Thursday, January 15, 2015

Value of the Holidays

     When I was a kid I looked forward to Christmas for the usual reasons kids did -- the toys, the box of chocolates the family could choose from (just one at a time, please), the lasagna dinner in our untraditional, part Italian household. Our extended family was far away so we kept close to what we had at hand, though my Uncle Chester and Aunt Estelle, a few towns over,  seemed to have their own friends, and we rarely ever saw them. (Now, decades late, I'm in the same situation, very far from biological family, so I have tended to look to others close by if possible for creation of a family of my own.)
      This occurred when we first moved a few states away from New York. We met a group of couples at the local Catholic church and started to create a family, of sorts. We'd have monthly potlucks and hike together, especially since we lived in a mountainous part of Virginia with many trails in numerous areas. But they eventually left, and so did we.
     Now we live in a different area and our sons are grown and far away. As they get older, it seems more interesting (even fun) when they visit. It's especially nice that they have different specialty recipes they can cook for us during the holidays. This Christmas, for example, we had the untraditional Christmas dinner of  Kung Pao Pork. One of our sons joked that that was a "Jewish" dinner for Christmas. Maybe they were thinking of that movie, "A Christmas Story," where the turkey gets ruined and they go to a Chinese restaurant for dinner on Christmas.
     Adult children can make much better companions at Christmas time, as they will not throw a fit (haven't so far) about what they get for Christmas (though we try to get something they actually want). And they can help with cooking and playing games, and don't mind going for a walk on a day when the temperatures have gone up, or hamming it up for the camera. Really, holidays, if you're not together much and get along, can be a nice time.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Went to Hokie "Bug Fest" at Virginia Tech

     There is something that happens every October at Virginia Tech. This university, with its emphasis on science, showcases all kinds of "bugs" --- bees, cockroaches, spiders, the making of honey, bugs that glow in the dark. At the most recent "bug fest" held at the conference center at Virginia Tech, Dr. Fell,
one of the bee experts, told me that by 11 a.m. (the event was  held 10-5 Oct. 11th) 1100 people had passed through this free event. Everyone should learn a bit more about bugs.
    See more info at www.facebook.com/hokiebugfest .

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Crosby Stills and Nash still activists, great concert

                                                      Crosby Stills and Nash now


     I recently, for my wedding anniversary, arranged for the spouse and I to see Crosby, Stills and Nash in concert in Roanoke, Virginia. The Performing Arts Theater seemed to be packed -- packed with folks close to the age of the aging activist group, myself included. But just because you've got gray hair or are starting to creak in a few places it doesn't mean that you don't still have work to do. And I think David Crosby pointed this out, indirectly.
    "There's a rumor this is a political band," Crosby said. "It was just one song," he said, as someone in the audience yelled out "Ohio." Then he said," Oh, three songs. Oh, 18 songs and three protest songs." Then Graham Nash pointed out how a Vietnam a monk  poured gasoline over himself and burned to death to protest the Vietnam War, and now, in Tibet, monks there are doing the same to protest China's trying to destroy the state of Tibet. Then they all sang a song called "Burning the Buddha". 
    The group could still harmonize and played favorites like "Marrakesh Express,"  "For What It's Worth" (Hey, children, what's that sound) and "Teach Your Children". The latter the whole audience got up for and then sang with them on the words.
But there were a few times when their backup band drowned out their singing a bit. When they did solos with one instrument that was probably the best.
     Where are the activist bands now? Who is protesting the overuse of big money in elections? Who is saying we need a "conservation policy NOW"? Who wants us to have decent healthcare in America, land of the free and home of the brave? We need artists talking about these things and having young people working for change.
     They may be gray haired and "up there" in age, but they can still sing and get people thinking.
So we bought a tee shirt and expensive wine ($7 bucks a pop) and enjoyed reminiscing with the music. Too bad young people are not activists today. Perhaps the demonstrators in Ferguson, Missouri feel they are protesting for justice....

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Remembering some of my writers' conference in New York

      While I was at a writers' conference in  Hamilton, New York, in June, the husband sent me an email that he couldn't open his hotmail account. Now how was I supposed to help with that? It asked me a bunch of questions for secret passwords and special questions I didn't know about, or what was the subject of his recent emails--- how am I supposed to know that? Since we didn't have a phone to share, I sent him and his brothers and sister-in-law messages over Facebook. I think they eventually informed him I was trying to contact him, and through the Facebook account of his I "messaged" when to pick me up on that Thursday.
     On the third day at the writers' conference at Colgate U. I finally got to use the umbrella I had been carrying around. It was wet and the big white pine across from my window gently swayed in the wind.
     Greg Ames' reading about a older professor trying to challenge his students to many things (including arm wrestling) was hilarious. He also spoke at length about magic realism and fabulism, Kafka and Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the latter of whom read Kafka and thought you "weren't allowed" to write like that. We also read Aimee Bender's "Rememberer", a fabulistic tale, where you change just one thing, her boyfriend devolving from a person into an amoeba she puts into the sea.
I don't know if I can write like that, but it seems I can have a flair for humor, probably more than for the serious, except in the case of nonfiction. I'd love to get a nonfiction book deal!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Sort of off the Right Track (Story of my life)

      One never knows about life's turns. We obviously took the "wrong" turn (a right to incorrect directions from this young guy at the tubing place on the river, who obviously has no idea where "Kentland Farms" and the river put-in is) and found ourselves taking all these turns away from the river. We were planning to meet up with fellow Master Naturalists and canoe the New, and then go to a picnic at the end of the route. But the spouse was tired and after driving around there and back (like 90 minutes of our time) he said he was tired and didn't want to just go to the picnic.
    It would have been a good diversion. I spoke on the phone the other day with my oldest sister -- what  happens in Vegas, will not "stay" in Vegas. My mother has 2 grown children hanging off of her and when she passes, a big chunk of change will be gone and they will expect us to fill it back in. Well, the husband is not about to agree to this. It is stressful thinking about the chaos that will ensue after she dies. I can't even have a decent conversation with the 2 siblings in Vegas, and my mother refuses to live closer to me here. What a mess.
    But I also gotten "off track" with regards to writing my novel. I need to do something as one day the leaches will be demanding more so I need to make some more. Hopefully my mother will be around long enough that I can make some money writing and be a little help later on.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Visiting Roanoke's Taubman and R. U.

                                                         Taubman Musem, Roanoake, VA

      So,  having visitors, especially one with an injury, can present challenges. My son's girlfriend Stephanie had injured herself slipping at the area's well known "Cascades Falls," causing her to break a foot. So trying to manuever around after that wasn't that easy. We went to a movie, she went to Urgent Care and presented her Obamacare card, then we wanted to do something more active, like visit R. U. campus and go around the Taubman Museum in Roanoke. Luckily, both places  had a wheelchair we could "borrow," which was very convenient. We left the crutches with them and returned the crutches for the wheelchair later.
     And the Taubman, which is hugely airy,  had an elevator that easily got us to the second floor. On display in two big rooms were the oils of Bill Rutherfoord. He painted a lot of interesting animals from stories, such as Brer rabbit, Brer fox and Brer bear, I guess to symbolize the old South. There were also very bright colors and other things that represented corporate America, such as a boat and pelican sinking symbolizing the Gulf Oil Spill. Son Zeb said you just throw in whatever you want and say what you want it to symbolize. I didn't get the painting the side sign said was his dad looking pained because his father was a minister and the Catholic Church was giving him a hard time. In the South? I don't believe that, or his assertion in a video embedded in the wall that said the South doesn't really exist anymore. A traditional South with servants and slaves may be gone, but I think some elements still remain.
     The Taubman also had jeweled bags and tiny statues on display behind glass, some Impressionists' works, and some very traditional oils and abstract work. A fairly good variety.
We didn't have time to go to the third floor and I think the post cards, at  $1.00, were a little expensive. But the wheelchair was very convenient and Zeb pushed his girlfriend through the whole exhibition and got a workout too.
       

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Travel by train, travel to writers' conference at Colgate U.

    My experience coming here (on the train and on to the writers' conference at Colgate U.) a bit like the movie the Out of Towners. We get on the "Empire" train part of the Amtrak trip and  and discover it is a 'commuter' train, kind of like the one in that movie Unfaithful, with Richard Gere (here I am mentioning movies again-- am too media oriented, as opposed to literature oriented). Well, there is no snack "cafe" car and therefore, no drinks. And in frustration, what do I do-- chew on a salty pretzel. The spouse wanted me to hurry up, though we had like 45 minutes in Penn Station for our train to arrive to go north. So I bought a souvenir and a Daily News, with info on the  cover about crazy killings of soldiers in Iraq, and forgot my watered down soda in the store :( . 
     So I go to the bathroom and lo and behold, there is a faucet,  but an odd one. You push "up" on it. I did that to get some water to put in my water bottle for my poor famished mouth and it started getting warmer. And warmer. And then hot. It wouldn't freaking shut off. I guiltily put a little water in my small stainless steel bottle I got from Big Lots and then, well, I figured I should contact a conductor. I went up and down 2 cars in front and 2 cars in back of ours and told a lady about my predicament in one -- she said the conductor went 'that a way' and if he came back this a way she would tell him my sad story. 
     Now at the writers' conference, I find I have no phone, no computer glasses, no pool, no pets (to quote the song "King of the Road"). You lose things in travel, you know?