Friday, April 15, 2011

This past week, I had to be in Newport to take care of some business at the courthouse. The courthouse in Newport is like any bitty little Southern town--they are old, usually the largest and grandest building and occupy the central block. There are almost always colorful characters hanging about--especially in Newport, where the jail is close by. They still dress the prisoners in black and white horizontal stripes--and they put them to work cleaning up or doing whatever work around the place needs to be done.

There seem to always be stories about trouble with the guards vs. prisoners, prisoners escaping (but not going anywhere in particular), and the prisoners often are just wandering around unescorted. It used to make me nervous going into the courthouse because of this. Most of the guards vs. prisoners stories have to do with guards sleeping with inmates (at least, for some reason those are the ones I remember most--it's consensual female guard on male prisoner, usually) or guards slipping/selling "contraband"--like drugs--to inmates. The guards vs. prisoners thing seems more on the chummy side than any real animosity. Everyone is related to each other.

It's Tuesday, so the courthouse is very busy. The South American has accompanied me and we are seated on some benches waiting. There are gangs of people and there's a big line. They recently put in metal detectors to make sure no one brings guns into the courtroom. I'm guessing something either happened recently or they reacted to some other shooting. It's not like we don't have shootings in Newport--but for some reason--they've just decided to do this. I amuse myself by observing the people in the line. No one is dressed for court.. You can spot the attorneys easily. They have that oiliness about them--a sort of slickness and level of grooming not observed by anyone else.

I'm transfixed by this young woman. I struggle with where I know her. She's beautiful, though unconventionally and perhaps, tragically so. Her skin is dewy, creamy and delicate--but showing the beginnings of decay--just the cusp and suggestion of it. She must be all of twenty-two. Her eyes have a red tinge on the inside of her eyelashes--that pink part between the lash and the white of the eyes. She has no makeup and when she smiles, she is gentle and sly--and completely missing all of her front teeth. I place her; know where I met her. She is Vermeer's Girl with a Pearl Earring.

The South American says, loud enough for everyone to hear and apropos of completely nothing (I think), "I did not expect to see a man's ass here." He says it with the slight accent he uses with me, nearly imperceptible on the ears of Americans. They just know he "ain't from around here".

"Excuse me?" I say, thinking I must have misheard. The South American is a very straight man--very secure in his straightness, but still, not the sort to go about admiring other men's asses. It must be a particularly exceptional ass for him to comment, so I scan the line of people waiting as the cops run them through the metal detector. He doesn't say anything more.

It only takes a moment for me to spot the man in question. I do so when he turns around. You see, from the front, he's a normal overweight middle aged man, the sort we often see hanging out at gas stations, truck stops and greasy diners. From the front, his beer belly hangs over the ledge of his Levis obscuring what he mistakenly thinks is his waistline. He is being scanned by the policeman with the beeping wand.

When this man turns around, his ass is in full, resplendent nakedness. This is no timid plumber's cleavage. Nor is it a muscular, slim-hipped gangsta ass crack with taut skin twitching like a walking horse. No, this is a full-out, refrigerator white, moon of an ass--the back of his pants caught somewhere barely centimeters from the horizontal gluteal crease.

Justice Potter Stewart described his threshold test for pornography in 1964 as "I know it when I see it." I always thought that was a cop-out--until this past Tuesday. This display of man-ass flesh crossed the line, I say. There's this point where showing ass crack is funny but still not obscene. This was way beyond, "pants on the ground."

What was so astounding was the utter nonchalance of the cops and everyone there. I swear to God, if the South American and I hadn't started laughing hysterically, I don't think anyone would have cracked a smile. You'd think one of those cops would have said, "Hey Bubba, how 'bout pullin' dem pants up". Or something.

What has been seen cannot be unseen.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

It's Alive!!!

Okay, so I'm back. I took to my bed in despair with the passing of Fat Buddy and haven't written on the blog since.

But things are good. The new "normal" is as follows:

There's someone in my life who will henceforth be known on the blog as "The South American". He's special--and completely urban. Can't chop wood (well, he can now), needs constant supervision around power tools and is really good with numbers. The South American and I have been keeping company since fall of 2009.

I'm spending a good bit of time, on and off at The South American's house in Knoxville and so, have access to connections faster than my 24K dialup. That means I can post here in under 2 hours. Really, posting from home became impossible, not to mention blog browsing which is damn near impossible. It takes 3 to 8 minutes to load a page there.

I have no goats at the moment.

Had a huge dust-up with the mouth breathers at Newport Utilities. They are forcing me to estimate my power bill and pay it before I know how much power I've used. As far as I know, I'm the only customer forced to do this. I never missed a single payment--yet they sent goons to my house to disconnect my power--after I'd paid them. This is how they treat the disabled and aged in Cocke County. It's clear they've gone completely insane and are not to be trusted. I've got a nice chunk of durian in my freezer and I'd like to send them a fruit basket just to say "muuu-ah"!

I need both knees replaced and have to lose 65 more pounds before this can happen. But I've been banned from my treadmill. I'm spending lots of time on a recumbent bike and loving it--but it's slow going with the steroids.

I've taken up leather braiding.

I'm drowning in medical debt.

I continue to write.

And I'm ready to move. I love my farm, it's still my heart--but The South American has shown me that life in the city is not so bad. Being near bookstores, gyms, libraries and intellectuals has its finer points. Plus, the winters have become unbearable up in Grassy. Two of them in a row where it snowed and snowed and snowed--not just the pretty, getting a taste of winter snow--but nasty slush producing icy mixes that were no fun at all and trapped me there. The road I live on is the last to melt, so it's always a scary driving experience.

I'm learning a foreign language. Eu fala só um pouco de português.

I ran into Jimmy and Pam not too long ago. They are doing great and now that the weather is warm, I want to treat The South American to a one of a kind experience. Snake church. In the meantime, we are talking about attending the U.U.

So that's what's going on, my possums. What's everyone doing these days?

Friday, August 27, 2010

After fourteen years of snack stealing, unrepentant repetitive barking, trash scrounging, undeserved entitlement and all around outrageous behavior--Fat Buddy has left the building.

He taught me a lot about loving life, despite health challenges--of which he had many. I liked to say that FB was the canine version of me--autoimmune disorders a-go-go and poor impulse control when it comes to all things food. I've nursed him through so many health scares that I should have been ready for this day--but I'm not. He's been my happy jester and my heart hurts.

I don't really have any words--so I thought I'd share my favorite Kipling poem--which pretty much sums up this particular moment those of us who give our hearts away know too well. And some images of what made Fat Buddy--well, Fat Buddy.

The Power of the Dog
Rudyard Kipling

There is sorrow enough in the natural way
From men and women to fill our day;
And when we are certain of sorrow in store,
Why do we always arrange for more?
Brothers and Sisters, I bid you beware
Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.

Buy a pup and your money will buy
Love unflinching that cannot lie--
Perfect passion and worship fed
By a kick in the ribs or a pat on the head.
Nevertheless it is hardly fair
To risk your heart for a dog to tear.

When the fourteen years which Nature permits
Are closing in asthma, or tumour, or fits,
And the vet's unspoken prescription runs
To lethal chambers or loaded guns,
Then you will find--it's your own affair--'ve given your heart for a dog to tear.

When the body that lived at your single will,
With its whimper of welcome, is stilled (how still!);
When the spirit that answered your every mood
Is gone--wherever it goes--for good,
You will discover how much you care,
And will give your heart for the dog to tear.

We've sorrow enough in the natural way,
When it comes to burying Christian clay.
Our loves are not given, but only lent,
At compound interest of cent per cent.
Though it is not always the case, I believe,
That the longer we've kept 'em, the more do we grieve:
For, when debts are payable, right or wrong,
A short-time loan is as bad as a long--
So why in Heaven (before we are there)
Should we give our hearts to a dog to tear?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Not Helpful

I am turning into my mother’s best friend as I age. Which is just fine, since even as a teenager, I wanted to be just like this nutty woman when I grew older. She was the sort of woman who looked everywhere for her eyeglasses as they sat atop her head. The sort of woman who had a “Co-cola” with an aspirin before retiring. The sort of woman who shamelessly flaunted her idiosyncrasies. There was something not quite sane about her. The thing that made her so wonderful is that she had one of the most powerful intellects I have ever run into, then or now. It was as though she willingly decided to sacrifice her competence in the realm of everyday activities and normalcy instead of losing her intellectual cookies. I’m hoping that’s me, too.

So, today I had one of those days when I was channeling her. I forgot what day it was, showed up to my therapy appointment a day early with my shirt inside out.

As I’m walking out the door, a woman says to me, “Your shirt is inside-out.” She says this in a drive-by fashion, loudly and publicly. This is how I came to know I’d put the shirt on incorrectly and if I hadn’t been told, I would have gone about my day, harming no one and being blissfully unaware of my faux pas. And honestly, after I knew about it, I wasn’t that concerned. I am the sort of woman who wears mismatched socks and no lipstick anyway.

The point being—this was not helpful. She pointed it out in the middle of a busy waiting room as I was leaving so I’m quite sure she didn’t expect me to shuck off the shirt right then and there—though that could have been amusing and might have been an option if it hadn’t been—well—my therapist’s office full of chock full ‘o nutcases anyway. Maybe she wanted me to go to the restroom or go home and change my shirt. Really, there wasn’t much I could do about it that wouldn’t inconvenience me.

There’s a gulf of difference between this sort of person and the sort of person who fondly tucks your shirt label in or brushes lint from your lapel. She’s the sort of person, I suspect, who goes about looking for bra straps that show, slips peeking out indecently and unzipped zippers. She (because it’s almost always a woman) has made it her personal mission to seek such things out and snidely point them out. The shirt-label-tucker-inner seems to always do so in a proactive yet loving way—it’s the contact that says, “I care”. They usually do this with a self-effacing smile, too—unlike the smirking drive-by commentator on your personal appearance.

As I said—not helpful.

For my part, I reached a hand up to confirm the tag was out and replied, “No it’s not, the tag is on the wrong side.”

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The summer issue of Now & Then: The Appalachian Magazine is out and it's a really good one. I think this is my favorite of the Appalachian themed mags and not just because they are so supportive of my work. This issue's theme is "Appalachian High" and they were kind enough to publish my coming of age story, "The Truholt Madstone".

Fred Sauceman writes eloquently about one of my favorite topics--barbecue--in his article, High on the Alabama Hog. A very interesting piece by Michael Joslin titled High Time for Change examines the changing attitudes toward birds of prey held many Appalachian folks--something I used in my story Hawk Kill. Many other great stories in this issue--so please order a subscription. ETSU produces a big, glossy beautiful magazine full of Appalachian goodness.

"Truholt" is set way back in a time before the chestnut trees died out and is about a folk cure for rabies called a madstone.


I'm very busy with the garden these days. Am going to go out there in a minute and pick corn. I have all sorts of things coming in--cucumbers, squash, beans, new potatoes, okra and fresh purple hulls. Made a pot of my momma's South Georgia garden stew. I actually associate that soup with the winter, but it's meant to be made right from the garden. Hardly even needs salt for seasoning and is heavy with corn, okra and beans. We used to use stew beef for the meat--but I had a goat haunch I needed to use up and it turned out great. So, I can honestly say I made everything in the stew from stuff here on the farm.

Yesterday was one of those odd days where it rained like the dickens in the midday sun. So violent it spat a rainbow rare and turbulent up on the mountain sky. I didn't do much but did pick blackberries--I'm getting down to the last of them. It's the right time of year "The God of all Blackberries" to make an appearance.

I'd noticed there were some tunnels under the blackberry canes that I had not put there. They were low to the ground and all the easily got to berries were gone. The only other time I'd seen something like this was at my old blackberry field that I shared with a bear and her cub. I was a bit perturbed to think I had bears visiting so close--these canes are right next to the house. Mystery solved---I heard some gawdawful snuffling--numnumnum--and it was Max. Max the blackberry eating Cocker Spaniel.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Hot enough?

I've not been keeping up with the blog--basically, the time has come when I have to make a decision about the dial-up.

So what have I been up to? Well, I've got the garden that is doing well despite the dry weather. Been taking some huge mutant straight neck squash from one of my plants. Unfortunately, I planted it too close to the giant pumpkins, so the seed will not breed true. You would not believe the size of these things--over a foot long and still green, tender and delicious just like a small baby squash. Beautiful new Yukon Gold potatoes. Corn is high and tasseling. But the varmints are eating my green tomatoes. I think it's the damn crows. It escapes me exactly why we aren't supposed to kill them. Is there anything good about a crow? But I've got bird netting that I will put up to stop that nonsense. My blackberries are bearing something incredible and I've been trying to keep ahead of them--arms scratched and bleeding. Vicious, hard-won fruit are blackberries, but I love the dark, sweet taste of them.

I've been busy. Lupus is kicking my but these days, but I refuse to let it get the best of me. I just wish walking weren't such an effort--I long to have quick light feet with no pain.

I've got a few stories to plug. Will do that in their own posts. I've been concentrating more on print journals. It's not that I think print is better than online, but I do like to keep a balance between them. Working on my Appalachian collection and getting queries out. Okay, been sort of lazy about that.

But life is overall very good, except for the health thing and the dial-up thing

It looks like I'm going to have to figure out a way to afford satellite if I want to continue to do things online. I've been saying for a while now that AT & T (aka The Evil Empire) would eventually shut us rural beings out completely and I think that time is now. It takes fifteen minutes to load my email. Further, they charge me an outrageous amount of money to make long distance phone calls. I made one long distance phone call in the past three months--to my sister--and they charged me almost fifty dollars. In this day and age of unlimited long distance, it's outrageous. I hate them. I can't afford on a fixed income to keep in touch with family and friends and I hate it that people think I'm ignoring them. I'm not. I just don't have the money to pay AT & T. If the government thinks AT &T will release their stranglehold on rural phone lines--we seem to be something of a cash cow to them--well, they are adorable.

So. If you've tried to reach me via Facebook--I cannot reply to email there. I try to reply from other places I still can use like Zoetrope, so check your mailbox and you might have a reply there from me. 24K dial-up no longer works on FB. And I have to shut down my computer every time I go there.

Hope everyone had a great Fourth. We shot fireworks off the bluff!

Saturday, May 01, 2010

It's the first time in several years that I've felt well enough to plant the garden and I've gotten off to a good start. Planted the corn too early and must reseed but everything else is going to plan. My lettuces and radishes are coming up nicely and the sugar snap peas will be breaking the surface and twining their tender vines skyward any day now.

I decided to start my trapping early and wage a pre-emptive strike against the varmints. I have one of those "Have-a-Heart" humane traps big enough to handle a good sized raccoon. Though--in my case it might be more aptly named a "Have-a-.22 caliber bullet" trap. My neighbors have the same trap, but give their raccoons to the local coon hunters. It does absolutely nothing to help the situation since raccoons teach their young where food sources are and they have excellent homing skills. You can drop a corn-loving coon off 20 miles away and he will unerringly make his way back to the place where Momma's best forage spots were taught to him as a wee kit. So, after being tormented by hounds, the PTSD-shocked beast comes back with revenge on his furry mind.

Before going all waaah-you-kilt-the-woodland-creature on me--I do eat what I kill--or make the dogs something nice. I'm not wasteful and these animals are by no means scarce here. And I find that leaving bits of dead critter relatives, strategically placed around the garden or chicken coop, sends a message. Just as they register places where easily obtained food is to be had, they also register where murderous chickens or coon-eating carrots reside.

One of the challenges in the spring, when food is plentiful, is what to bait the trap with. Some prefer catfood, others like sardines, but I use peanut butter on bread. You need something stinky and peanut butter has a pleasant odor that doesn't worsen over time.

I seem to have attracted something with a college degree. The bait has been taken and the trap unsprung several nights in a row. This last time, it made off with the bait jar (a small peanut butter jar) as well. At first I thought it got its head stuck a la Fat Buddy in the jar, but if it did so, it did this after carefully removing it from the trap. Surely getting its head stuck in the jar would cause a panic bad enough to spring the trap? But now I need to find another bait jar. Perhaps I'll use a jelly jar.

Then, I'm a little glad it hasn't sprung the trap. There are a few creatures here clever enough to do this and all are members of the weasel family with the exception of the foxes. And I think a fox is too big to get in and out of the trap without springing it. Foxes are also too clever to approach something that reeks of humans. So that leaves weasels, minks and skunks.

I haven't trapped a skunk before. There's a special procedure, I believe it involves a tarp, for extracting them. And the spotty ones are so durned cute, I'm not sure I'd be able to kill one. Weasels and minks are another matter--not cute at all and vicious animals. But at least the peanut butter is keeping them away from my kale and kohlrabi transplants and the tender things coming up.