Oddments

In search of story


18 Comments

September 21.22: Coping, but barely

My mother had a habit —

endearing it was not —

that ended every argument

abruptly on the spot.

“That’s just dumb!” the guillotine,

no gentle, soft word cuddle,

the end, finis, the fortress wall

to onslaught of rebuttal.

To consider rank stupidity,

deserving of disdain,

to her was waste of time

and energy and brain.

I’d messily implode

when she Mommed me in this way,

but I must admit I hear me

quoting her today.

“Don’t cook chicken in Nyquil,”

the headline black and bold,

bewilders and confounds —

is it just because I’m old?

Besides the who-cares? key

that’s lacking on my board,

the that’s-just-dumb key’s missing

and I’d like it underscored.

 

Really, dear reader? Don’t cook chicken in Nyquil? Did you ever wish your parents, grandparents, or others in their generations were around to react to the things that assail us on the computer screen? I do. I think I’d laugh a lot.

 

Cookbook by Betty Crocker, 1940. Which you probably guessed.

I like to keep things that are older than I am, even if squeakingly so.


19 Comments

July 25.22: Coping, but barely

A garden in a kettle,

what enticement to know more;

no ordinary flowerpot

hints so of family lore.

Kettles are like aprons,

remnants, scraps and shreds

of kitchens gone to dust

except inside our heads.

Replaced by kitchen jewelry

gleaming, digitized,

its plump and stolid air

is yet unbowdlerized.

Something in its roundness

brings noodle dough to mind,

vegetable soup with barley,

doughnuts cinnamon-brined,

children up on tip-toe

to watch and sniff, content,

the world in proper order

as it was surely meant.

Today its storied depths

give rise to happy greenery,

rooted, like our memories,

in distant kitchen scenery.

 

 

More thanks to photographer S.W. Berg,

and to gardener and family preservationist D.J. Berg.

 


16 Comments

July 8.22: Coping, but barely

A tenth of a billionth of a second.

My brain spins without traction

to comprehend the transience

of such unknowable fraction.

How can such a measure

of time, that slippery eel,

have meaning to poor mortal

like me, the math schlemiel?

Or maybe it’s not numbers

that anaesthetize my mind,

but rather awe and wonder

at our need to seek and find.

Perspectives thus established,

we see our own existence

in terms of what we don’t know

and potential obsolescence.

Are we really that important,

such tiny human spatter,

in view of proton particles

and abysses of dark matter?

I tend to think we are

though I’ve no idea why;

we blow each other up,

and pollute the sea and sky.

Microscope and telescope,

bacterium to star,

but all we have are stories

to explain the way we are.

 

 

I’ve been seeing articles, dear reader, about the Large Hadron Collider and the pursuit of dark matter. It’s all dark matter to me, but I do try for some meager understanding. I cannot wrap my mind around such a thing as a tenth of a billionth of a second, but I can marvel at it. As I marvel, it becomes personal. My place in this universe? I’m working on that.

My thanks to Juliana Kim for her NPR article that reminded me of perspective.

 


11 Comments

July 1.22: Coping, but barely

In crowded company

of musicians through the ages,

I’ve fumbled in attempts

to play while turning pages.

More than once I’ve chased

sonatas to the floor,

twisting off the bench

to nab the fleeing score.

Flagrantly contrary,

it always had the knack

to land so I’d dislodge

my sacroiliac.

To keep the left hand going

and play at obtuse angle

crossed Mozart with aerobics,

performance art fandangle.

Now comes a pageless music,

no flip and fumble here —

what a total wimp-out,

musicianship veneer.

What kind of ease is this?

It seems somehow a cheat

to keep your fingers focused,

turning pages with your feet.

 

 

More thanks to photographer S.W. Berg.

 


12 Comments

June 17.22: Coping, but barely

I grew up with parents who were obsessively, preternaturally, neurotically, vociferously adamant about language. Certain kinds of words were categorically forbidden, among them the so-called four-letter words. My parents maintained that such words were a sign of an inadequate vocabulary.

But of all the four-letter words I knew to avoid, the one they never warned about was “plan.” THAT is a four-letter word, and a totally useless one at that.

Some time ago, my California son made plans to visit in May, before June graduation chaos. His flight here was twice cancelled by the airline. As it eventually happened, he arrived around dawn the day of my granddaughter’s graduation. Meanwhile, she had contracted COVID. Then her dad, my other son, tested positive. Then my daughter-in-law and grandson. And did I mention rain and torrential rain?

The visiting son has celiac disease, so eating out was not an option, and that meant that much of the two weeks preceding his visit I was cooking and baking for a gluten-free stockpile.

I have fallen woefully behind in blogdom, neither writing nor reading.

So yesterday, in the throes of cleaning up and digging out, I came to WordPress with a plan (when will I learn?) to catch up. But no. Something had changed. You have no idea, dear reader, what a moral victory there is in the fact that I am writing this now. I actually found Susan Rushton’s two-year-old comment where she told me how to get to the Classic Editor. (Thanks again, Susan!) Whether this is a forever fix remains to be seen, of course.

As I pick up the pieces of routine here, I can guarantee I will be thinking about an adequate vocabulary.

 

 


12 Comments

October 2.21: Coping

I know that I am cranky

but it must be more than that

that sends me into orbit

from computer bloat and blat.

To its endless mindless deluge

of must-have things and stuff,

I borrow from the Bard

and cry out “Hold! Enough!”

Gadgets, gizmos, whatnots,

creams and pills and shoes,

dog food, hats, and cure-alls,

bathtubs, nails, tattoos.

“Buy and spend!” And “one left!”

“You have to be like me!”

and my favorite Brooklyn Bridge,

a gift that’s totally free!

Celebrities by the dozens

stream a glam who’s-who,

why are they important?

I don’t have a clue.

My computer gives assist

with Likes and Sends and Shares,

but what I really need

is a key that says Who Cares?


8 Comments

June 23.21: Coping

Life always was a head-scratcher, but recently more than usual.

For one thing, WordPress got all weird on my computer. No way could I get into it last week.  Eventually it came back but my security program blasted bright red warnings about dangerous and suspicious connections. On WordPress?

I got a new phone from AT&T. Free. Sorry, folks, but I don’t believe anything is free. It’s a flip-top to replace the one that they’re making obsolete. I still haven’t found the strings but I know they’re attached. I took the plunge and started to read the blurbs that came with it. Chapter One: Safety.

OK, so my Mensa invitation didn’t really get lost in the mail, but still I’m smart enough to know that if you’re going to write instructional materials you should tell your reader what your abbreviations mean before page 20. That aside, I learned that I shouldn’t paint or bend my phone, and that no part of the human body should come too close to the antenna, which is inside. Do I put the phone in the kitchen and then go to the living room and yell at it?

You know the rabbits have destroyed most of my flowers. Now I’ve lost the tomatoes. I looked at the poor tomato plants and just shook my head. Since when do rabbits eat tomato plants?

I stood in the vast echo chamber of Lowe’s lumber department asking myself the eternal question: where’s the person who can tell me the difference between quarter-round and shoe molding?

I think there are times in life when we don’t even want the answers any more. A rocking chair and glass of wine will do. Rocking chair optional.

 

 


15 Comments

January 8.21: Coping

A reflection, dear reader.

Today I turn 78. One becomes reflective when one turns 78 in a year of chaos and disease, when fear and rage, loneliness and grief dominate the human stage. But I was born into World War II. How can I not ask if anything has changed?

Food was rationed, bloodshed headlined daily newspapers, freight trains crisscrossed our lives carrying tank parts and spewing cinders, radio was high-tech, my mom and grandma walked to the corner store, a can of bacon grease ennobled every kitchen and bobby pins every dresser. Coal shoveled into furnaces. White shoe polish a household staple.

You have met my cell phone, humble flip-top that it is. You know it stopped working last month and then mysteriously started working again. Then, a couple days ago, it developed new problems. You may congratulate me vociferously: this time I did what any kindergartener would have done and googled the wretch. I learned that the trick was to put the phone into Airplane Mode and then toggle it out again.

Dear reader, who in the name of heaven would have the least inkling to do such a thing by way of problem-solving? I was irrationally proud of myself and at the same time miffed that I live in a world in which my life experience and hard-earned education seem useless.

As you know, this week has been hideous here but obviously something this mortally serious doesn’t just happen out of nowhere. And so I become 78 in a country with its principles in tatters. In a world where I need to know about Airplane Mode to have a working phone.

I have decided to look at it this way: 78 candles is a lot of light.

 

 

 


13 Comments

December 8.20: Coping

Yesterday my phone quit. Disheveled, wild-eyed, I scrapped my to-do list and headed for the phone store, where I took my place on the proper social-distance marker. It appeared a long wait was ahead; I was right. A cool-headed young man, the lone employee, was trying valiantly to take care of two accounts with a small masked throng gathering.

In all, I stood for about an hour, enjoying my steady intake of carbon dioxide.  At one point, the cool-headed employee offered snacks; this was not encouraging: do people wait so long there that they have to be fed?

My hips aching, my face steamed, my spirit sagging from the pure misery of being stuck in a world of gizmos, I was dimly aware that more customers had come in behind me. And suddenly everything changed. “Put your mask on!” “Shut up!” This began a shouted rage among three customers.

The anger was intense on both sides. It was impossible not to notice how close to the surface this anger was. The flare-up was too loud, too quick, too easy. The furious unmasked stormed out.

Finally someone looked at my poor phone and said I needed a new one. I drove across the street to Target and bought some Christmas M&Ms instead. Mint M&Ms.

The vicious rumor that my phone dates from the rule of Charlemagne notwithstanding, I am not adjusting well to this. I don’t want a phone. I want some peace. And reason. While my hat’s off to the cool employee who responded so professionally to the outburst, even the powers of Christmas M&Ms couldn’t undo its effects.

In this past year, I have seen much kindness and patience among strangers. It is, I fear, wearing thin.