Sunday, June 29, 2008

Low flying bats…and the subtle taste of maple syrup…

Thursday’s semi-co-ed Girl’s Night had a subtitle of: Appetizers and Alcohol. My measly hummus was very quickly overshadowed by everyone else’s contributions. The robustness of Terica’s Rotel and Velveeta nacho dip (yes folks, she used sausage in the dip---dip, dip horray!) was exactly the base coat that our stomachs needed for the beer and sangria we were chugging. Cookie’s dark chocolate ice cream bars with nibs of cookies were teasingly talked about and then stuffed in the freezer to be saved for the piece de resistance dessert that they were (and strangely enough, later when we did eat them, tasted like the most subtle maple syrup). Then Jimmy had to throw down the shnickity schnack gauntlet with his famous popcorn and M&Ms (damn, but is there anything that M&Ms won’t go with?), so the stakes were raised. Next, Eric came waltzing down the lane with his appetizer plated and ready to present and held quite level (which would have been a bother to one who is walking down the lane with appetizer held level and aloft on an steamy Alabama summer evening that Faulkner would’ve described as distilled and hyperdistilled), an appetizer which reminded me of my days as a young girl in Provence (just kidding, been to France, but never to Provence)…ovals of baguette, topped with a schmear of snooty European butter, sesame oil, ginger (which was hidden quite well), kosher salt, and thinly sliced radishes (See exhibit A). Again, the appetizer ante was upped. And then Liz, who was late BECAUSE of her appetizer, the appetizer that made us gasp when it was revealed, the appetizer created especially for us by Liz-mate Chris (Chris, who could not make it to the semi-co-ed Girl’s Night because of prior obligations, but who sent in his stead the nicest and quite possibly the most delectable salutations ever): skewers of tender, moist, grilled-to-perfection chicken with a yummy peanut dipping sauce…Liz brought the house down. It was almost too much…almost. With bats careening over our heads, out to find their own appetizers (evidently at someone else’s house from the looks of the mosquito bites on Eric’s ankles), some of the revelers took refuge indoors (the Dame and Sha’nille); the rest of us braved the busy air traffic and just kept our heads low. Happily, food was eaten and drinks were drunk. Last call was at ten, but Kris, with heart full of happiness, would not send us away from his table. The last of us left by foot and by car at approximately eleven.

The next day: Quiet Catoe Parsonage. Birds singing outside. Mrs. Catoe, preparing for her morning hair ablutions, makes a horrific discovery: An off-course bat had somehow found its way into the kitchen (possibly slipping in amongst the merry revelers as they made their raucous exit through the house the night before) and was hiding (unsuccessfully) under the soaking Crock Pot. There are no words for such a discovery, only loud verbal exclamations. A broom-wielding Mr. Catoe makes bat-meat out of the intruder.

Later that day, a small and weary group Fleegans met Downtown for lunch: Liz, who was in charge of picking up Jaimie, but forgot to stop for her; me, distracted and hard of hearing from entertaining 120 children at the Summer Reading Program; Nathan, whose charge (the Etowah County computer system) had up and quit that morning; Laura, frazzled from the bat-under-the-Crock-Pot incident only hours earlier; Kris, frash from a “special” Moxie Salon client; Eric, via text message because “news broke” and prevented him from joining us in body; and Jimmy who was about to go home (I ask, who gets to go home at Noon on a Friday?), and was the first to notice that his wife Jaimie was missing from the group. I looked around the table at one point and thought that we all were sporting the appearance of having been hit by a truck. How fortunate we were that it was Friday…

There will be a farewell party for the bat colony this Thursday for Girl’s Night. In honor of the bat extraction, I think it fitting that everyone wear something black for the occasion…

I only run if something is chasing me...

Went with Brandy, Dave and Eric last night to Anniston for Dave and Eric to run in a 5K. Eric had earlier in the day ridden in a 100-mile bike ride in Georgia with some cycling friends, and amazingly, had the energy to throw himself headlong into another competition. This was Dave’s first run, and he was quite excited at competing. I will never forget the sight of Dave and Eric coming out of the dark, running side-by-side to the finish line. And although he would more than likely deny what I am about to say than agree with it, Eric could’ve probably taken off ahead at some point, despite an injured ankle. Instead, he stayed with Dave and they came in together. In all sincerity, I was proud of them both…

I finally got to meet the good Dr. Carmine Dibiase and his wife Susan, both of whom I felt I already knew from Eric and his blog. Susan is terribly easy to talk with, does NOT run, plays cello and gardens; Carmine, equally easy to talk with, runs and cycles, is a professor of English at JSU, and makes wine (he also collects rare fountain pens and evidently has a huge collection of books, neither facts seem to be unusual for an English prof). While waiting for prizes to be awarded in the parking lot of the gymnasium, Susan introduced me to her friend Karen, who turned out to be Karen Gregg of Karen-and-Kelly-Gregg-fame from back in the days of archaeology. Ahhh, I remember Karen helping me schedule the remaining classes for my undergrad degree and Kelly tromping through Cold Water Creek with the meter stick while I tried to keep site of him in the kudzu…I am blessed whenever I rediscover old friends, and I am always amazed at how they are rediscovered in the most unexpected places and under the most unexpected circumstances…

In another unexpected twist, Eric placed first in his age group for the run, and left the parking lot weighed down by an enormous hunk of metal dangling from a was like a Mr. T starter kit...

Monday, June 23, 2008

Humbled again by the tenacity of my family…

Sister’s blood tests show low estrogen and no markers for cancer, so we’re breathing easy for another year. Way to go sis! Now, to keep up with bone density…the Arimidex that she has to take leaches calcium out of her bones. So, like mom, she is more susceptible to osteoporosis. Mom is already showing early signs of osteoporosis (probably from the Tamoxifen that she began taking over fifteen years ago for her cancer), and is taking supplements to help build her bones. She’s all like, “Yeah, I probably should be taking more for it, but I just don’t want to find a primary doctor…” She’s been saying that for over fifteen years now. See what I have to live with! I have a theory that a little osteoporosis wouldn’t stop her from whipping our behinds if we needed to have them whipped. I’m certainly not going to test that theory, no matter how old either one of us gets.

No really, try it on!

They almost locked the doors when they saw us coming...

Kansas Slim's Birthday Doughnuts

Cha-ris making his Cha-oice

Sha'nille eating one of my bleu balls...

I'd like to place a long distance call across the table...

Teal Sha'nille and Mr. Deal

Sha'nille, my but you have pretty feet...

And sometimes they finish each other's sentences.

Does anyone else see what I see? Please look closely.

Off to Beermingham for Eric’s Beerthday Beergrimage.


Oh, pick carefully please...

Upon closer inspection...

Birthday boy may have won the best legs contest.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Deep Fried Night

Did anyone else take a whiff of Broad Street Tuesday night? As I was sitting at Jefferson’s watching the BEE-U-TI-FUL sunset just beyond the Pitman sign, I took a deep breath and smelled what I can only describe as a chicken-fried asphalt smell. I’m sure that you’ve all smelled that smell yourself and were thinking the very same thing as I when you smelled it...

Oh, hey everybody, did I mention that I ran into a singing Liz Wood at Blackstone last night…she set the place on fire. It was truly a treat to hear some of my bossa nova favorites sung so well, and sung in Gadsden at that! And the band was smokin’ too; seƱor Brian Bankston on a very smooth guitar (his reputation has preceded him for the last two years), Jim Henderson on drums (who, I believe I saw hanging around the joint last Friday evening when my utmost favorite local-ish band Ethan & the Ewox played at Blackstone), and Joe Keracher on Clarinet (Joe is pure clarinet magic…and he probably gets all the girls). Sadly, I’ve forgotten the name of the cat who was plucking the stand-up bass, but he and his bass were a sight for sore eyes (nothing like it-wonder if he can play Haitian Fight Song?). I picked up a copy of their CD, The Liz Wood Project/Spare Time and have been listening to it since. Saw some other names I recognized: photography and art by the talented team of Henderson & Catoe, mixed & mastered by Marc Carswell (yes Sister, THE Marc Carswell we used to sneak out and listen to when he lived across the street and practiced with his band). It’s a swell CD, made by a swell band. If you dig Jobim, Sinatra, Bennett, Hartman, Miller and Ellington, you’ll really enjoy this band and their sound. Heck, you’ll enjoy them just if you enjoy music! I know where I’ll be on Tuesday nights from now on…

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Urban Family

When I first moved back to Gadsden, someone asked me what I was going to miss most about Denver. To my reply of, “My urban family,” I received a questioning look. “You know, my URBAN family…the family that you make when you live away from your kinfolk...the family that you make by choice, not by blood.” Still, the questioning look, probably because most folks around here have never had to form an urban family because their own family is right down the road, or living on their property…

If you’ve ever moved away from your hometown, you will understand the need for the urban family. Every stinking time I’ve moved, I’ve left behind a group of individuals whom I have considered to be my urban family, regardless of how urban or rural the location I was leaving; they were the people who, although they didn’t replace my real family, stood in as my surrogate family.

This concept of urban family developed for me when I moved away for the first time to live in Ithaca, NY, which happened to be more rural than where I grew up (Gadsden, AL). I was moving away from my family, away from the south, and moving in with the man to whom I would be married within a month in an elopement ceremony that would divide one side of the family in a rift great enough to require us to fly back to Gadsden within another month to be married in a second ceremony by our priest (and even with that extra dose of marriage, ours eventually didn't last). Within ten minutes of parking in the lot of the Lake Street apartment just a stones throw from Ithaca Falls, I met my downstairs neighbors, Brian and Olga, who would become the core of my urban family in Ithaca (two people who, with twelve years, lots of food and many miles separating us, are still two of my dearest friends). They were the people to whom I turned when I needed help, both physically and mentally, when I didn’t have blood relation around to assist. Olga was from Puerto Rico...would teach me a great deal about Latin music and, even more importantly, about Latin food; Brian was from just up the road (Webster, NY), an architect, and an incredible photographer. Along with Olga and Brian, there was Paul, who would show up on our doorstep with steaks, tequila and his violin whilst “jogging” in our neighborhood (Really Paul, did you make a habit of jogging with steaks, tequila and your violin? And no, I never believed your “jogging” story, but was forever thankful when you stopped in.) There was Donna, a fashion-plate of a young woman who, although 89 pounds soaking wet, could pack away enough food for two adolescent boys, but ate “slow as a muppet;” Donna, who now resides in Manhattan, is one of those friends I can call once a year and pickup where we left off-thank you Donna. There was Donna’s boyfriend Gordon, then professor of English at Cornell (now professor of English at Harvard), one of the leading Miltonists in the country, and coiner of the phrase, “Hold on…I’m having a Shubert moment,” with his martini glass raised. Then there were various other urban family members: Bob and Nancy Morgan (Bob, who was one of Jake’s doctoral committee members and dearest mentors; Bob who, after years of writing very well-received books of poetry and fiction, was lucky enough to have his novel Gap Creek picked by Oprah as a book-of-the-month book and appeared on her television show. How did his life change after that rush of fame? Not too much. He and Nancy moved from the old farmhouse with the pond we used to spend Sundays drinking Scotch beside to an even older farmhouse with an older pond to drink Scotch beside on Sundays). There was C.A., a young woman with the looks of a silent film star, the most fantastic PR skills I’ve ever seen, and the owner of an “heirloom dinner” collection (assorted food items from significant-dinners-past that she had had with family or friends; this collection resided on a bookshelf in her apartment, and was quite a conversation starter). There was Ellen, the young woman who provided a home for me the night before my elopement, took me to a local farm to pick my wedding bouquet of black-eyed-Susans, and then fed me Valerian Root and champagne to sooth my nerves just hours before the nuptials (she was my maid of honor, and sadly, I’ve lost track of her). There was Tony, the young pot-dealer and photographer of Italian and Turkish descent (forgive me if I’m wrong Tony), with gorgeous black waist length hair (he looked like the brief glimpse of Kiser Sose in The Usual Suspects). And then there was Crutchfield, the very talented and rather Napoleonic Appalachian writer who somehow managed to make IT with all the heterosexual females in the English department (as well as the ballet school, the drama department, the textile/fabric department, the criminal justice department, so on an so forth). Crutchfield, along with his family and with Tony, was a witness to, and participant in the first Thanksgiving meal I ever made on my own--a meal of so many dishes that I had to pull out the ironing board to serve off of when the table and the buffet were full; a meal that went on all day and well into the night, even after I had cleared everything away; a gloriously dysfunctional meal that made me so weary, I think I may have fallen asleep at some point between the after-dinner stroll to the Falls and the after dinner drink…I really don’t remember parts of it. These people, all of these wonderfully different people were the key members in my Ithaca urban family. And that diverse cast of characters was drawn together due to the common love of communion, the common love of sharing food and conversation. Ever since the forming of that first urban family, I’ve related most intimately with others through communion.

I’ve had other urban families, one in Auburn…one in Denver. I stayed in touch with most of the members from those long separated groupings. Lately, I’ve felt another urban family forming, one here in Gadsden, a family just as diverse and interesting and supportive as my past families. I think about the future conversations and meals, and when I do, it makes me feel as though I’ve really come home.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

They let me in their home AGAIN last Thursday…

And this time, I got to cook up some curry on their gas stove. Ooooo, I was in heaven on that gas stove! I could’ve cooked up everything in the joint! But I have to say that because it had been over two years since I last cooked with gas, I was a bit terrified that I was going to burn the coconut milk. The rest of the evening was a blur of food, drink, bats and guano.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Pronoun Problem...

We are having a pronoun problem with Nephew. He calls everything she and her. Well, it's not really a problem...and it is kinda funny. But I think that it means he's around too many women.

Reading: Sedaris' When You Are Engulfed In Flames
Listening To: Billie Holiday's Love Songs

Kitchens Part I

Spent some quality time with friends in a new kitchen Thursday evening. I had seen pictures of said kitchen online through one of the owner’s blogs, and was secretly hoping to someday be able to whip something up at that counter. I think food tastes better in a kitchen where people like to hang out. And I have to say that people can hang out pretty well in this particular kitchen. It is conducive to hangin,’ cookin,’ and eatin’ (and maybe a little drankin,’ too). And it is home to some cool Henckels knives…one especially nice tomato coring knife which I’ve discovered is a Roll Knife and cannot afford to purchase for myself right now (unless I find one at TJMaxx, which is where this one came from). The above photo story is entitled “Vodka Tonics Are Sophisticated.”

Kitchens Part II

Now, the house in which this kitchen is located is a very cool house owned by some very cool people who have a well-dressed toddler (I’ve seen pictures). Residing in this house with these cool people are some cats who are doing their very best to make their owners pay for moving into the cool house. I was warned by the owners that the cats had been acting out in retaliation to the move by clawing at the brand new and very Ikea-like-in-its-fabulousness-hey-I-own-the-same-rug area rug as well as taking a man-sized dump on it. I thought to myself damn, that’s one loud message to send. So as we’re standing there enjoying the food, drink and conversation, Mrs. Catoe goes to the lavatory to do business when we hear an exclamation…we all look back at her with concern (excepting Mr. Catoe, who has his back to the loo). She’s standing there with the door to the bathroom opened wide. There is a huge, bright yellow lake of urine in the floor and halfway onto the very cute little block print bath rug. Mr. Catoe, not even looking, begins a mantra of, “Please not my rug, please not my rug…” while his hair begins to stand on end. Please see the above photo story entitled “Mr. Catoe Cleans Up.” Sorta surgeon-like, eh?

Kitchens Part III

I don’t know where these people came from, but they brought food and stayed awhile…

Thursday, June 5, 2008

And he was chewing gum like freakin’ Burt Reynolds as he said it…

So IT man said to me today that he wanted to start a D-cup women’s volleyball team. When he noticed me giving him the stink-eye, he told me to not fear, that I could be the captain of his Farm Team (translation: the A-cup Little League). He doesn't know when or where, but I will be swift and merciless...

Quote of the day from Chex Mix: “What a day I'm having. I just realized that I have my underwear on inside out. Well, I can't fix 'em now.” My reply, "Indeed, I wouldn’t if I were you, you’ve already committed to that side…”

I hope there are bologna cups at girl's night tonight!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

...and luckier.

I just finished mowing the grass. I had let it get a bit high, something I do from time to time just so I can see what types of wildflowers we have growing in the yard. I sometimes let it grow because of a passage from Whitman’s Song of Myself (Leaves of Grass), which perhaps you will enjoy. Hang with me, I often relate things to literature (and bore some people terribly because of this trait).

This is in response to a child having asked the question of Whitman, “What is the grass?” The answer was thus:

“And now it seems to me the beautiful uncut hair of graves.

Tenderly will I use you curling grass,
It may be you transpire from the breasts of young men,
It may be if I had known them I would have loved them,
It may be you are from old people, or from offspring
Taken soon out of their mother’s laps,
And here you are the mothers’ laps.

This grass is very dark to be from the white heads of old mothers,
Darker than the colorless beards of old men,
Dark to come from under the faint red roofs of mouths.

O I perceive after all so many uttering tongues,
And perceive they do not come from the roofs of mouths for nothing.

I wish I could translate the hints about the dead young men and women,
And the hints about old men and mothers, and the offspring taken soon
Out of their laps.

What do you think has become of the young and old men?
And what do you think has become of the women and children?

They are alive and well somewhere,
The smallest sprout shows there is really no death,
And if ever there was it led forward life, and does not
Wait at the end to arrest it,
And ceas’d the moment life appear’d.

All goes onward and outward, nothing collapses,
And to die is different from what any one supposed, and luckier.”

So, to anyone out there whose mower is not working, and they find that they cannot cut the grass tonight: although it is an inconvenient and frustrating situation in which you have found yourself, this lack of working mower with which to cut grass may be a good thing, if just for one evening. Tomorrow you will fix your mower and the grass will be shorn. Tonight you may sit on your porch, look out at your lawn and listen to the voices of the men, women and children…

Reading: Wrinkle in Time (for that unattractive guy's book club).
Listening to: Ethan & the Ewox-Brothers From Different Mothers
Eating: Ice cream, if I had some...(Ben & Jerry's, probably Chunky Monkey or Peanut Butter Chocolate); earlier in the day, I was eating bugs with the library kids. Crickets crunch and taste like dirt.