Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Beauty and the Beast...and their children

            Belle sighed. Maybe she shouldn’t have married him. It wasn’t like she hadn’t known that his nickname was “Beast”. She just hadn’t cared. She’d been in love for the first time in her life, and she had gone with her emotions.

            In truth, it wasn’t Beast who took center stage in her latest parade of worries. It wasn’t fair to blame him for the way their children were turning out. He was a good father; no one could deny that. The problem was, well, it was the kids themselves.

Amanda, their 16-year-old daughter, was the oldest of the family. She had big brown eyes and silky chestnut hair. She was a beauty, but Amanda was a perfect example of the old saying that beauty is only skin deep. Belle flinched at the sounds crashing down from upstairs. Amanda was tossing the furniture around her chamber in a fit of uncontrollable anger. It was impossible to know what had set her off this morning, but Belle suspected that it had something to do with her current suspension from Princess High School. The girl was going to have to learn to get along with the other princesses before she killed someone and ended up serving a life sentence in the dungeon.

Bertrand was second in line. He was 15 now, and more like Belle than any of the other children. He shut out the world with books. He always had his nose in a book, which didn’t bother Belle; she herself loved to read. However, Bertrand never stood up for himself. Years of being picked on by his classmates and his older sister had turned Bertrand into a pathetic, cringing coward. Belle knew that he was going to find himself tested at some point – we all are – and she hoped that he had also inherited enough of her determination and strength to find a backbone. Unfortunately, she had never seen any signs that he would.

Belle suspected that Cristian, age 13, had recently joined a gang. She knew that he snuck out of the castle at night to meet his “friends”. There had been a rash of petty robberies lately, and the town merchants were determined to catch the group of juvenile delinquents that were responsible. How one of her children could join a gang led by Gaston, Jr. was beyond her. When Cristian was finally caught, she was going to let him rot in a jail cell for a day or two before she went to bail him out. Tough love was the only thing that was going to work with that boy; he had the brains and common sense of a turnip. Still, he was young. Maybe she and Beast would be able to turn him around.

Danielle trotted into the kitchen and pulled a chair close to Belle’s. “Are you all right, Mommy?” she asked as she climbed up into the chair and put her arms around Belle.

“Never better,” Belle answered, smiling at the 6-year-old girl. Danielle was a bit chubby with red hair and green eyes. Belle couldn’t remember anyone in her family having red hair or green eyes, but Beast said that Danielle was the spitting image of his great-great-grandmother. Belle held the girl close and stroked her hair.

“Something’s bothering you,” Danielle whispered. “But you don’t need to worry about it, Mommy. It’s going to be OK.”

Danielle had a touch of magic in her soul. Belle sometimes wondered if the witch who had taught Beast a lesson about love had given Danielle a special gift. The witch visited them often, and she spent a lot of time with Danielle when she was there. But it didn’t really matter what had made Danielle the way she was. Danielle was...Danielle.

“I’m sure you’re right,” Belle murmured into the girl’s hair. She pulled back so she could look deeply into her daughter’s eyes. “You always are,” she teased.

Danielle nodded solemnly. “It’s a mother’s job to worry, though. I understand that.”

“I guess it is,” Belle agreed.

Danielle gave her mother a big hug and climbed off the chair. “I think we should name her Elizabeth,” she said as she pushed open the door to the garden and ran out.

“Wait, Danielle,” Belle called after her. She got up and walked to door. “Who are we going to name Elizabeth?”

Danielle turned around, and Belle could see her eyes twinkling with delight. “My new sister, of course.”

            “Your new sister?” Belle gasped. “Oh my.” 

Monday, August 29, 2011

Rogue Pandas Attack Flagstaff, Arizona

            Don’t you just wish sometimes that you were in the right place at the right time? Here I was, on the other side of the country, when rogue pandas attacked Flagstaff, Arizona late Sunday night. Despite the inherent danger, I really would have liked to have seen that for myself.

            I’ve seen pandas before; we have some at the Atlanta zoo. However, I have never seen our pandas do much more than sleep and eat. I want to know what pandas look like when they’re doing something else. Rogue pandas attacking a city the way Godzilla attacked Tokyo? Now that would be something to see.

            Unfortunately, there isn’t even any video footage of the panda attacks on youtube. I guess the local Flagstaff residents were too busy running for their lives to stop and take photos. It’s a bit disappointing.

            I raise a glass to Flagstaff, Arizona, for fighting off rogue pandas without incurring a single casualty. You rock!

Note to PETA – No pandas were injured in the writing of this blog.

Read the news article about the panda attacks on Reuters:   http://in.reuters.com/article/2011/08/25/us-arizona-pandas-idINTRE77O5DY20110825

Friday, August 26, 2011

Ella Writes Her Own Story

            “It was a dark and stormy night.” I considered my choice of opening sentences carefully. Yuck! Too banal. Besides, I’m pretty sure an English teacher took twenty points off my assignment before she’d read more than the first line the last time I used it.

            “Thunder rolled across the North Georgia mountains; it sounded like little men bowling in heaven.” I got up to get a drink of water and hopefully to shake loose whatever was stuck in my head. Too Rip van Winkle. I don’t want to have to apologize to Washington Irving.

            I sat back down at my computer and backspaced until I was left with a blank screen. Maybe I shouldn’t start with the weather. “Pansy wasn’t beautiful, but men seldom noticed.” Great balls of fire! Now I’m channeling Margaret Mitchell.

            It’s a bad writing day when the delete button gets more of a workout than the rest of your keyboard. Maybe I’ll go throw a load of laundry into the washer. The dishwasher needs to be emptied, too.

            I sighed and positioned my hands above the keyboard in serious typing pose until my arms started to get tired.

            “Once upon a time, there was….”

            Did I really want to write a fairytale? Maybe. OK, then.

            “Once upon a time, there was a woman who dreamed of being a published author. Unfortunately, she lived with her stepmother and her two stepsisters, who kept interrupting her while she was writing. They made her do chores. She scrubbed the laundry on a rock at the creek. She washed the dishes and mopped the floors. Her hands were terribly red and sore.

            But she didn’t lose heart. Ella had her dream and it kept her going. She sang while she worked, and the birds, the rats, and the little white poodle followed her around. Her favorite song was Paperback Writer by the Beatles. The puppy barked the rhythm and the birds twittered the back-up. The rats squeaked and applauded when they finished.

            One night, her stepmother and stepsisters were invited to a party. There was supposed to be a handsome prince attending, and her stepsisters hoped that he was planning on bringing a bunch of his friends along. It had been a long time since they’d had dates.

            Ella was excited that her stepfamily was going to be gone for an entire evening. She’d have lots of uninterrupted time to write! She waved goodbye to them and headed for her laptop computer. She turned it on, propped her feet on the coffee table, and started to write.

            Her first attempt was deplorable. ‘It was a dark and stormy night’ was quickly deleted. The opening line about thunder was deleted just as quickly. Ella was depressed. She had all this free time to write, and she couldn’t think of anything to write. She put her laptop down and wandered out to the garden.

            A tear ran down her cheek. She’d never be a published author if she didn’t actually write anything. Writer’s block now? That was so unfair.

            Lights twinkled, and all of a sudden there was an elderly lady sitting next to her. ‘Great,’ she thought. ‘This is just what I need.’

            ‘You’re crying, my child,’ the lady noted sympathetically in a honeyed drawl. She wore a velvet green dress that looked just like the one Scarlet O’Hara had made out of the parlor drapes.

            ‘I’m having a pity party for myself,’ Ella answered. ‘And I don’t remember inviting guests,’ she added in a mutter under her breath while flashing the elderly lady a half-hearted smile.

            ‘You want to go to the party with your family, don’t you?’ The question was obviously rhetorical, because by the time Ella opened her mouth to answer, she found herself dressed in the dress Scarlet O’Hara had worn to the picnic at Twelve Oaks. It was so tight she couldn’t breathe, much less speak. The next thing she knew, she was in a chauffeured limo heading to a party.

            ‘Bruno? Is that you?” The chauffeur with the curly white hair raised a hand and growled at her. Now that was freaky. Her dog was driving a limo. Who was that elderly lady anyway?

            The limo arrived at a house so large it looked like a palace. She would swear it even had battlements and gargoyles. She got out of the limo with some difficulty; what sadist had invented these ridiculous hoop skirts?

            Loud music blasted from the open double doors at the top of a long stone staircase. Ella headed up the stairs, wincing as the whalebone corset dug into her ribs. Finally reaching the doors, she stopped to take in the explosion of energy in the room in front of her.

            Scantily clad young people were dancing to hip hop music. The bass shook the room, and Ella put her hand to her forehead. She was getting an enormous headache. She was dressed for a costume party, and this obviously wasn’t one. It was downright embarrassing. If she ever saw that old lady again, she was going to have a few choice words for her. She turned to leave.

            ‘Wait!’ A man dressed in black jeans and a black silk shirt open to the navel to display his heavy gold jewelry chased her down the stairs. She was dressed in 1850; he was dressed in 1970. Maybe it was a costume party.

            She slowed down impatiently and turned to face him. ‘What?’

            ‘You’re not leaving already, are you?’ he asked.


            ‘Can I get your phone number?’ His face pleaded with her. ‘Please?’

            ‘No.’ She pulled the limo door open and started the precarious process of getting in while wearing a hoop skirt. One of her shoes came off and landed in the street. She ignored it, closed the door and told Bruno to get a move on. He took off like a greyhound chasing a rabbit out of the starting gate. Glancing out of the back window, she saw the 70’s dude holding her white satin pump to his chest as if it were a precious possession. ‘Now that’s just creepy,’ she thought, shuddering.

            Back at home, Bruno turned back into her beloved poodle and Ella found herself dressed in her jeans and t-shirt once more. She ended up having to search for a pair of sneakers, though. She was still wearing the one satin shoe she hadn’t dropped.

She looked at the clock. It was midnight. That old woman had made her waste her precious writing time, although admittedly she hadn’t been using it effectively. She still had a few minutes before everyone else got home, though. She booted up her laptop and got to work.

An hour later, her stepmother and stepsisters came home. Ella had written 1200 words, and they actually seemed to be good words. She was happy. Perhaps her outing had stirred her creative juices.

             ‘Hey Ella!’ one of her stepsisters called. ‘There’s a guy here to see you. He says his name is Prince and he’s got one of your shoes? He says he’s in love with the owner of these shoes, if you can believe that. He’s nuts, but he’s kind of cute.’

            Ella groaned. ‘Um…that’s your shoe. I borrowed them when you were out. The other one is on the hall table.’

            ‘Really? It doesn’t look familiar,’ her stepsister replied.

            ‘I swear that you own those shoes,’ Ella lied. ‘That guy is all yours if you want him.’

            ‘He is kinda hot.’

            Ella grimaced. ‘Go for it. I’m going back to my writing now.’

            ‘You’re always writing,’ her stepsister complained. ‘It’s so boring. You never go out and have adventures. I don’t know what you even have to write about.’

            Ella just smiled."

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Washington "Fault Line"

Have you seen this FaceBook post yet?        

The Weather Channel says today's east coast earthquake was caused by an unknown fault line running under D.C. and through Virginia. It is now being called Obama's Fault, though Obama will say it's really Bush's Fault. Other theories are that it was the founding fathers rolling over in their graves or that what we all believe to be an earthquake was actually the effects of a 14.6 trillion dollar check bouncing in Washington.

            Although I normally do not believe that there are anything but scientific causes in natural phenomena such as earthquakes, I find myself contemplating this post with some anxiety. You see, I am concerned that the founding fathers really are rolling over in their graves. Perhaps they’re even spinning by now. Our federal government is power hungry and out of control, our free-market-based economy is in danger, we have young Americans dying on foreign soil, and we have mortgaged our land to the Chinese. I think it is quite plausible to assume that the earthquake in Virginia was caused by the combined distress of John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and Benjamin Franklin.
“Liberty must at all hazards be supported. We have a right to it, derived from our Maker. But if we had not, our fathers have earned and bought it for us, at the expense of their ease, their estates, their pleasure, and their blood.”
John Adams, A Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law, 1765

 The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions, that I wish it to be always kept alive. It will often be exercised when wrong, but better so than not to be exercised at all. I like a little rebellion now and then. It is like a storm in the atmosphere.”
Thomas Jefferson, letter to Abigail Adams, February 22, 1787

"The preservation of the sacred fire of liberty, and the destiny of the republican government, are justly considered as deeply, perhaps as finally stacked, on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people."
George Washington, First Inaugural Address, 1789

“They that can give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
Benjamin Franklin, Historical Review of Pennsylvania, 1759

So I'm left wondering:
  • Do we still support John Adams’ ideas about liberty? 
  • Will we rebel against a power-hungry government that threatens to take away the freedoms we have taken for granted?
  • Is this the final chapter in Washington’s republic experiment or will we wake up and realize that what we have is worth fighting for, even if we must fight our own government to take it back?
  •  Are we content to exchange liberty for safety? Do we really want the government to take care of us so that we don’t have to worry about our health care, our old age, or our children’s education?
             The earthquake yesterday damaged the Washington Monument, an important symbol of our heritage. I believe that we have the responsibility not only to fix our national monument, but also to fix what’s wrong with the representative republic that it symbolizes. I suspect our founding fathers will continue to rest uneasily in their graves until we do.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Mainstream News: Celebrity Chefs Exchange Cutting Words

            Anthony Bourdain is a celebrity food chef and critic. You probably recognize him from his picture below. His show “No Reservations” on the Travel Channel is awesome; he eats some of the strangest food from the most distant places on the planet. You can tell he loves his job. But it is his role as a food critic that put him in the mainstream news this week.

            Bourdain was interviewed for TV Guide magazine, and his interview was picked up by the New York Post. It seems that Bourdain’s opinion of Paula Deen, a celebrity chef on the Food Network, is less than flattering. Bourdain actually called Ms. Deen “the worst, most dangerous person to America”. That seems to be overly dramatic to me, but Bourdain is well-known and loved for his scathing criticisms.

Admittedly, Paula Deen cooks elaborate Southern cuisine. Her recipes are heavy on butter, cream and calories. Eat one of her dishes and you’ll find yourself without any Weight Watchers points for the rest of the week. Eat two of her dishes and you’ll feel your arteries clogging while you’re still at the table. But does that really make her the “most dangerous person to America”?

I’m anxiously waiting for Paula Deen to respond to this accusation. I suspect that, given her Southern charm, she could make Anthony Bourdain squirm in his chair like a 10-year-old boy caught using the “f” word at the Graceland Baptist church.

I wish you luck, Mr. Bourdain, bless your heart.

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Culture of Academia

            I am new to the whole college scene. Did you just snort in disbelief? I suppose you have a point. I have 3 college degrees and you know that as soon as I can find a program that I like – and can afford – I’ll be going back to school to earn my PhD. Allow me to clarify. This week has been my first opportunity to view upper level academia from the teacher’s perspective.

            Right now, I am experiencing academic culture shock. The college has a complex social order that I have yet to figure out. It is clear, though, that in the old caste system of India, I would have been considered an “untouchable”. I have the status of the new kid at McDonald’s who is responsible for cleaning the toilets until management hires the next new kid.

            I have had the experience of being the newest hire at McDonald’s who has to keep the restrooms somewhat better than nasty. My new job is actually way better than that. I work with struggling student writers. Helping them makes me feel as if I really make a difference. I like that.

As a tutor, I’m not part of the political maneuvering that goes on all around me all the time. At least for right now, this suits me.  I’m content to watch from the sidelines, a sociologist studying the PhD bears in their natural academic habitat. There has to be some great material to write about there.

Go Grizzlies!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

First Day on the New Job

            “I have a headache!” I plopped down on the sofa, leaned back and propped my feet on the coffee table.

            “You’ve only been working one day,” Alex pointed out. “How can you have a headache already?”

            Chris couldn’t hide a smile, but he handed me a couple of Tylenol and a glass of water.

            “And I’m exhausted,” I whined. “I had to get up before dawn. I can’t believe people actually do this every day.”

            “You were still sleeping when I left for school. What time did you get up?”

            “7:30 IN THE MORNING!”

            Alex didn’t look impressed. “I had been in class for 10 minutes before you even got out of bed.” Chris didn’t bother to hide a chuckle.

            “So what’s your point, young man?” I opened one eye to glare at him.

            “No point,” he said, putting up his hands in surrender and walking out of the room. “Jeez, she’s such a drama queen,” he muttered.

            “I heard that,” I called after him.

            Chris sat down next to me and took my hand. “Didn’t you have a good day? First day on a new job can be tough.”

            “I had a great day,” I answered honestly. “I think I’m going to love working at the college. The people I’m working with are really nice.”

            “That’s good. So what is your problem?”

            “I just don’t like this whole having-to-go-to-work-every-day thing. I don’t like getting up early and I don’t have much time for my writing now.”

            “But you’ll have more money. Besides, you love to teach. You just need to get settled into a routine.”

            “I know you’re right.” I answered. “I hate that.”

            “I know you do,” Chris laughed. “But I do get to be right once in a while, don’t I?”

            “I guess,” I replied grudgingly.

            He leaned over and kissed me. “Can I buy you some dinner, Professor?”

            I smiled. “That would be awesome.”

Monday, August 15, 2011

Leaving the Fairytale Behind

            Aurora sat on the patio behind her palace and soaked in the morning sunshine. She closed her eyes for a moment, and then quickly opened them again. She didn’t want to fall asleep. How many years had she spent sleeping before Philip had awakened her with that kiss? What a waste of time!

            Still, she hadn’t aged while she’d been under Maleficent’s evil spell, which had been a plus. She sure had aged since then. Years of keeping up with children, dogs, and the princess job had started to wear her out. Her knees creaked and groaned when she walked, and she had carpel tunnel syndrome in her right wrist. Laugh lines added character to her face; her lovely blue eyes had faded just a bit. Sometimes she suspected that the whole aging process was a Maleficent evil spell, part 2.

            Philip was definitely the best thing that had ever come her way. Her handsome prince was kind and loving, and he didn’t seem to notice that they’d grown older. To him, she was still the sleeping beauty he’d first kissed so many years ago. Now that was true love.

            It wasn’t always easy, though, this “happily ever after”. Sometimes the kingdom owed more money than it brought in. They had to work hard just to make ends meet. The castle needed a new roof and the garden needed weeding. Again. The youngest prince was forever outgrowing his shoes and wearing holes in his tunics. Soon he’d be needing tuition money to attend the university.

But Aurora didn’t spend much time worrying about the gold coins she didn’t have. Maleficent had taught her not to take a single day of “happily ever after” for granted. She got up and walked down the steps to the lawn. Her little white poodle trotted ahead, now and then jumping up to touch the butterflies that fluttered about the wildflowers. She laughed; he looked like an adorable character in a Disney cartoon.

A string of moments spent with family, friends, and her precious dogs was what “happily ever after” meant to Aurora. She felt sad for those princesses who believed that “happily ever after” meant “perfect in every way”. That must be so boring, she thought. No challenges, no surprises, no…life. “Perfect in every way” was fine for fairytales, but not for real life.

            Aurora had outgrown her fairytale. 

Friday, August 12, 2011

Homework and Other Things that Make Parents Crazy

            “Do you have homework tonight?”

            “Yeah, but not too much. I’ll be back later, ‘k?”

            “No, it’s not OK, young man. Why don’t you just sit down and get that homework out of the way?”

            “Going to the gym first,” he said around a mouthful of turkey sandwich.

            “When are you planning to do your homework?”

            “I’ll be home for dinner. I’ll do the homework after dinner. See ya.” Alex kissed my forehead, patted the dog, and slammed the door as he left.

            “What are we going to do about your boy, Wreck? It’s only the first week of school and he’s already procrastinating. Why do I have to remind him to do his homework?”

            The little white poodle jumped up into my lap and licked my hand.

            “You’re right. I need to just let it go. He’s 17 years old and if he doesn’t have it now, there’s really nothing I can do.”

            Wreck started to snore. He was curled up in a little ball on my lap, happy as could be.

            I stroked his fur and thought for a moment. Did it really matter if Alex did his homework right now? He said he’d do it later, and he was a good kid. Alex wasn’t worried about it, Wreck wasn’t worried about it, so why was I feeling that knot in my stomach? Why was I worrying about it?

            For me and probably for lots of other teachers, the “New Year” begins on the first day of school in the fall. I made my first – and only – resolution and promised myself I would actually follow through this time. This was the year I was going to stop sweating the small stuff.  Really? Yes, really.

            Do you suppose I should keep a list of how well I’m doing? Let’s think this through. Making a list would become a chore, another bit of small stuff for me to sweat. Not a good idea. I can see that keeping this resolution might be more difficult than I thought.  I’m going to give it a try, though. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

And Now for Some GOOD News!

            In a world full of bad news, you have to do some serious searching to locate the good news. This heartwarming story about a couple in China is just what we need to make us smile. I only wish that it was the lead story on Fox News.

            Pang Kun had decided that the time was right. He loved his girlfriend and he wanted to marry her. They’d live happily ever after; he just knew it!

But he wanted his proposal to be memorable. He thought back to their first date and decided to remind her of a moment that was particularly special to him. So he and 48 of his friends dressed up as…carrots… and headed to the local shopping center where he had arranged to meet the love of his life.

Getting down on one knee (root?) in front of her, Pang reminisced about the couple’s first dinner together and asked her to marry him. Bystanders shouted for her to say yes. Her face resembling a beet more than a carrot, she said yes.

            Watch this touching story for yourself. Don’t forget to grab a tissue before you click play. Young love – there’s nothing like it, is there?

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Blame Game

            “Lucy, for the first time in American history, Standard & Poors has downgraded the American credit rating from AAA to AA+.”

            My friend, who had taught high school Civics for years, snorted but otherwise didn’t say anything. The implications of the S&P downgrade were clear to her. President Obama’s face was in a small box on the left side of the TV screen; the Dow Jones Industrial Average fluctuations for the day were in constant motion on a chart behind him. It felt like we were watching a broken elevator car full of millions of Americans plunging toward the basement of the Washington Monument. The end results were going to be nasty.

Market closed
-634.76 -5.55%
Aug 8, 2011, 4:30 p.m.
Previous close
Day low
Day high
Open: 11,433.93
52 week low
52 week high

            Lucy was lying in bed, getting over a mild “stomach flu” which I suspect might have been caused by eating something that disagreed with her. The nursing home, for some reason, could not seem to remember that she was allergic to onions. She pointed to the pink plastic tub on the bed next to her. “You can use my barf bucket if you want,” she said.

            I had to laugh. “Thanks, Lucy. As generous an offer as that is, I’m going to pass on it. I hope.”

            “You know whose fault that is?” she asked me, waving her hand at the TV.

            I took a stab at it. “Every president, congressperson, and federal judge since Hoover?”

            She chuckled. “I was going to blame the public education system, but it’s really the same thing, isn’t it?”

            I thought about that for a moment. “Yes, I guess it is. The public education system is responsible for churning out American citizens who vote for those power-hungry idiots.”

            I picked up the remote control and changed the channel on the TV. We are intelligent people, but watching the Dow plummet like that was too too depressing for words. We’d catch up with the news later. At the moment, it was a relief to hear Jeff Foxworthy asking if we're smarter than a fifth grader. BTW, Lucy and I are smarter than fifth graders. I wonder if my Senator is.... 

Friday, August 5, 2011

Irons and Other Special Birthday Presents

So have you heard this one?

Husband buys his son an iPAD, daughter an iPOD, himself an iPHONE & his wife an iRON. She wasn't impressed even after he explained it can be integrated with the iWASH, iCOOK & iCLEAN network. This triggered the iNAG service, which totally wiped out the iSHAG function!!

This joke was first told by cavemen who decided that their loincloths would look neater if they were pressed flat.  As I heard it, the man kicked a hot rock out of the fire and told the woman to use it to press his clothes while he was out hunting. It was her birthday, and when he came home without having caught dinner and then refused to take her out to eat, she threw the rock/iron at him. He spent the next several nights wearing a wrinkled loincloth and sleeping under a tree outside the cave.

Much later (when iron had actually been forged), women had to put their small clothing irons in the kitchen fire to heat. It would have been no small undertaking to iron cotton clothing without burning little holes in it. It also added an extra day to do the laundry, which already took 2 days to wash by hand and hang dry. So just imagine Ma’s delight if Pa gave her an iron for her birthday. Little House on the Prairie was a family show, but I can tell you that behind the scenes Pa would have been spending an uncomfortable night or two sleeping in the barn.

Electric steam irons were invented in the early 1950’s. That would have been a nifty gift for Ralph to give his wife Alice for her birthday. hmm…I’m thinking I might have actually seen that episode of The Honeymooners. Remember? It was the one where Alice sent Ralph “Bang, Zoom, to the Moon!”

In these enlightened times, a husband would never give his wife an appliance for her birthday, right? He would have heard these jokes and realized that she doesn’t want an iron as a gift. She doesn’t want an electric fryer or a vacuum cleaner either. Women don’t view these tools as toys the way men do. Give a man a cordless drill for his birthday, and he will happily go off and poke holes in pieces of wood for hours. Give a woman an iron for her birthday, and watch how long it’ll take before she’s aiming it at your head.

Of course, if you’re younger than I am (my kids would interject “and who isn’t?” here) and your boyfriend/husband gives you an iron for your birthday, you will have no idea what to do with it. Modern fabrics usually don’t need to be pressed, but if you do buy something that needs to be ironed you can always have the dry cleaner on the corner take care of that for you. My suggestion, girls, is to return that iron and buy yourself a nice blouse with the money. Don’t forget to politely thank your man for the lovely shirt he gave you for your birthday. Maybe he’ll get the idea. If he does, that will make him the first man in history to get it. You should keep him.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Creative Ways to Keep People from Parking Illegally

            My homeowners’ association has a rule against people parking their cars on the street. The homes in my neighborhood have 2-car garages and fairly long driveways, so you wouldn’t expect the rule to be that big a deal. Not so. It’s a big deal.

Since my sons have traded in their scooters and Big Wheels on automobiles, we have become a 4-car household. If you ignore the fact that it’s ridiculous that each member of my family “needs” his own car, we handle the no-street-parking rule pretty well. We shuffle cars, with two in the garage and two on the driveway at any given time. As Tim Gunn would say, we “make it work”.

My neighbors, however, are not always able to “make it work”. Many of them have garages full of stuff, if you can imagine that. One guy down on the corner runs a furniture refinishing shop in his garage. His car is always parked on the street. If he doesn’t stop yelling at the kids for standing on his grass while they're waiting for the school bus, someone might report his illegal business and his illegally parked car to the authorities. Just saying.

I have to admit that it can be a bit annoying to drive, walk, or bicycle in our neighborhood. The streets are narrow and we don’t have sidewalks. If two brainless people park their minivans on opposite sides of the street directly across from each other, my neighbor who drives the Hummer has to go find one of them to move a van so he can get through. Obviously, the rule against parking on the street in my neighborhood is not being enforced. Except for maybe Hummer dude, the rest of us are pretty much OK with that.

However, there are places where the no-parking rules are strictly enforced. In Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, you will have a big problem if you leave your car where it’s not supposed to be. Will they give you a ticket? Nope. Will they tow your car? Nope. So what is the consequence of leaving your car parked illegally? The Mayor runs over your car with a Soviet-era tank. I’m thinking the man is serious about putting a stop to illegal parking. Do you suppose Lithuanian auto insurance covers that kind of damage?

            So consider yourself warned, people. If you leave your car in an illegal spot, the consequences may be more drastic than you ever imagined. Wow!