr. Possum. HTML is best pronounced 'hatemail'.

Baby possums aren't very pretty, are they? (See http://www.possumrescue.com/foundababy.htm. The link won't work from here.)

Greg Hlatky over at A Dog's Life admonishes us:

Please, I beg of you, don't get any dog unless you're willing to make a lifetime commitment to be its provider, its master, and its friend.

That goes double or triple for parrots. Provided she is properly nourished, attended and does not fall to disease or accident, Lucy can live at least 35 years. African Greys can live 50 or more. Larger parrots can live even longer. I have read of a 75-year-old Amazon.

When Lyman brought up the subject of owning a parrot, I said, "Good grief, Jason just graduated from college, and you want a lifetime toddler?"

Sunday, July 28, 2002

Mr. Betta bit the dust.

Did your town go through the phase of the "War and Peace" arrangement, you know, the shapely vase with the rocks and a Samurai Fighting Fish and a cup in the top with more rocks and a Peace plant?

When we returned from a trip to Italy two summers ago, the first thing my friend Cossie asked was if I wanted a fish. Ask somebody in Louisiana if they want a fish and the Louisianan will ask "Is it cleaned?" Cossie, who is a wonderful cook, but not given to other crafty pursuits, had been bitten by the "War and Peace" bug. She had made arrangements for all of her other friends and wouldn't hear of me being without one.

It was actually very pretty and made a nice ornament for the coffee table. Mr. Betta survived a bout of the "ick" and a crashing fall to the floor that broke his jar. Now Mr. Betta is dead of old age.

RIP, little Betta guy.

The short article I referred to below in the Concordia Sentinel has a tag to page 3A. Hon, on page 3A there is no alligator, but there is a large picture of the first woman judge elected in Concordia Parish. (Isn't that an idyllic name, Concordia Parish?) Said judge has alienated every lawyer in the Concordia Parish courthouse.

Why, you ask? Is it because we are idiot sexist Deep South racist bigot fat-eating cigarette-smoking woman-haters? No, it's not. In the words of a woman lawyer campaigning for Miss Madaline, a female assistant district attorney, said judge has "set the women's movement back 50 years with her PMSing and tantrums and general lack of jurisprudence". My husband, a lawyer who was told to "get [his] ass down to the jail" the sole time I have ever attended court (my, was that ugly), and others in the district concur.

Miss Madaline herself, who is in contention with PMS judge and two other candidates for the judgeship, said, "We are running a very positive campaign, because we all realize that we need a change". She is vying against a very competent male ADA whom my boy Lyman has worked with for many years. Miss Madaline makes it a hard choice. She, too, is competent, though she has far less experience, having gone to law school after a twelve-year career as a school teacher. Me, I like school teachers.

The big question here is "Did the editor tag the article wrong on purpose?"

Saturday, July 27, 2002

If the neighbors are wondering why the yard is looking a little shabby this year here is one reason.
A little local color from our weekly Concordia Sentinel:

Alligator causes roadblock in parish

Motorists using highway 565 two miles south of Wildsville Monday morning came upon an unusual road block.

An 11-foot, 10-inch alligator lay dead in the road before officers with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries were able to remove the massive reptile.

The alligator had been shot.
Wildsville is fifteen or twenty miles from our little burg, Vidalia, LA.

Lucy, our one-year-old Soloman Island Eclectus, was upset by this report posted by Tim Blair.

The news is dreadful for Hector. Parrots hate change. Mean old bitches, indeed.

This weblog is the outside child of Terry Oglesby at Possumblog. Please forgive, Miss Reba, it was just a casual (causal?) thing.