I believe in being prepared for any given situation. It isn't because I'm a pessimistic person; I think it is just good common sense. Hence, I've entitled my blog "Even Nothing is Something."

This covers my butt in any event. On any given day I can feel great exaltation that I have done something grand. I can scribble fiercely when my thoughts are leaping across the meadows of my mind like a happy little colt in the month of May, or my mind and writing can be as dry and arid, as cold and without life, as the Gobi desert - because even Nothing is Something.

I want to thank all of my fellow artists who work through other means and forms and who sell their work on the wonderful artist's site "Etsy," a place to buy and sell all things handmade, along with vintage items and supplies for their craft. They are a great group of people.

Those who have links to their site on my blog represent only a few of those whom I wish to include. Just click on one of those links and join the Etsy community. It is free. They are a great group of artists who have relieved me of my money in the most delightful of ways. If it weren't for their encouragement, I would have never shared my work through this blog.

Thank you my darling friends!

Enjoy my blog - The Poet or Not - More or Less

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Pleasures of Being Alone and Never Lonely

"The man who has no refuge in himself, who lives, so to speak, in his front rooms, in the outer whirlwind of things and opinions, is not properly a personality at all. He floats with the current, who does not guide himself according to higher principles, who has no ideal, no convictions-such a man is a mere article of furniture-a thing moved, instead of a living and moving being- an echo, not a voice. The man who has no inner life is the slave of his surroundings, as the barometer is the obedient servant of the air at rest, and the weathercock the humble servant of the air in motion."
Henri Frederic Amiel

Monday, June 22, 2009

Poetry on the Internet - Loss of First Publisher's Rights

Well, this is a source of consternation! Some of the best literary journals where I hope to someday share my poetry will not accept anything that has been posted anywhere on the internet. So, beware my scribbling friends. Unless you choose to primarily share your poetry with the world by means of your blog or through some other internet means, be very careful what you post. The literary journal "Poetry" is one such journal. Of course, this standard doesn't apply to all literary journals. There are still many that will accept work that has been on the internet.

There is also a lot to be said for just tossing all of those journals out the window; there could be a sense of satisfaction in rejecting them for a change - give them a taste of their own medicine. Sharing our writing by means of a blog or through any of those other on-line sources could be quite satisfying. Lord knows there isn't any money to be made in poetry anyway. And, most of us have to die before we acquire any real notoriety. If "Poetry" hasn't accepted any of my precious pennings by the time I'm, say, 90 years old, I'll gladly post them on my blog if I still remember where it is and my arthritic fingers can still type.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

A Diatribe Against the intellectualism of all Literature

Well, (you'll find I like to introduce lots of things with this word) I suppose this is another "Apology to Caryn." None of my literary friends have appreciated my little tale of "Characters in a Small Town." They have all asked me the same darn question: "What is your point? Are you just listing a bunch of characters without any plot? Where is your research? You must take this work and do something with it, maybe do some research about small towns in the United States and then make some point."

I've thought about that - for about ten seconds. Then, I have asked myself, and them too if they would have waited long enough to question, why does this work have to be literary? Is there a good reason why something can't be written without any plot in mind? And, what is wrong with listing a group of real characters from my small town and narrating some of their foibles? Does it have to be intellectual?

No, it doesn't. Actually, it would be quite ruined if I did "research" and turned this non-story into something much more cerebrally challenging. I haven't chosen this method because I don't appreciate more lofty literature. I'm fairly well-educated and I've read and still reread Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky, along with all of those other great literary chaps.

By golly, I can boast that I've read War and Peace three times. My library is considered very eclectic so I stick out my tongue to those who would never be able to, for instance, enjoy Janet Evanovich's character Stephanie Plum because it is simple slap-stick humor. That defines "Characters in a Small Town." None of these people have been developed from my imagination. The only imagination provided has been in how I've chosen to tell you about them, the order in which I present them and what, specifically, I think their most hilarious qualities were.

Oh My God! I've just had an incredible epiphany! Maybe these people from my small town were so incredible that those who critiqued this tale thought they WERE made up characters! Well! That would explain why they think there should be plot! If they believed this was a list of fictional characters with fictitious character traits, no wonder they scorned this work of mine and considered it half-donkeyed. I assure you, my readers, I shared my growing up years with these individuals - and individuals they were. I hope you read it more kindly.

Characters in a Small Town

Characters in a Small Town

It started with Blabber Lips. My parents and I had recently moved to a small town in Pennsylvania, and this lady with the most spectacularly red protrusive lips attracted my attention. Her ample lips transmogrified her face into a caricature. She must have worked at some nearby factory because I always fell in step with her as I walked home from school.

I was in the first grade and adults attracted my interest in a most peculiar way. I found them much more fascinating than my schoolmates. The lips on this delightful adult were much less instruments of speech than a piece of furniture she wore on her face. They were worthy of beguilement. My mother disagreed. She forbade me to walk home with this marvelous lady. Mom called her a gossip and blabber lips. Well, I didn’t know what a gossip was but I could tell by my mother’s tone that it wasn’t complimentary. I did think my mother should have been more charitable toward my friend’s lips.

My mother was delirious with horror at my continued camaraderie with Blabber Lips. Since my mother had not thought to enlighten me as to the meaning of gossip, I innocently told Blabber Lips (I never called her this to her face.) that my mother had forbidden me to walk along with her because she was a gossip. I’ll never forget how those red appendages formed a huge “Oh!” of surprise at this revelation. Our house, and the end of the street Blabber Lips and I shared, was separated by a bridge crossing the Casselman River. It was at this point Blabber Lips and I would separate so my mother couldn’t very easily witness the continuation of my society with this fascinating lady.

There was a genuine Lady who lived a few blocks up the street from us. Her name was Mrs. Fhauler and she owned a small grocery store. Since it was primarily my duty to make runs to her shop, it was me who cultivated her closest friendship to our family. Mrs. Fhauler subscribed to Life magazine. I would sit in a large foyer entrance to her store and read the latest issue while she filled my mother’s grocery order.

My father had taught me to read before I entered the first grade, so my proficiency in reading was far advanced. Mrs. Fhauler appreciated this, but she did not like the pronunciation of some of my words. For instance: I always asked for ketchup with the emphasis on “chup.” That is just the way our family said ketchup. Unfortunately for me, the brand of ketchup sold by Mrs. Fhauler was spelled “Catsup.” She always held the bottle before my eyes and asked me to spell this loathsome word. She refused to sell this red condiment to me until I pronounced the word correctly, according to the combination of sounds printed on the bottle.

The building that housed her store was of great interest to me. The floors were of shiny hardwood and inside the foyer was a huge beautiful staircase to a second floor that Mrs. Fhauler let out to tenants. I desperately wanted to climb this staircase and discover the mysteries above. I never had this opportunity. But, Mrs. Fhauler did take me on a tour of her private quarters behind the store. We spent a great deal of time in her bedroom as she shared with me pictures of her family, pieces of favorite jewelry and every other item in her ownership she thought I might value. I was enthralled and pleased that she thought so highly of me as to share these beloved and private objects.

In fact, Mrs. Fhauler thought so highly of me that she requested permission from my parents to take me to a Mother/Daughter Dinner being held at her church. My parents were equally impressed by her high regard of their daughter, so consent was instantaneous. Mrs. Fhauler purchased a new dress and a pair of white gloves for me to wear to this dinner. Before the illustrious evening she also sat me down at her own dinner table and taught me proper dinner manners. I was quite embarrassed when, during the dinner, I used my thumb to push some elusive peas into my spoon. The lack of propriety did not go unnoticed. Mrs. Fhauler quickly taught me that the proper way to capture resistant morsels was to use the knife to push the food onto the appropriate utensil.

There was one other lady with whom I became acquainted while living on the south-side of town. Her name was Vera. She worked at the Dairy Dale Restaurant four buildings up from our house. She took a special liking to me, so I always tried to capture her attention when I stopped for an ice cream cone. She would fill the cone to its greatest capacity.

I also liked it when she was my waitress when I dined at this restaurant. My parents never ate dinner out, but they allowed me to go out to dinner at this restaurant with my friends or cousins. But, oh how abysmally Mrs. Fhauler failed in her lessons of proper deportment in the area of public food consumption. Invariably, my first act was to pour sugar from the glass container into my hand and lick it off. In those days sugar didn’t come in individual packets. The waitresses chastised me for this glaringly rude abuse of their sweetener. Vera was much more tolerant. Once, when I spilled the entire contents of the container onto the floor, it was she who came running to clean the mess before other employees became aware of my latest errant behavior.

I think if it hadn’t been for Vera I would have been banished from this diner. It was she who also intervened in an altercation between me and another waitress. I ordered a cheese sandwich. In our home, a cheese sandwich was always a grilled cheese sandwich. I wasn’t aware that some people buttered their bread and slapped a piece of hard cheese between the slices and ate such a repulsive substance of nourishment. I ordered a cheese sandwich and it was the latter that came gracelessly to my table. I was indignant. The waitress was equally indignant. She proceeded to clear up the matter of how a cheese sandwich differed from a grilled cheese sandwich. Without the intervention of Vera, I would have been forced to consume my cheese sandwich! Vera politely grilled my order. Vera was quite a character. When she wasn’t working, she spent the majority of her time sitting on a barstool in one of our town’s barrooms.

Then, in the middle of my third grade year of school, we moved to the part of town called “The Bottom.” This was quite literally the end of town. The second house down from ours was the last house within the township. It was also the home of another town character, Cruella. Cruella lived alone, and in all the years she lived in that house we never saw any friends or family visiting. Just the house alone was enough to cause some curiosity. It lacked siding and was a plain board house.

Cruella was convinced that, if we kids in the neighborhood, rode our bikes or tricycles on her sidewalk, we were going to break it. Children are notoriously cruel. We deliberately rode our bicycles down her piece of pavement. Invariably, Cruella would catapult herself out her front door screaming at us to get off her sidewalk. We would laugh with great glee while, poor Cruella, in a state of hysteria, would threaten to beat us if she could catch us. Sometimes, we would try to be very quiet and sneak our forbidden rides on her pedestrian path, but she always caught us. I swear she must have sat at her window all the live long day watching for us. Much to the consternation of the neighbors, Cruella also fed about thirty or more stray cats.

My next new friend in “The Bottom” was a sincere gentleman. His name was Cass and he was blind. On the bottoms of his shoes he wore cleats that made a loud grating sound on the paved alley beside our house. I could hear him coming a block away; I would run to meet him. I had great respect for Cass. Everyday he walked down our sidewalk to the outside of town. He told me he had a relative, who lived outside the borough, with whom he shared dinner everyday. I would link my arm in his, (he never used a cane) and we would share a companionable walk to the end of Cruella’s sidewalk. Cruella didn’t mind this.

I was always amazed that he recognized me before I spoke. He would always say, “Here is my little lady.” One day I waited for Cass to come and he didn’t. He didn’t come the next day, or the day after that. I found out he had died. I don’t know if I ever stopped missing him.

Life is always bittersweet. It would be a perfect world if there were no sadness to disrupt our joy. But life isn’t perfect. Another friend acquired in “The Bottom” was a beautiful woman who remained a mystery to me. She doesn’t qualify as “a character” but my memories of the adults who peopled my young life would be incomplete without the inclusion of Cookie.

I met her one day when I was riding my bicycle behind her house. She was sitting on a swing beneath a grape arbor, and I was instantly attracted to her incredible beauty. Cookie had pale skin, black hair and lovely violet eyes. She always wore a diaphanous white nightgown with a matching negligee. Cookie was usually accompanied by a Cocker Spaniel named Christmas. In the summer, I visited Cookie everyday. We would sit on the swing in silence. I knew there was something most strange about Cookie, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. I certainly knew it was odd not to converse. Instinctively, I kept our friendship secret. I feared that somehow discovery would take her away from me. She seemed to genuinely enjoy my silent companionship.

But one day she wasn’t beneath the arbor. I rode my bike to the front of her house and saw her sitting at an opened upstairs window. She didn’t speak but she motioned with her hand, giving me permission to sit on the swing under the arbor. I preferred to avoid those lonesome vines. Everyday I would ride to the front of her house, and everyday she would be sitting at the same upstairs window. I would stand, straddling my bike, and gaze up at her, silently wishing for her to join me under the arbor. I only asked her once, and she just shook her head no. A few weeks, after the beginning of this change, Cookie committed suicide. I was devastated. My parents never knew, but I went to the funeral home. It was a closed casket, but nonetheless I paid my respects and said goodbye. It took me about thirty-five years to come to grips with this loss. I finally wrote a poem and dedicated it to Cookie.

If Cookie was a great lady, and I believe she was, then Colonel Foy was her male counterpart. He lived up the street along the main highway through town. He spent a great deal of his time working outside in his lawn. When my mother or grandmother sent me to a grocery store, just on the other side of this main highway, I would often meet Colonel Foy. He very nearly bowed with his gentlemanly manner.

His house was a mansion with a glass staircase. In the naivety of my youth, I thought he was in love with me, and would prove to be the Prince Charming who would one day carry me off on a white horse. We always enjoyed some brief conversation to and from my walk to the store. Colonel Foy particularly appreciated a floppy brimmed hat I often wore through the summer. Eventually he married a woman not a whole lot older than me. I disliked her.

I promised myself that I would not exclude the characters within my own family. One of them was my mother’s sister, Bonnie. Bonnie liked to live life on the wild side. In the early-mid sixties Bonnie, unknowingly, married a Russian Spy who told her he was in the U.S. to train for the U.S. Olympic ski team. Imagine, Bonnie fell for that. Bonnie found out that he, at the very least, lied about that. For Christmas she gave him a surprise present of a weekend at a local Ski Resort. He didn't even know how to put the skis on.

I only met him once. I was probably about eight years old. It was Christmas, and I was very annoyed with him because Mom had bought me a bunch of grapes; he ate every one of them. It wasn't long after that when either the FBI or the CIA found him. What a charade. My family felt disgraced and never discussed it. Mom keeps an old, brittle and yellowed newspaper clipping of the article hidden away in her dresser drawer – amongst her panties. I used to sneak into her room and dig it out just to read about the grape snaffling slime bag.

Next, Bonnie married a serious biker from some gang. She purchased white leather pants, boots, jacket and helmet. She looked like a kitchen appliance. Bonnie also spent a lot of time sitting on the stools of the local barrooms. I think she spent just as much time falling off of them too. Her ordinary intake of alcohol was a fifth of Scotch a day.

So help me God, I am not lying when I expunge myself from this familial propensity to drink. My mother is a character, but she didn’t inherit this love for alcohol either. But, her biological mother did. The woman I called “Aunt Cot” was my biological, maternal grandmother. The woman I called “Grandma” was my biological aunt. This is the story:

Grandma was unable to have children. My “Aunt Cot” was quite proficient in this regard, and she had already given birth to two daughters when my mother was born. She offered my mother up for adoption to her sister, my grandmother, and her husband, Simon. Grandma and Simon were respectable people. They had no inclination toward the abuse of intoxicating potables.

I’m quite certain that, at least, one of the town taverns had the imprint of Aunt Cot’s butt on the stool too – probably right beside Bonnie’s and biker Spongepants Bob. Bonnie, her gigolo and Aunt Cot were nightly regulars. Of course, I never accompanied them on these excursions to the local tap houses; cousins kept me up-to-date about any recent inebriated inspired behavior.

Only three things stick out in my mind. Bonnie usually weaved and wobbled on her bar stool until her biker buddy slung her across the seat of his motorcycle and swept her home like a good Blended Scotch in shining armor. Once, while Aunt Cot was on a bender and went to Grandma’s house, she and my grandmother got into a fight; Aunt Cot broke Grandma’s collarbone. On a more mundane occasion, Aunt Cot chucked herself out the door of a barroom, only to find her feet situated beside a nice pair of slip on shoes. She was ecstatic. They fit, so she wore them home.

My mother was a character in her own right. She had the worst, most merciless and raucous phonation when she would screech, “Caryn, it’s time to get the hell home!” I was always very nearly home. I was rarely allowed out of our yard except to ride my bike around the block. Back then, The Bottom was filled with children. They always had to come to my house to play, and then we were not allowed to communicate above a whisper. On those very few occasions when I was allowed to go “up the alley” to play a game of four square ball with the gang, my mother would decide when I had, had enough fun.

There was a single window in the upstairs hallway of our house that had a view of our backyard and alley. My tiny 5’1” mother had to stand on her toes to peek just her eyes above the windowsill, like the eyes of an alligator swimming barely beneath the water. Her vocalization had no trouble transmitting for a quarter mile. Sometimes, I was so embarrassed I would say to my pals, “Wow, I’m going home before my mother yells like that.” Of course, I fooled no one. I was the only kid named Caryn.

Mom was always behind the times. Have you ever heard of the men’s clothing store named “Today’s Man?” Well . . . if there had been a counterpart store for “Yesterday’s Woman” that is where my mother would have shopped – with pride. When hemlines were short, my mother wore her skirts and dresses at or below the knee. When hemlines dropped to the calf or ankle, Mom had her skirts hemmed two inches above the knee.

Her own choice was bad enough, but when she tried to inflict the same onto me there was war. Many evenings found my mother, with a mouth full of pins, turning up the hem of my skirt or dress. She never made them short enough. It was the year of the MINI SKIRT. I wasn’t about to go to school with my hemline to the knee. She would allow a hem two inches above the knee joint. I insisted on five. Thinking she was wise, Mom decided that she would allow my grandmother to be the arbiter for this decision. Grandma lived downstairs, so I sought her out after I hiked the hem to about six inches above the knee. I knew what Grandma would do. She asked where Mom wanted the hem, and then, where did I want the hemline. She would pin the dress or skirt at a compromised length and I ended up with the five inches above the knee I wanted.

Thank God, Mom couldn’t impose upon my face her choice of eyeglasses. At some time in the past, more distant than I could remember, black cat eye glasses must have been a smashing fashion hit. Mom was still wearing them in the 70s and 80s. She refused to give up those glasses. She wore those same frames for over fifteen years. What kudos to the manufacturer. Every time she saw her optometrist, she insisted that he take her own frames and have the new lenses installed. By the late 80s, even my father could no longer tolerate this antiquated image. He teased her relentlessly; Dad loved to tell her she looked like a kamikaze pilot. Oh, Mom would seethe.

We finally found relief in the industry of eyeglasses. One day the optometrist delivered the most hateful news to my mother. Lenses could no longer be manufactured in the shape of cat eyes. Mom was forced to purchase a newer model frame. You would have thought the world had come to an end. Mom despised her new glasses. Back then, in the early 70s through the late 80s, Mom was a character in The Bottom.

Now, Mom is in her late sixties and has no trouble fitting in with the rest of the world. Her eyeglass frames are perfectly fine for fashion. She no longer wears skirts or dresses, forsaking them for sweatpants and sweatshirts in winter, and lighter weight slacks and pullovers for summer. Even her false teeth have a proper fit. Oh, and on those few occasions when she may be required to dress up for, say a funeral, she always asks me if her clothes “clash.” I have never had the heart to tell her she is using the antonym.

Town characters were not restricted to the South-Side or The Bottom. There were others to be found just about anywhere you looked. One of them was Bobby Morgan. Bobby was a mentally challenged young man. He was fortunate enough to have been taken in by a woman who cared for him as if he were her own son. Bobby was in his twenties.

He was delightful. Every political campaign season, he had the unique ability to recite, verbatim, every speech he heard. It was incredible. He would walk through the streets of downtown Meyersdale loudly reciting. At night, he would carry a lantern and recite some piece of poetry that included the stanza "and each one will carry his own lamp." I loved him.

Bobby was an enthusiastic individual. He was never in a foul mood. Local businessmen would hire him to clean their store windows. Those who spurned him, and they were few, deprived themselves of a joyful, congenial friend. My mother was one of those. She always did try to avoid Bobby, but one day, after he told her she had pretty legs, Mom really avoided poor Bobby. His compliment was innocent, and my mother did have beautiful legs. Bobby’s feelings would be hurt if he discerned that someone either didn’t like him or was making fun of him. Still, he was always happy and laughing.

Until his caregiver died. Bobby was probably in his thirties when she passed away. It nearly killed him. No one saw him after the funeral, which was quite odd because he was out on the streets everyday, and he was most conspicuous. Finally, someone went to the home of his dead caregiver. Bobby was found in a piteous state, ill to the point of near death. He was rushed to the local hospital where a friend of mine was on the crash team that took care of him that night. When Bobby came around, he sat up on the gurney and began to vomit. In the middle of retching, he managed to say, "Oh, it is so good to be alive!" Yet, he was so very ill. What an appreciation for life. What an exceptional man.

Unfortunately, after the death of his caregiver, Bobby suffered a drastic change in personality precipitated by a gang of degenerate hoodlums. But, I’ll save that sad story for later. For now, you will have to be content to hear about another town character my father befriended.

The fellow’s name was Jack Engle, but everyone called him Speedy. He didn’t acquire this name because he was speedy; he was quite the opposite, slow to move and slow to learn. Although Speedy aggravated my father, Dad felt sorry for him so he had regular association with this most unusual man. Speedy stopped by our house at least once a week. Dad took him hunting and fishing. Good Lord! The thought of Speedy with a weapon was downright terrifying. He could have been dangerous with a fishing pole. Once he showed up at our house with a permit to carry a pistol and some long discarded policeman’s badge, claiming he found a job protecting the citizens in town.

On another occasion, he appeared in a distressed state of mind, carrying a letter from Social Security Disability. He couldn’t read it with any comprehension, yet he was convinced it was a letter informing him that he would no longer receive Government checks. Poor Speedy kept proclaiming, “My eatin’ days are over!” It took my father days to convince Speedy that the letter stated no such thing. Everyday, until he was finally subdued, Speedy came to our home making the same proclamation, “My eatin’ days are over!”

There are numerous examples of exchanges between my father and Speedy that portray the total helplessness and intellectual challenge of poor Speedy’s scant mental acumen. Speedy purchased a new pair of hunting boots. When he and my father reached their hunting destination Speedy requested my father’s assistance in putting these new boots on his feet. He said he couldn’t tell the left boot from the right.

I witnessed this conversation. Dad handed Speedy one of the boots and told him it was the right boot. Speedy put the boot on. Then, he picked up the other boot, showed it to my father and asked, “Which foot does this one go on?” I swear to God. My father was very annoyed. His response was “Holy hell Speedy, how many feet do you have?” But Speedy would have given you the shirt off his back. Such intellectual kindness is far superior to any I.Q. rating.

Speedy was chums with two other town characters, Porky and Beans. Porky and Speedy were somehow related. When Speedy wasn’t available to take Porky to a town twenty-one miles away where there was a State Hospital, Porky would hitchhike. He always caught a ride. The State Hospital housed the debutantes of the Mental Health Community. It was here that Porky met Beans and they fell in love.

Beans was an unlovely sort of woman, and when she walked her body tilted to one side as though she were standing on the deck of a sinking ship. But, to Porky his Beans was the Heinz of all available debs. Her real name was Jeanie; she didn’t acquire the name Beans until her release from the hospital shortly after making the acquaintance of Porky. She and Porky could be seen, arms linked, walking all about town or thumbing their way to another.

On one of these jaunts to the State Hospital, Speedy fell hopelessly in love with a woman whose condition stood her no chance of release from custody. Speedy mourned the love loss of his life. It was really very sad. One day, late in the evening, Speedy came to visit in a distraught frame of mind. He told us that he couldn’t forget this lady. He said he couldn’t even read his comic books at night without seeing her face on the page. And he reminded us, “And you know how much I love my comic books.” Eventually, Speedy forgot about her and he, too, had a piteous end to his life. I’ll share that later, along with the end story of Bobby Morgan.

Oh, I can’t be remiss and forget the taxi driver’s family. There was only one taxi in our town. You called ahead and scheduled your ride a few days in advance to ensure your transportation. The couple who drove the taxi was ordinary enough, but the rest of their family was uncommon. These folks lived far out on the south-side of town. I suppose dishwashers weren’t an everyday appliance in those days of the mid-sixties. But, the Mognets found their own way of coping with the daily routine of washing dishes. At the end of their meal, each one licked their plate and utensils clean as a whistle. Then they were turned upside down on the table ready for the next meal.

Meyersdale also had its share of ever vigilant characters who spent their time in our little Uptown District which was comprised of a Five and Dime, two drugstores, an H.P. Department store, a couple of hardware stores, Kent’s Men’s Clothing Store, Baldwin’s Shoe Store, two Women’s Clothing Boutiques, a posh Tot and Teen’s clothing store, insurance offices, a jewelry store (which I will leave unnamed because it was really a front for suppliers of recreational drugs), a few restaurants and two Pizza Parlors, one of which was a front for the Mafia. Meyersdale also had a few competitive “filling stations” as gas stations were then called. There must have been half a dozen little Mom and Pop stores. They sold groceries on credit, and when you paid your bill, you got a good sized bag of candy bars out of appreciation for your business. I just loved this.

One of the drugstores had an old time soda fountain. This was a good place for a first date. And, if your date was smart, he went to Pasquale’s Greenhouse and bought you flowers. We also had a small diner that served tasty freeze ice cream through one of those little windows. You could also go inside and sit at a counter or at one of about six tables for a sit down lunch. Of course, there were as many barrooms and taverns as an ungodly number of churches. We had a shoddy Pool Hall with a corrupt reputation. There were a few car dealerships. We boasted two banks.

The most famous place to hang out was the Stagecoach Inn. It was considered the most sophisticated place in town. Among its patrons, it included the crowd who used drugs and the select businessmen who sold them. I was forbidden to even peer into the windows of this establishment. Since the entrance was below street level, I never dared to take even the quickest little peek. It still nettles me that my husband of thirty-four years, after a stint in Vietnam and before I met him, hung out there with great regularity. An entire part of my life was underprivileged due to my ignorance of this public institution’s singular worldliness.

Some of this deficiency was ameliorated when Bruce and I started to date. He was twenty-four and I was eighteen. The most distinctive and classiest of taverns was The White House. At least once a week, Bruce escorted me to this fashionable eating house. George, the owner, permitted me to order alcoholic beverages. As a matter of fact, I was his “taster.” When George would mix some new exotic cocktail, I was the first to imbibe this addition to his ever-growing list of cocktails.

At any given time, there were probably at least two or three other businesses trying to flourish. Now, as I write this little story with some thirty years between me and its current state of nothingness, Meyersdale has changed considerably. There are few stores left and the town has rather melted like the cheese in my grilled cheese sandwich. My point is this: those characters who found gratification hanging around uptown had a number of places to wander and socialize.

One character never left the uptown area. Her name was Rosie. I guess she had a serious nicotine addiction, but the inhospitableness of pauperism prevented her from purchasing cigarettes. Rosie had a sharp eye for any discarded cigarette butt to be found on the pavement. She was a nondescript little woman. Perhaps that was her disguise as she reaped the streets. There were those young men who found great fun in smoking half a cigarette, and then throwing the other half into her path just so they could watch her swoop down upon the butt like a Coopers hawk catching a mouse. I thought this was quite mean. My then future husband was much more kind. He would offer her a few whole cigarettes and occasionally an entire pack. Of course, I didn’t know that then.

If Rosie was always to be found uptown, and she was, then another chap, who was a friend of mine, was to be found everywhere. His name was Paul Fisher. I kid you not. It didn’t seem to matter where you were, Paul was there too. And he had the keen curiosity of a newspaper reporter. Paul was also very well-liked and friendly. He did later become a news reporter for our local newspaper. There isn’t much else to say about Paul except that I rather miss him.

I do not, however, miss Mr. Roger Lickty. This featherless bi-ped fell abysmally short in the area of brain activity. And, he was a character. Roger, who was nicknamed Maharajah because he drove a big fancy car, would ride around and around my block just waiting to pounce on me as soon as I would poke my nose out the door. He was my most persistent and willing suitor. But he didn’t suit me. My grandmother, with whom we lived, was my savior. When Roger caught me, which he invariably did, Grandma would call for me to come inside for something or other. I could make my escape with gracefulness and tact.

But this blockhead could not get the picture. I could have pasted a huge billboard in town that said, “NO, I, CARYN BROWN, WILL NOT DATE MR. ROGER MAHARAJAH LICKTY!!!!” and this dangerously stupid, anthropoid simpleton would have not gotten the message – not even in a bottle.

Roger would even call me on the phone. In those days we suffered without caller I.D. His attempts at speech communication were insufferable. Roger was incapable of forming a meaningful composition of articulation. He was so unbelievably, nauseatingly boring he could think of nothing to discuss. Roger’s futile attempts at conversation constituted Zippo. I don’t know what could have lit a fire under any intellect he may have possessed.

He would try to tell jokes. I never once got the punch line. First of all, his voice was high, nasal and toneless, which was surprising because he was a big man, not yet fat, but with a middle hinting toward impending amplitude. Roger would already be losing control of himself at the beginning of the joke. By the punch line, he was braying like a donkey. Then, when he had to intake some air for the next bray, he would make loud snorting sounds. No single word was distinguishable.

One time we shared a few words that could be called “conversation.” He asked me why I would not go out with him. I told him we had nothing in common. Roger asked me how I could know that without giving him a chance. I replied that I could tell by his jokes that he would not interest me. When we hung up the phone, Roger was in a whimpering panic, wondering if I would talk to him the next time he came around my house.

Not only did I have to dodge Rodg, there were The Three Wise Men who hung around the Five and Dime on Saturdays. One of them had dirty blond hair and seemed to know some English, although it’s a good thing he was born an American citizen. I don’t think he would have passed the test. His handle was Duck.

The second of these sagacious men always wore an army jacket. His moniker was Soldier Boy. If Soldier Boy was the Man of Arms, then Pheonie, the third fellow, was the Man of Letters, and he seemed to hold their nominal collective intellect. It was he who always made the troupe’s decisions. Pheonie would decide if it was time to move one block further down from the Five and Dime. Pheonie made the decisions about which females they would follow and applaud with wolf whistles. In other words, he was the choreographer for the weekend show of The Three Wise Men. They amused themselves by following me around the Five and Dime as I scurried between the isles hoping to dodge Duck and his two sidekicks.

I wish we could also dodge the sadness in our own lives and protect the lives of those special occupants in our hearts. But not everything in life has a good ending; we can’t even expect it, we can only hope for it. After Bobby Morgan’s caregiver died, The Hetz Brothers, four of the most cynical, envious and mean of men, corrupted Bobby who, at that time, was in a state of extreme vulnerability. They taught him the vilest of language. Bobby had that astounding ability to remember things he heard and to recite verbatim, so it didn’t take long for these contemptible, bastardly men to shatter Bobby’s personality. It was as though shards of Bobby were scattered, haunting all those places where we had loved to see him – washing windows, walking the streets reciting, chatting with the town’s citizens.

My husband and I lived in one of the few Penthouses in the uptown area. Bobby had shared a large part of my every day life. We were friends. Nearly everyday he was washing windows. Our uptown area was so small that every time I left our apartment it was inevitable that Bobby and I would meet one another. Our conversations were brief. Bobby was quite diligent and enthusiastic in his work; he didn’t take time to chat when he was busy. But, I regarded him as a special friend. I wish he could have lived his life out in our little home town. Were it not for the Hetz brothers, he would have.

Once The Hetz brothers gained control of Bobby, he was rarely seen in the uptown area. He was more likely to be seen at a bar along the main highway into town. When I did see Bobby uptown, he was impatient, rude and surly. He had been given distorted and immoral lessons in sex; he had been taught to disrespect women. I had been told he now had a repertoire of perversive jokes. I wouldn’t know. He had stopped speaking to me.

Sadly, while inside the bar, Bobby began to regularly expose himself. Eventually the police intervened, and Bobby was taken away to a group home in another town. Before he left, he had been downright hostile towards me. I knew why, but I’ll save that for the conclusion of my narrative. I would like to exit my story on a more lighthearted note. There usually is one.

Speedy was also taken away. He lost his mind; his new home was the Mental Hospital twenty-one miles away where he and Porky had socialized and fallen in love. Heartbreakingly, and in the greatest of irony, Speedy starved himself to death. The man who came to our home worried that his “eatin’ days were over” now refused to eat. He recognized none of his friends. There were many people in our town who mourned his death.

The betrayal of Bobby Morgan should never have happened. Those who are intellectually kind and cheerful, those who are child-like and malleable, merit our love, kindness, respect .and generosity. They have so much to offer us. They teach us to discard our inhibitions toward strangers. They teach us loyalty in our friendships.

Sometimes life is ugly and there is no humor or satire to be found.. But, with all fairness, I did promise to conclude with a bit of drollery. Here it is.

The Hetz brothers cherished an intense dislike for me. Two of the brothers were older than me, one was my age and the fourth was younger. The two youngest of the brothers did make a futile attempt to acquire some Christian decency. One summer they attended Vacation Bible School at my church. I was sitting at the same table, but on the opposite side directly across from them. It was obvious they were confused about some assignment. I didn’t know them, but it was apparent they put up a united front against outsiders. I was a little afraid and shy of the brothers, but I was sincere in my spiritual endeavors, so I offered them assistance if they needed it. What a mistake.

Years later, after I graduated from high school, and was working full time and living in an uptown apartment, I frequented a favorite restaurant for dinner. The four Hetz brothers were usually there too. They made snide remarks to and about me. Their hatred was so obvious it was downright embarrassing. Occasionally, my fiancé, Bruce, would join me at dinner. Then, the Hetz brothers kept their nasty comments to themselves, but I still endured the dirtiest of looks.

After Bruce and I married we developed an evening custom. After dinner we would take a seven mile walk that took us to the edge and beyond the south-side of town. Right past the Hetzs family home. Most of the time they were sitting on the porch, all four of them. The intensity of their animosity could be felt as we passed their abode where they sat like overgrown trolls. There was usually a little girl with them, and she always seemed to want to run down the sidewalk towards us in greeting. She was smiling, excited and happy, but there must have been some command from the four nasty gnomes which prevented her from ever finishing that run down the sidewalk or calling a cheery hello.

Until one day when she was outside alone. This delightful little girl with such innocent exuberance took eager pleasure at being able to finish that run down the sidewalk to make my acquaintance. And, the entire time she ran toward me, she kept calling to me, “Miss Priss, Miss Priss!” Bruce and I burst into laughter. We knew precisely what the Hetz brothers still thought of me. What a hoot.

There is one final character – Fat Grew. Fat Grew was not a corpulent man. Quite the opposite. He was of medium height and slim. His hair and beard were gray, and he wore his hair rather long, his beard quite scruffy and his clothing bedraggled. Fat looked like Buffalo Bill, and he referred to himself as such. Fat owned a piece of property outside of town. His house sat on a little knoll, and below the house there was an old garage with the gas pumps removed. Fat advertised the old garage as a “Novelty and Dry Goods Store.”

This might have been right handy for the farmers in the area if he really had sold such dry goods as corn, hay or chop, but about the only thing Fat had for sale were old deer hides he bought from local hunters, mud flaps and hubcaps, of which he had a most prodigious number. Ole’ Fat was a shrewd businessman. His supplier for the hubcaps and mudflaps were the most dependable potholes left by the many coal trucks that traveled the main highway. He could spot their glistening orbs a quarter mile distant.

These hubcaps were given the most illustrious exhibit at his novel ex-service center. They were strung by wire and hung inside the windows like sun catchers. There weren’t enough windows for his display; the remaining plenteous expose’ hung from trees or leaned against the outside walls of his novelty shop. You could never go about your patronage without protective gear. On a sunny day, it was imperative to provide yourself with protective eye gear. The flashing of light off metal was like the eruption of a solar flare. On a gusty day, you might have been eager for a pair of ear plugs. The clanging of the hubcaps was unequal to any set of wind chimes you may have ever heard. If you were easily spooked, the line, “For whom the bell tolls” could have made you more than a bit ill at ease.

Someone sold Fat Grew a set of Texas steer long horns. These were his cherished possession. Fat had them mounted on the grill of his car. Each horn sported a spur, giving Fat a pair of goading, nonconformist hood ornaments that turned sharp corners before he did. But, it was unlikely that any driver would have missed Fat’s approach around such a corner anyway. His advance was announced by the clucking chickens he kept in a coop on the roof of his car. A careful driver could only hope their sharp-sightedness would not be clouded by a palisade of feathers. To ensure his own able parking, Fat had curb finders all around his car – ten of them. He was probably one of those kids who, for sound effects, clipped a piece of cardboard to the spokes of their bicycle tires.

Most of these people, with the exception of the Hetz brothers, are gone. Meyersdale has passed its heyday. Somehow, with the closure of most of the uptown area, the people who added color to our town also left with no one to take their place. My parents still live there, so I have left a small connection to Meyersdale. I’m grateful for what the characters in this small town bequeathed my remembering. I probably would not be the same person had it not been for them. I wonder if my current neighbors would find me to be a character straight out of the town of Meyersdale?

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Promised Poem of Sense and Sensibility

When I shared the discussion with my brother, Allen about my gullibility and not seeing people for who they really are, but for whom I wish them to be; I promised to share the second poem, written after "The Vessel Leaky Seamed and Cracked." This might be viewed as my second apology - and final one.

Sense and Sensibility

Sense and Sensibility rarely ride in tandem.
It seems that when one comes, the
Other goes flying off at random.

When tardy Sense falls behind, Sensibility will gain.
Moved by passions rash and thoughtless
Interjection – such will be my bane.

Sense withheld by something MONSTROUS and STRONG,
Whose existence I never stop to question
Who is right and who is wrong.

One says. “Now That Makes Sense!” I am very pleased.
Then Sensibility cries….”Have a Bigger Heart!
With Sense you’re merely teased!”

Now! There I’ve done it! Much without consent!
Pity reigned. Oh Hearty fool I am because
Good Sense my Sensibilities did thwart!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Hummingbird

Several years ago my husband was in our garage when a hummingbird flew in through the opened door. It flew around inside the garage frantically trying to find its way out. Eventually it fell to the concrete floor. At first, Bruce thought it was dead. He picked it up and discovered that it wasn't dead; it was simply exhausted.

With great wonderment my husband and I each held this little bird in the palm of our hand and fed it hummingbird food through a very small dropper. It was a marvelous moment, something that will probably never happen again; to hold such a tiny bird in our hands was a miracle.

When the bird finally recovered, it flew off only to return again and again to our hummingbird feeder. We will never forget this moment of wonder. I just wrote this Haiku poem yesterday.

Poem 6

Poem 6

Hummingbird ‘prisoned
Frantic, fatigued sipped nectar
From our hands to fly.

Lying in our palm
Having no choice but to trust
Gaped its beak for strength.

Only once in a
Lifetime could such as we be
Blessed by such a bird.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Out of Order

Dear Readers,
You must forgive me. I'm not yet accustomed to writing in a blog so my offerings are not in the appropriate order. I must remember to work backward so my first post is where it should be - at the beginning of what should follow. I promise to get it right the next time.

Meanwhile, you will have to read the last post for today first and work your way to the top in order to read my posts in the correct order.

A Vessel Leaky Seamed and Cracked

All vessels made by the same Potter’s Wheel,
Yet different, such as we are.
Some tankards and steins of sterling, Mugs
Of beer at some cheery bar.

Tumblers of glass, goblets of crystal, Cups of
Porcelain, some dainty some stout.
Burnished copper, unpainted clay, each
Molded superior – no doubt.

What we contain is something of choice; but
Much of what we hold – our essence –
Is selected by that which makes us individual and
That which life presents.

How easy to say “Empty thyself! Be Molded fresh!”
Judging others on the shelf.
That tribunal judge of character who sips of life
Different from our self.

All of us are vessels leaky seamed and cracked, Bolder
Or more sensitive perhaps.
Who can say which contents more valued or desired?
Little nicks or larger gaps?

My own glass is a crystal of intensity, with just a
Touch of hearty brass.
I hear the tinkle, an inner voice of sympathy. Whose
To say which will longer last?

I tip my Vessel, so leaky seamed and cracked. My
Heart thus spills mercy,
In contemplation of life’s agonies and Offer to
Mankind’s final destiny.

While others, equally valued, but leaky seamed and cracked,
Are of harder substance made.
But all of us, before humanity, one way or another,
Have our contributions laid.

Apology to Caryn

The ancient Greek Philosophers were often a well mannered sort - at least in their formal writings, who knows how they scrapped amongst themselves without gentlemanly intent. One of the ways they stuck up for one another was to write an "apology" in behalf of that person or sometimes in behalf of themselves, hence, the Apology to Plato and so forth, if there was some dispute about an individual's conceptions and ideas.

The poem I'm going to share is of that sort. My brother, Allen and I once had a lengthy conversation about our brother, Paul, who is quite a charming shyster. I was still under the spell of his charms. Allen wasn't. He was trying to convince me that Paul was undeserving of my financial assistance, that he, indeed, was taking advantage of me. I wasn't ready to believe that.

Allen, who often has keen insight into his sister's way of thinking, told me, and I quote, "Caryn, you don't see people for who they are; you see them for whom you want them to be."

I wrote a poem that is somewhat like something Plato might have written for Socrates, except I've written it for myself. Since writing this, a long time ago, I've learned that Allen, in all his youth, was quite right. Still, I refuse to eliminate this poem from my collection.

My apology advances the idea that all of us are different - some are soft hearted and some are more practical, but we all have our place in the scheme of life. I now realize that being too soft hearted helps no one. So, I wrote a second poem about the struggle within oneself of following either good sense or giving in to sentimental sensibility. I'll also post that poem. May all of you have better judgment.

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Monk

Random words: monk, palace, café, bosom, dashing and bemused

The Monk

He used to live alone, a hermit, foregoing the
Tenderness of like companionship in those vows
Of chastity, celibacy, poverty and obedience.
There was nothing else preferred but for him to
Live for the contemplation of his god.

Yet, alone and bemused by his self-imposed isolation,
Seeking like fellowship, took him on a journey to
A Palace of Privation – this Medieval Monk. Seeing
In the distance a Monastery of like-hearted men, The
Monk held within his bosom a surging, dashing pleasure.

His only redemption for this abounding happiness that
Filled his lonesome heart was prayers for guidance and
Fasting. Working within a communal garden, making
Cheese and wine, The Monk, without an earthly father,
Given away by god, discovered Frangelico, a nutty liquor.

Hazelnut contained within a bottle shaped more like a
Friar wearing the monastic, ubiquitous roped belt, The Monk’s
Habit was of undyed wool, face hidden by a cowl. Shrouded
Away, deep within the monastic walls, The Monk pleasured his
Heart with café’ royale as he scratched dutifully upon parchment.

To him would come those poor seeking mercy, never turned
Away, alms shared, heads bowed. The Monk, ever joyful in his
Service, often sought his solace by walking the Flaminian Way,
That great artery between Rome and Italy, ancient and worn. He
Served, This Monk, passed his Middle Age, content and wedded to his god.


Bombardier, Mustachio, Squint, Festooning, Shadowed, Rose


We raise our glasses filled with an English Bitter
As we sit in some cheery pub, a cask and a keg
Of ale, Bombardier; tis the day of St. George, April 23rd,
To Celebrate some ole chap who might never been British.

Those Englishmen tend to exaggerate the importance of
This man who may have been no Saint, wearing in their
Lapel a Red Rose and festooning their drinking dens with
Garlands of St. George’s cross. Yet, we find in the midst

Of their pleasure with malt, barley and hops, no invidious
Acrimony ‘gainst those who wear not the Rose. Instead there
Is an enormous congeniality and conviviality amidst the
Clinking of mugs. Crikey! Upon my word there are blokes

Wearing a fake mustachio and nose! Bombardier has made
Them cheerfully cockamamie, but pleasantly so, as we share
Their festivities and laughter. The ceiling fans whir without
Effect as we sit in some smoke filled shadowed tavern that

Makes us squint. We make our rounds from pub to pub, find
Our friends and make some new. Ah . . . but here’s the rub, let’s
Not become so drunk we can neither stand, nor sit upon our
Stool; for surely St. George has never been the patron of a tap house.

Poetry With the Inclusion of Words Chosen at Random

Sometimes it is a great challenge to choose several words at random and then find a way to work them into a poem. The results can be silly or even downright ridiculous but rarely boring. I've written two of such poems recently. I thought I would share them here. The first is entitled "Cheers" and the second is "The Monk." I'll list the random words at the beginning of each poem. Hope you enjoy them! They are rather funky!

Poem 5

Poem 5

Lazy sun at its
Highest, butterflies in flight,
Archie Comic Books.

Summer vacation,
A blanket beneath the sun,
Scent of coconut.

Snacks of crackers, cheese,
Pickles, Grandma’s Cherry Pie.
Youth, both sweet and tart.

High temperatures,
Melted patches on the road,
Popping tar bubbles.

Riding bicycles
Folded cardboard in the wheels,
The sounds of summer.

Poem 4

In the time of rains,
Scents otherwise unpleasant,
Smell sweet, like fish worms.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

I Didn't Know I Would Need a Global Positioning System

I am legally blind.

This Friday just passed I decided it would be a really great idea to take my dog, Putz, for an actual walk. We had been practicing the correct position for the heel command by walking around two parking lots for other buildings that sit just below the high-rise in which I live. This had been a very safe place for me to stroll and to provide Putz with a little refresher course in good citizenship. But, I figured it must surely have become quite boring for a dog. Both of us needed to see just a bit of our world.

I pride myself in having a good sense of direction. I also assumed that all residential areas would be laid out in blocks. If I walked down the hill from my high-rise and hooked a left, the street would take me to a bus stop. Right across the road from this there is a sidewalk in a residential area; I could follow it to the end and walk around the block. Nice. I had walked around this block last year.

However, my husband had told me that if I crossed the road, hooked another left, and continued down the sidewalk I would come to a second block that was even nicer. I trusted Bruce. Having learned the hard way, while we were still dating, he acquired a pretty good knowledge about the limits of my vision when he allowed me to drive his brand new custom Cougar, for about ten glorious minutes.

I thought it would be interesting to walk around an unfamiliar block. After all, how can you get lost walking around a block? Even someone with the poorest sense of direction could accomplish that. Although Putz isn’t trained as a homing pigeon, I still felt safe with him along and more willing to take a few risks.

Putz is gorgeous. He has a super glossy black coat and the whitest teeth I’ve ever seen in any dog’s mouth. His body is sleek without an ounce of excess fat. I felt I should be wearing appropriate attire to accompany him, so I chose an elegant Caftan – navy blue with gold accents and a gold crocheted cotton newsboy hat with the brim turned to the side. I also wore a lightweight beautifully patterned gold Pashmina shawl that had been made for me by a Belly Dancer. If my grandmother were alive to witness this she would have said, as she often did, “Well, don’t you think you’re just la de da?”

I kept my eyes peeled for the sidewalk that should have appeared to my right, after passing the one that would have concluded my route down from the familiar block of residential homes. I walked and walked. Until I reached the main highway. Something was very wrong. Ahead cars was flying up and down a main road. I saw no sidewalks in any direction. All I could see was a large lake of ugly fine black gravel in what appeared to be a large piece of prime property for some enterprise.

Hugely disappointed Putz and I turned around to backtrack and I kept another close look out, now for a sidewalk to my left. I found one. It didn’t look quite right. It went up a very steep hill and the homes were pretty ramshackle. I couldn’t imagine that Bruce would direct me to such a street, but I was there and still believed that all residential areas were laid out in nice neat easy to follow blocks. The steep hill was both impressive and daunting. When peered at from a more positive attitude, it was just what I needed. I want to lose weight and here was a challenge.

I determined to climb the hill without bending my back, just using my legs, hoping that when I reached the top my thighs would no longer be rubbing together. Up and up I climbed. None of the streets to my right gave any impression that they would take me around the block. I turned up a few of them and walked quite a distance before deciding that this particular sidewalk could possibly take me to the end of the earth, where I could fall off into outer space. Then I would hang another left and walk, still hoping to find a street that might lead me to where I needed to be.

As I walked these streets, I usually came to another steep hill. I bloody wasn’t going up another one! I would hang another left instead and keep my traitorous eyes still searching for a sidewalk that could possibly take me back to the highway where my journey began.

I had not only myself to consider but Putz too. It wasn’t really hot outside but the pads of his feet weren’t yet toughened by walking on concrete. Since I hadn’t planned on such a pilgrimage, I carried no daypack with water and his collapsible bowl. I was becoming dog-tired; how was poor Putz fairing?

At every place where I found some shade that wasn’t part of someone’s lawn I would hunker down with Putz and give him a break. I would have preferred to keep traveling. My feet were becoming terribly blistered. They had not been appropriately outfitted for such a long walk. I was wearing a pair of clogs; mules would better describe them because that is how I felt. They hurt so much worse after one of these breaks.

I don’t have to tell you, but I will anyway. I had no idea where I was. I couldn’t even see well enough to read the street signs, which would have made me feel a little better, although they would have meant nothing to me geographically speaking. I would’ve liked to have been able to say, “Well, Putz, we are heading up Washington Ave.”

Still, my beloved Service Dog and I carried on gamely, albeit slower and slower. I was certain of one thing. My sense of direction told me that we had traveled so far to the left that for me to find the bus stop at the bottom of the hill to my high-rise I would need to turn right. My goal was to try and orient myself so I could make a certain judgment about the direction.

At the next street I made the determined right turn. I intended to follow it until the street reached the end. It had to stop somewhere. It did. At a four lane highway with a McDonald’s on the corner across the road. There was a huge fancy sign that read, “Lincoln Plaza.” Good Gawd, I had heard people speak of Lincoln Plaza. It is located downtown. I live uptown. For sure, I needed to turn right.

Putz and I plodded on until we came to Market Square. That is the center of downtown. Obviously, we had walked nearly out of the downtown area. We passed banks and businesses; there were no residential streets. We began to pass factories with high smokestacks. I scanned the horizon. My apartment building is called _____Hill because it sits proudly on top of a hill overlooking the city. The skyline provoked me into a frustrated vexation. I was now exhausted. Shamelessly, I staggered up the street and still the only structures on the horizon were the damned smoke stacks. (Yes, I can cuss when necessary.)

Common sense, if I could claim any at this point and my sense of direction now told me it was necessary to start walking laterally to the left. I crossed the median of the four lane highway, praying that God would forgive me for cussing and keep Putz and I safe from oncoming traffic. Long ago I ascertained that, if you’re legally blind, the best way to cross a highway without a stoplight is to check and double check that there are no blurs of movement bearing down on you and then close your eyes and run like hell. Technically, hell isn’t a curse word.

I decided to continue walking laterally, across parking lots and simply around any obstacle. I hoped that wouldn’t necessitate climbing a fence. Eventually, I arrived at a convenience store. I was hoping it would be a Turkey Hill because about twenty-five minutes away from the ____ Hill high-rise there is one of those convenience store franchises to which many of the young people in my area had plodded out a bee-line path, in case they were in need of some such merchandise as a Turkey Hill might offer.

The convenience store that I stumbled upon looked a bit squalid. But, it still felt right to continue my lateral walk. If you could say I was walking. By now I had a noticeable limp and Putz was lagging behind with his tongue hanging out. Mine was nearly hanging out and my knees were shaking. With every step I took I thought I would not be able to take another. I wished for some passing motorist to notice that there appeared to be something wrong with Putz and I. If someone stopped to offer help, I intended to ask them to dial 911 and give my location to the police. I no longer had an ounce of pride left. Clearly no one was paying me the slightest attention.

Eventually I found myself walking toward the parking lot of another convenience store. I promised a Higher Being, Oh, please God let it be Turkey Hill. I swear to never cuss again and I’ll do a penance of forty-five minutes of skipping rope to the old drum rhythm of “Wipe Out.”

It was Turkey Hill. I dragged my poor body into the store with Putz at my heels and, scarcely able to speak, I asked the wonderful man working the counter if he would, please, dial 911 because I was hopelessly lost. He promised to help me. Putz and I went outside where I found the type of plastic shelving that looks like bleachers; stores use them to display some of their goods. This one held bags and bags of potatoes, but right at the very end of the bottom shelf there was a space just big enough for my butt. I figured, if it could hold bags of potatoes, it could hold me. It felt like an exalted chair of state.

Stretched out on the sidewalk, Putz made himself comfy. He survived better than I did. While I was breathing heavy and trembling all over, he still wanted to, at least, greet passersby with a sniff. The delightfully kind man working in Turkey Hill brought me a lovely, generous cup of iced tea and a pail of water for Putz. I suppose I must have looked in pretty bad shape. He called the Paramedics.

When they pulled up and hopped out of the ambulance, I nearly died of humiliation, but I was too weary to even do that. Apparently it never before happened that a lady, along with her service dog, collapsed on the streets because the friendly, concerned EMT personnel had to call their higher ups for permission to transport Putz. Since he is a Service/Working dog permission was given and Putz and I had our first and, hopefully, our last ride in an ambulance.

One of the Paramedics looked familiar to me and me to him. We never did figure that one out, but, when upon first seeing me, he said, “Didn’t I pick you up down on Market Square one other time in similar circumstances?” I almost screeched, “NOOOOO, that couldn’t have been me. This is the first time I’ve left the parking lot.” I decided not to clarify this with the information that I had, last year, walked around the block at the bottom of ______Hill.

“How long have you lived in _____ Hill Apartments?” he asked.

“Almost two years.”

“Well, I wouldn’t let this experience keep you from another try at a walk.”

Easy for him to say. It took us a good twenty minutes to arrive at _____ Hills. Those residents from below the high-rise who walk to Turkey Hill have their path trodden through some lilliputian wooded areas and then up and over some fences. The EMT explained that between Turkey Hill and ______ Hill there are quite a lot of obstacles, which made for the lengthy ride. He asked where I had been. When I told him of my meanderings through the streets and my eventual arrival at McDonald’s on Lincoln Plaza, his eyes popped and he told me that just from Lincoln Plaza to Turkey Hill was probably one and a half miles.

I dared to petition God for just one more favor. Please, let the Paramedics drop me off at the sidewalk on the right side of the high-rise. That is where Putz likes to poop. I hadn’t allowed him to do his business during our walk. I knew he had to poop. They did, and he did.

I hadn’t the energy or the endurance for the blisters to walk around the back of the building and throw Putz’s poop into the outside dumpster. Shamelessly, I entered the building and rode the elevator with four other people up to my ___ floor apartment. I knew I couldn’t pass off the lump in the bag as a sandwich from Subway; it didn’t smell like meat and cheese. I merely said, “For just this once, I’m throwing my dog’s poop down the garbage shoot.

I don’t know if I should be embarrassed or proud for having tried to take this walk. I did tell my husband that the next time he suggested a route for me to take my daily constitutional I would make sure to hire a few Sherpa.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Haiku Poetry - What Is It

For those who may not have an interest in poetry, I'll explain the Haiku Poetry writing. It is a Japanese form of poetry with three syllables for the first line, seven for the second line and, again, five for the third line. The English word "syllable" isn't quite an accurate translation for the Japanese word describing the style but it comes the closest.

The final line was to be ended with what the Japanese called a "cutting" word - a word that concluded the thought, rather an "aha" conclusion. It wasn't intended to be left hanging incomplete. The English writers took another liberty, if at the end of the poem they didn't have a cutting word, they would use either a dash or an ellipsis to convey the general idea of further thought left unstated.

This form of poetry always dealt with nature and seasons, but as the English began to compose from its model some things were changed from the original. Some choose a different number of syllables per line and some also choose different themes. So far, I've clung to nature and season; I would like to try my hand at social issues, an entirely different theme for sure!

Haiku Poetry With Five Stanzas

Poem 3

The Blue Dawn Flowers
Glories in the Morning Sun;
Climbing their trellis.

Moonflowers open
At dusk to say Good Evening
Till the Daylight comes.

Mother Earth offers
Flora and Fauna Day thru
Night, while birds share too.

Evening Grosbeaks sing
At dawn belying their name.
The Day’s songbird trills.

Nocturnal songsters,
The Whippoorwill shares the night
Beneath the Moon’s beam.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Poetry Japanese Haiku Verse

Japanese Haiku Verse is fun to write. It is composed with three lines: the first line has five syllables, the second has seven, and the third has five.

Poem 1
Full Moon peeks through my

Pane, A Great Horned Owl asks, "Who?"
One cricket says, "Me."

Poem 2
Summer breezes dance,
The Wind-chimes add a tenor
Birds sing soprano.

Caryn Arnold

Books and More Books

I assume that those who read blogs also read books, at least some of you. And there will be those readers of books who are also bibliophiles, a word that makes us sound perverse but we are really quite benign. We just collect many books; we can't help ourselves. It is a compulsion. When we run our of room for bookcases we would very nearly start to eliminate our furniture to make more room for them.

I wanted to have a clause in my marriage vows that chained my spouse to this decree. He, looking forward to old age, declined his signature. So, over the years I collected a sizable library and then began to re-read books. I very rarely ever bought new ones. Once in a while I would join a club in order to get all those books for a buck; then I would meet the requirement and exit the club. Re-reading books is to me like listening to a favorite piece of music over and over.

When I was younger, I might have eliminated furniture. What is a soft chair or a nice recliner compared to a book, I would have thought. Now I am 51 and age has required the sad change of perspective. Sitting on the floor Indian Style just doesn't work anymore. I need the recliner.

I also need my nice leather high backed computer chair because I spend a fair amount of time sitting here writing, researching, reading or watching House or Bones. (I haven't a television.) I also spend money. The government who provides some of us who have disabilities a small monthly stipend, but we are not allowed to save much money. If we do, they will confiscate it! Yes, the government discourages our saving money. Hence, if some begins to accumulate, I pass the time with my stated interest of spending money. I am discriminative though; I don't buy just anything.

I'm not rich either, far, far from it. But I am now buying a fair number of books. I have finally reached the point that I want to share. Barnes & Noble is wonderful. They have those nice comfy chairs and the delicious coffee. Sometimes you get a grand bargain book, but did you know that, if you go to Barnes & Noble on line and search their store for a book that is wanted, you have the option of purchasing a used copy from their authorized used book sellers? Yes indeed!

I have purchased books in superb condition, hardbacks, for as little as $1.99. Some older books that are now collectors items have been priced much lower through these authorized sellers. Or, if they fail to offer a reasonable price for a good book, Amazon.com usually comes through with the same book for much less. Or visa versa. You must do a little research into the used book business to find the very lowest price for these collector's items.

Today, I fairly squealed with delight when my mail lady arrived with three recently purchased books - all of them look brand new with perfect dust jackets. One of them is The Riverside Collection of Chaucer's works. When at University we used The Riverside Shakespeare book because it was the very same book used at Harvard. This book is in excellent condition. Except for a name scrawled in small letters in the top right hand corner of the first page, it is a perfectly clean copy, for $35.00.

I just had to say that.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Gratitude List Sequel

26. I am even grateful for my lovely apartment provided through Housing and Urban Development. Some people are living in the streets.
27. I am grateful that, even with all of his limitations, for we all have them, that Bruce takes care of me physically and emotionally with a generosity that knows no bounds. I am so very grateful that he, with compassionate interest, often helps to provide for my sister, Haley, Allen, even my mother and father.
28. I am grateful to live within the boundaries of a country that offers a freedom not enjoyed by the entire globe.
29. I am grateful for the forces of nature that teases me with rain, snow and sunshine.
30. I am grateful for the view outside my window. I can see the mountains and remember the deer, the bear, the turkey and the baby foxes that made me laugh, the squirrel that Manny loved to chase. I am grateful for the memory of the morning ritual of opening the door for Manny, while he charged outside, me hollering, "Go get 'em Cowboy!!!" Ah. . . so many memories of my Dobie, Little Man.
31. I am grateful for a good cup of coffee, a glass of wine and a burning scented candle. I always said that if I have those three things, I feel rich. But, I must also have books! "A room without books is like a body without a soul."
32. Although I stubbornly fight them, I am grateful for the tears, the sobs that can cleanse my inner being and bring about a newness, a calm that enables a fresher look at life.
33. I am grateful to have known the sound of the percussion made by the wind-chimes outside my bedroom window.
34. I am grateful for the sound of the Great Horned Owl who frequented the forest about me.
35. I am grateful for the sound of the crickets during the night and the bass of the frogs who resided by the lake, the Katy-Dids that added their music and the short and long horned grasshoppers who scratched a tune, for the little toads who sought refuge beneath my porch during the hours of daylight and trusted us to hold them at night, peering at the uniqueness of their species.
36. I am grateful for the nighttime cry of the Whip-or-Will who chose to nest behind our house. And, for the red tailed hawk who took up residence in our woods.
37. I am grateful for the unusual friendship with a Praying Mantas who made a certain Rendezvous unforgettable.
38. I am grateful for the singular day with Little Man in the rain, when we were spontaneously joined by an elderly gentleman who just had to grab his umbrella and follow our walk home, sharing our silliness and joy. I am grateful that I made him smile and for the final wave before he departed.
39. I am grateful to have witnessed the once in a lifetime sight and sound of a moving hive of bees.
40. I am also grateful to have seen an entire hive of bees settled into a bush to rest before they continued on their journey.
41. I am grateful to be able to hear the sound of music.
42. I feel grateful for all of the choices in life and to fear not death.
43. I am grateful for something new in my life. . . f riendships developed through a web-site named Etsy and for this blog that will offer me opportunity to express myself and find others who, like me, want to share their gift with the world.
I forgot to mention this dreadful incident occurred on a Christmas Day.
I find it necessary that before I finish my Gratitude List I clarify something pertaining to my separation from Ashley. Ashley herself is not the one who has denied me her companionship. It is her mother. In brief, due to a sleet storm we were unable to travel the 40 miles up a mountain to pick up Ashley - as we had planned - and take her to my parent's home at 11:00 A.M.

Weather was to warm by noon. We called Ashley about the change in plans. Noontime we called to tell Ashley we were coming for her; her mother and new husband then accused us of "always disappointing Ashley." Because they lived on a mountain and it wasn't sleeting there they accused us of lying. It was quite nasty. As you read my Gratitude List you will see how unfair this judgment was and why it has been heartbreaking. I will share more of her life and my memories in another post, someday.

Ashley is attending a boarding school at Milton Hershey, in Hershey Pa. Her mother won't allow me to have her address to write. My phone number and email address have changed since this split so Ashley is not able to contact me. But, I know that she will never forget the memories I hoped to create - to be the good in a horrendous childhood.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Life and Reality

As I sat here pondering what I should write, it occurred to me that, perhaps, one of the best ways to come to know someone would be to read their gratitude list. Not everyone has one, but everyone truly should. I wrote mine many months ago when I fell into a funk over the separation, although friendly, of my husband and I - a marriage of over thirty-three years. A dear friend suggested that I make such a list. I did and I was amazed at the things that sprang to my mind, unbidden yet urgent. They were all simple things.

So, I've decided to share this list with you. It is quite lengthy at a list of forty-two; I'll divide it in half. You need to know those who people my list. Bruce, my husband, niece Ashley (17 years old), niece, Haley (six years old) my "baby" brother, Allen (thirty-four years old), my beloved Doberman, Manny or Little Man whom I had to have put to sleep before he reached the age of seven. Oh, Bruce is fifty-eight. Putz is my working/service dog (four years old).

It will also help you to know that, by some unexpected and cruel lies and accusations, I have not had any contact with Ashley for about four years now. My phone number and email address have changed; Ashley can't even surreptitiously reach out to me. Her father is my brother a, supposed recovering alcoholic and drug addict. He and Ashley's mother have long been divorced. This incident with Ashley caused great pain, but my gratitudes have soothed the suffering.

Haley is also my brother Paul's child, to another woman, a prostitute. My sister and brother-in-law rescued Haley from the streets when she was five months old. It was winter and the mother was living on the streets; my brother was in jail. My sister, Barbara, is now a widow. Her husband died at home on Feb. 2008 from lung cancer. My sister is forty-four.

Several friends are mentioned and their nicknames may seem quite odd. They are people my husband and I met while participating in period re-enactments of the Fur Trading Era, an event called Rendezvous. I am also legally blind, which has nothing to do with the rest of this paragraph; I just thought you should know.

Gratitude List

1. I'm grateful that I can see well enough to read and write.
2. I'm grateful that I have some talent with words, whether it is recognized by others or not. Known or unknown, my poetry gives me joy; whether tearful, painful or filled with joy, my words define me and I am satisfied.
3. I'm grateful that even though I have lost my sleek athletic body, I still have all of my limbs; others must learn gratitude with a mere torso.
4. I am grateful for my home here at Sherman Hill Apartments. It pleases me with its esthetic beauty created by my nesting. Every morning I awaken and peer into the corners of my space and find peace.
5. I am grateful for Putz. Many others do not have, cannot afford a service dog and must live without a pet or companion to make them smile, to give them something alive to live for.
6. I am grateful that I had the years with Ashley. I gave her something that can never be stolen from her heart, nor mine. But, even if she were to forget me, I have the same joy and gratitude for those moments of time.
7. I am grateful for our tea parties, when we dressed in our gaudiest best, in heels too high, while she sipped her tea and me my wine, for the summer's party when we sat at the bistro table outside my bedroom window and she sang to me Broadway songs without any self-consciousness. I am grateful for the memory of blasting her favorite group at the time, Santana, while Uncle Bruce would teach her to dance. Such lovely tea parties we had - an annual tradition over summer vacation. Clothing and shoes, feather boas and hats purchased at thrift stores.
8. I am grateful for the memories Ashley gave me within her own gratitude, that she told me she believed that our new found relationship was like a gift. Such profundity from an eleven year old child.
9. I am grateful for my sister's strength. She is my mentor. I am grateful for Haley, grateful that I can make some difference in her life. I am grateful for her phone calls when we play a sort of hide and seek, sing songs, do the ABCs and count her numbers.
10. I am grateful that I raised Allen. Those years cannot be taken from us. Our love can never be torn away. I'm grateful that he loved me enough to find a way to Lake Harmony on an occasion of great mental and emotional need. It took great effort for him to travel the 600 mile round trip just for one day together.
11. I am grateful that by the generosity of friends I heard the ocean surf for the first time.
12. I am grateful for all those future opportunities to hear the same sound of the pounding surf. I feel great gratitude for this ocean, where I can be renewed and strengthened.
13. I am grateful for the friendship of Jim and Diane, for the time spent at the shore with them, to repay their kindness to us.
14. I am grateful that we had the opportunity to take Allen to the shore, not once, but twice.
15. I am grateful for Little Man, even though it brings tears to my eyes, even though I suffered terribly after his death, even though I had to make the decision to eliminate his pain. Manny gave me more than many people. I cry with longing still. I yearn with an ache that will never disappear. I am grateful to have shared the ocean with him, not once, but twice.
16. I am grateful for the friendship of Jim, Becky, Gary, Duane, Lisa, Guthrie, Ginger, "Parle' Vou, The Woods Fairy, Thumper and his drum. Cindy and Frank, Jim and Diane, Bob and Bev, Janet and Tom, Henry and Frank, Bobby B and Laura. . .so many friends, too many to name.
17. I am especially grateful for my friendship with Robert, a friend to whom I can reveal my vulnerabilities and who will listen and give wise advice without criticism, who watches out for me. I am grateful for his being there when I needed to be held and to talk endlessly.
18. I am grateful that I no longer have guilt feelings for Paul's circumstances, that I realize I have done all that could be done by me in his behalf. I am grateful to be firm and well-grounded in this lack of guilt. I wouldn't waver even if he had to take a job as an organ grinder's monkey.
19. I am grateful for the DREAM I had that allowed me to know the feeling of unconditional love. That can never be taken away from me.
20. I am grateful for cancer because it has taught me to prioritize my life. Even though I have stumbled and fallen, a higher power has kept me alive and given me the strength to change a situation in life that took away my priorities.
21. I am grateful for the wisdom of my oncologist, Dr. Torres, not just because he is an excellent doctor in his field but because he treats the whole person, mentally, emotionally and physically. I'm glad he cherishes the letter I wrote to him and gave me this advice, "Never go to bed without writing something."
22. I am grateful to have met Bruce, although saddened by our past, present and seemingly powerlessness to change our future.

Whew! I'm sure you're glad this first half is done! My comment about my brother's being an organ grinder's monkey might sound callous, but you would have to know the circumstances. Let's just say I've found a way to deal with him that includes a sense of humor.

Till next time Pilgrim!