I got some sunshine

I love lemons and lemony things, except not sour lemon candy because that is an oxymoronic disappointment. I particularly adore and treasure Meyer lemons.
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And if you think perhaps I ought not to have bought New Zealand ones because of how that’s super far away, well, I want you to stop eating bananas, coconuts, mangos, and everything else that we get from the tropics where we do not live, and then we’ll talk. 20151025_165118_22284701048_o

If you are also in Southwestern Ohio and so committed to local food that you eat nothing all winter but kale and yams, that’s really terrific. I guess. I’m still going to enjoy these lemons. 20151025_165159_22285586469_o

In winter, Meyer lemons come from California and Florida, rather briefly. And I’d have expected an NZ harvest to maybe appear earlier than now, but what do I know about that? Nothing. Only that I have five whole Meyer lemons on my table to gaze upon lovingly and then use in things. 20151025_165134_21851196563_o

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here in my car; a musical ode

Oh, you darling. You snap to life the moment my sole touches your pedal. You accelerate like you're bound for heaven and you're still so smooth around the curves. How I missed you for the past six days. That new loaner car smelled nice and had a flashy display, but it was all surface glimmer, no real bottom at all. It rode lightly along a path, but you, Ava, you drive.
 

Naturally, when I got my old badass momcar back from the Jeff Wyler Mazda service department, all I wanted to do was drive her. I took the scenic path into town to the new gimongous Kroger, and played music like we were both still young girls, going places just for the sake of going. Except in middle age, and today, that really just meant passing 16 other Krogers to get to the new posh one.
 

But with the sun shining, the windows down, hair flying, it's easy to imagine I could take over the road; time shifts into reverse, collagen reappears, waistline flattens and narrows, and the odometer rolls back a million miles as we head to the city or the sea or anywhere we like.
 

We visit the places we'd always meant to see...
 

If we travel back too far, I might find myself alone in front of a green screen, telling myself I'm not self-conscious, repeating it over and over again until it's true. Which, of course, is exactly what I did, once upon a time.
 

Nearing home again after spending all the grocery money, reality takes a bite out of my brief fantasy. She's just a car. It's a car. It's old, and maybe the water pump will go soon, or a belt, or some seals. Other people are learning to drive this car, and I'll have to let her go with them, wherever they go, and hope for their safe return. I will have to share her. 

We understand each other, though. We are just like this. We've been a lot of places in the past eight and a half years, and I hope we see lots more. 20151006_141300
 

PS: those dealerships really know how to engender loyalty, don't they? I'm no good at resisting the charm of it all, and there's little question where I'll head to if needs arise or change...but for now, Ava and I are all in all. I'm going out now to give her a nice facial and massage.


The Night of the Shirtless Agent

Yeah, I never claimed to be original all the time.

A friend on Google Plus was sharing tidbits from The Wild, Wild West today, which got me thinking two things. First, as I have been wanting to do some weekly themes, Thursday might be a good day for posts such as this one here. Which I am doing because something you might not know about me is that Bret Maverick was not entirely my first crush. He shared that privilege with two others:

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though my heart actually belonged to James Garner, and a piece of it always will.

I really loved The Wild Wild West. Well, actually, Artie always made me super uncomfortable, but James West captivated me for awhile. So I watched it after school when I was a little kid. It's definitely ironic that CBS had to can the show because of a congressional uproar over violent programming, but I was just watching it at 4 in the afternoon a few years later, for my own little reasons. Poolstick
As a child, I never thought of the show as violent. I mean, none of it seemed real to me or particularly visceral. It was just TV. Beltbuckle
But The Wild, Wild West was actually extremely violent at times, to anyone who was paying attention to the actual events taking place. Am I saying I've always been kind of shallow? Probably.
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James West as portrayed by Robert Conrad set the standard for how the good guy should be treated by villains. He was super fit and rarely tied up or pinned down until he was shirtless, but he always had a couple gadgets in his pockets he could use to free himself before the bomb went off or the bad guy came back from having wandered off to tend to his minions, dressed or undressed. This is how these things should operate. Imagine if Adam West had been so fit as Batman. Dynamite
In The Wild, Wild West, two guys traveled around together in a private train car, wore fancy clothes, and one of them was nearly always wearing a disguise. The other one was always finding himself tied up. Those were the good old days I grew up with. The Wild, Wild West was born the same year I was, actually. It was a very good year.

Here are a few more shots from the show. If you expected me to note which episodes they came from, I expect you're at the wrong blog. But you can watch many of them on YouTube, and collect your own favorite shirtless/torture moments. Also, you can read this blog post written by a friend in 2005, which actually discusses the show and its production.

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Escape

Aching

Hanging

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Steamy

 


Her Indian Summer, mark v, unfinished

Oppressive heat drifted on oceanic waves
so thick you could see it
sparkling languor
filtered by sultry sunlight

He applied and wore it
like a finely woven suit
or a glamour he’d cast
luring me closer, drawing me in

The steam from his pores clouded my vision
blindly I followed his lead
coaxed by the scent of fervid nectar
and a mouth that tasted sweet like sin


We Traced the Skyline

There's a theory I have about having been tertiary to this event, this day in history. You got your primary experiencers who are part of a group and among that group they know what they know, either staying quiet or protesting something, depending, all the rest of their lives. They are part of a terrible invisible club no one should want to belong to. I can’t speak as one of them, and would never try to. I honor their forbearance toward the rest of us as we tried to figure out how we fit into the picture.



You got your secondaries, in this case, people like me who were external witnesses in some way, and it affected us immediately in a number of areas, but not quite painfully, and we wouldn't think of laying claim to more than our share, because we could see the pain in and for others, right there in front of us. We stood on the beach in little groups and stared across the harbor at the blackened skyline, looking for flames. We rode the train to the city for the first time afterwards in some trepidation, not sure what we'd find. We watched planes circle overhead for weeks, and we attended memorials for the dead in our townships; "bedroom communities" for people with Manhattan offices. But as I said, we did all this just as external witnesses, nothing more. All we experienced during that day and those months afterwards was sometimes scary, sometimes frustrating, sometimes touching. We have stories. Yet we could always go home and scrub it from our skin and move on with our typically mundane lives.



If you were tertiary, you read about it, bumped into aspects of it, and wanted to embrace it because it was really, really big, but you didn't know how to fully connect. You simply weren’t there. So you flew your little car flags til they were raggedy, played Six Degrees of Separation from Tragedy, and cried “Never Forget" ensuring you’d always have something to remember and nod your head over. You discussed it online, compared Degrees, theories, solutions. All of this is completely understandable. We didn’t know back then what might happen next, you didn’t know if it could happen to you. But of course, it didn’t. Instead of still trying to lay claim to part of a huge tragedy after all this time, you get to be glad you didn’t have to.



I miss New York. It literally (literally) throbs with life. Something I will never forget is the first time I walked up the steps out of Penn Station onto 7th Avenue, and felt the air breathe around me. It was palpable, and it has stayed with me for fifteen years. I catch my breath as I write about it. It’s chaotic and it smells bad at night when they put the garbage out, and the public restrooms, if you can find them, are really lousy. But it is a living, breathing city like no other, and I will always be glad for the time I have spent there, even if I am never to go back. It’s been four years since I was an 80 minute train ride away. Yet my time there helped shape who I am now. New York taught me to embrace texture, pattern, and the juxtaposition between, oh, just anything and everything. You should go, if ever you can. Not so you can touch a part of history, but so you can experience everywhere on the planet drawn together into one neat crowded rectangle of humanity. It’ll be something awe-inspiring for you to embrace.

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In honor of Independence Day, take some road trips

If you can, this month and next.

Do you spend a lot of your leisure time online, talking with people, watching videos, and playing games? It might be that you're less in touch with the world around you than you once were, or than you ought to be. If you were to view, say, this country, purely from an online context, you'd have a real narrow vision of how things actually are. So get out and drive around. Spread out an actual paper map on your table or floor, draw a circle 200 or 300 miles around where you are, and see what you can get to in half a day's drive. If you can go farther, go farther. 16137701202_c8d8467626_oSure, sure, do this, too. But still look at it spread out in front of you on paper.

You need this, and so do the people you lob your opinions at, for some stress relief, and for waking up your vision.

You can take sandwiches, if you need to. Back in our relative youth, the man and I would occasionally pack some cheap snacks and drive across Missouri to see how things were on the other side. If you have money, though, you can eat at a place you wouldn't see in your own town. 16137700202_48db40a79c_oAsk the server what he or she thinks is the best thing about where you are. Play nice.

Make it a habit, if you can. Go to a new place on your circle another time, or broaden the perimeter. 12677938223_ea0bfbd3bc_o
People can travel to faraway places in the same amount of time if they take off their shoes and get on a plane. I'm telling you to drive across the actual landscape, instead. If you have any adventure in your soul, tell the phone GPS to take you off the highway (first ask it to save the info offline, though,) so you can see stuff. And bring the paper map as well, because those never need a signal.

One final tip. Take a lot of pictures! But do yourself a favor and don't even look at them until you get back home. You'll have more fun reliving it that way than you will if you spend all your time trying to capture a moment instead of just being in it. 15951394558_bf6672f4e2_o

PS: In a dreary "social media" environment, someone would feel compelled to point out not everyone has a car. Well, of course not. Taking road trips when you don't own a car requires significantly more planning. Doesn't mean it wouldn't be good to do.


A Good Friday to You

I could be called a taoist, but only if pressed on the issue. Being taoist does not preclude either physics or metaphysics. You can’t file it in a drawer. It just is what is. I enjoy the sincerity of true faith seekers, and the history of various ritual paths, but it all came to me in a tree one day in 1973 shortly after I received First Communion; that is to say, all I needed to be going on with. I'm not a real big questioner or answerer. What I am is what I am. 20130808_213231

The defining idea that drives me, that has always “driven” me, is that people are people. The world is the New Jersey Transit waiting area at Penn Station. Everything to be seen in humanity can be found there. Sitting on the floor, playing the will it be track 6 or 8 or 1 or 2? waiting game, all the hearts and minds, inner thoughts and outer expressions, worries and fears and elations, they’re all there. Will I silently or vocally judge it all, making comparisons and drawing conclusions, or will I marvel at the whole of the universe, both always changing and always the same, with tiny hearts and big hearts and uncertain minds, the awkward mixture of youthful self-consciousness and pride, the sometimes desperate need to both stand out from the crowd and blend into it, star stuff glowing and reflected in the faces of people whose ancestors walked every area of populated earth? Crowd

How can I witness all that, and witness the rise of tulips in spring, and the rise of the first A struck by a concertmaster, and then waste my time arguing over which version of the God story is correct, who gets to make love to whom, or what people seek to pleasure themselves with in the comfort of their own home? In this big beautiful world, there are people drinking dirty water or worrying they won’t have any at all, women making less money than men for the same jobs or no job at all, and a whole swath of the globe in which people have killed each other over the same piece of inert land since time began, and in your own much smaller world there are people around you every day who do not tell you they fed their cat last night instead of themselves, or that they discovered a spot growing on their neck or that their spouse screamed in anger and struck out with an open hand or a fist over something most anyone else would find so trivial as to hardly be noticed.

If you believe this day represents Jesus dying for you and for your sins, “that all may seek the Kingdom of God,” does it motivate you to fear others, to judge them, or to love them as Jesus is said to have done, “that your joy may be full?” John wrote that stuff, so they say.

Matthew is said to have written this bit. “Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you.”

It’s a balanced statement. The measure matters as much as the judgment. Are you meting in generous measure without also judging? To love your neighbor as yourself, (which is the least you should do according to the words of Jesus as written by Mark, equal to your respect for God,) your giving must be unconditional. It’s for the God you profess to obey to decide on the aftermath.

Religiously driven or not, if you let go of fear of others, of judgment of others, of control over what others do, you will have so much more space in your heart and mind to set toward people you can love and things you can help repair. Easter Sunday represents renewed life and hope, just as the more ancient practices did, in their reverence for the return of spring. You weren’t given this life merely to count down the days until the next, gnashing your teeth at others along the way. If you believe there’s light and beauty inside you, let other people see it, too, and watch it grow and spread, overtaking the thorny weeds you’ve allowed yourself to stumble over in the past.

If you aren’t certain all that great stuff is built into you because you don’t take comfort in old books, take comfort in new ones, instead. We now know that a chain of chemical reactions which began in the center of a multitude of ancient stars ultimately resulted in the formation of the planets, of Earth, and of us. Stars-Carina_NebulaAll of us, and all of everything we can see, touch, smell, and taste. People can say a God did that if they like, and what a super cool God that would be. Either way, it’s what we are now, and what we should make sure others can see in us. A reflection of all of the best of creation. Think on it, and act.

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Pause button inspiration

I study him as a discipline, an endless fascination. Maybe I think if I can figure out Frank Sinatra, I can figure out men. Maybe I just wonder what's really going on behind those deep blue eyes, both wide open and hidden at the same time, like a theater with double front curtains.

I never try to figure out Bill Holden. He wasn’t complicated, anyway. His intellect took direct paths, for better and for worse. And for me, he was just attractive, until he wasn’t, but because I love the younger man, I love the older one, too. That’s how I love. Bill is like one of my first boyfriends I broke up with badly, only he’s older than me and gets there first, because I can’t imagine it any other way. We don’t get a happy ending, though there is a sweet, sad parting in my mind, a lingering fond farewell, and I learn to smile when we run into each other now and then, even when he calls me “kid.” I keep loving him even when I don’t need to anymore.

I don’t love Frank Sinatra. At least, not like that. I find him mesmerizing, but I don’t want him in bed or at breakfast. I want him next to me on the bench in front of Abraham Lincoln, on the subway heading all the way downtown from the 80s, or across the dinner table with plenty of other people around. In those places he’s a man I’ve seen everywhere, almost unnoticeable until he speaks, and then everybody listens. He commands the room and you can’t look away.

But when you start imagining someone that way, you make him bigger than life, bigger than other people, which is a dangerous thing to do. He must have known that about himself sometimes, maybe pretty often. We take ourselves seriously in a certain particular way that nobody else can. There’s still a struggle that other people don’t see anymore.

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Deconstructing Baby It's Cold Outside, correctly

(edited to reflect an updated lyric.) Could you write this song now instead of the 40s (50s, 60s, 70s?) No, not with the same cheeky sense of fun. (Which is why, I suppose, people like me cling so fervently to the nice parts of the past.) And of course that might not be a bad thing in our world in which people must be suspicious of each other at all times, but it doesn’t make the meaning of it as it was created in the past no good now. Judging the hundreds of people who've recorded this song as if they've got no sense until you come along and straighten them out is just foolish.

 

This has upset me so much because it means much more than just getting it technically wrong. It means all of our recent past is subject to revision, to the point where everything I knew growing up is now “for all intensive purposes” to someone who doesn't see it in perspective.

We are better at a lot of stuff than they were 80 years ago when this song was written, yet that doesn’t mean they didn’t know how life worked. We can do Earth and universal goodwill and women getting great jobs in a way they didn’t do just then. But to take what they made and enjoyed and interpret it as something different now is doing them a disservice. You can never understand any history if you look at it only through your own current view. History revisionists are all on the wrong sides of things; don’t be one of them.

 

People who have no solid view of history, perspective, context, or songwriting style are interpreting this song as he says/she says, and also don’t even know how people used to talk before the 90s. But it isn’t like that. Each pair of lines works together.

(I really can't stay) But, baby, it's cold outside
(I've got to go away) But, baby, it's cold outside
(This evening has been) Been hoping that you'd drop in
(So very nice) I'll hold your hands they're just like ice

This verse means she went to the man’s apartment and has been having a good time. Now it’s both a little late and getting on toward clutch time. You probably don’t remember life before Britney and Justin were briefly a couple, but back when our parents (your grandparents) were young, and he’d just gotten back from his tour in Germany or Korea, they were celebrating the free world like you didn’t know they knew how.

(My mother will start to worry) Beautiful, what's your hurry
(My father will be pacing the floor) Listen to the fireplace roar
(So really I'd better scurry) Beautiful, please don't hurry
(Well, maybe just half a drink more) Put some records on while I pour

 

Look at what’s been going on. They’ve been sitting here talking in front of the fireplace. You might not remember that, either, unless you live in a cool old building, but apartments had fireplaces if they were big enough and in the north. She sat and watched while he made one, or maybe she made the first round of drinks, only her round was a little weak, because it’s maybe 1949, and she’s a girl like that. Why would she sit and watch him build a fire? Is she stupid and doesn’t know he’s setting a comfortable scene? No, people born before you knew the score. They just liked to pretend they didn’t. So now he’s freshened her drink, and she has put on a record. It was probably a ten inch long-playing record; twelve-inchers ended up taking over, but not just yet. Know how I can say that? Because I know stuff about before now that I didn’t get from a CBS crime procedural marathon or a Tumblr page. All these details add up to a more complete picture than the one you've got in your head.

(The neighbors might think) Baby, it's bad out there
(Say what's in this drink) No cabs to be had out there
(I wish I knew how) Your eyes are like starlight now
(To break this spell) I'll take your hat, your hair looks swell

Are you thinking she’s been sitting there in front of the fire with her second drink but has a woolen toque on her head like she’s about to fight with the storm? No. It’s a cute hat perched on her head to match her outfit. Her coat might have had a big hood that fit over it, or it might have been super impractical in order to look nice. (You might have wondered why hoods on women’s coats were and sometimes are still gigantic. It was to accommodate hairstyles and hats.) And all she notices about the drink is that the bourbon to soda ratio is narrower than hers was. It was a running joke before it got ruined by a few creepers. Not just women to men, but any old body takes a drink and says, “Wow, what’d you put in here? Everything?” That kind of thing. Maybe she set it down, maybe she kept sipping. We don’t know, but we also know the next line wasn’t “Shh, I demand you toss it back.” But did you think she never had a drink before? That’s no good, either. This isn’t the watered-wine and rataffia era, after all.

 

(I ought to say no, no, no, sir) Mind if I move in closer
(At least I'm gonna say that I tried) What's the sense of hurting my pride
(I really can't stay) Baby, don't hold out
[Both] Baby, it's cold outside

Her hat is now off. Know how I know? Because she isn’t saying no. She’s saying “she ought to.” People say ought to about things they really don’t want to do. “I really ought to get on that, clean that up, make that call, get to bed.” They’re trying to talk themselves into doing something when they would rather not just now, thanks. It’s a way of appearing diligent without having to be so, like if you see your neighbor is coming over and you haven’t cleaned yet, so you set the vacuum cleaner in the hallway. At the same time, she’s feeling him out. Will he give her a good reason to not have to say no?

Know how I know that? Because it’s basic human nature, and I’ve lived long enough and seen enough to know that. She’s going to say she tried? Not really, but if she did, nobody would be screaming at her that he took advantage of her. They’re gonna shake their heads a little, grinning, and saying things like, “Sister, what are you up to?”

And then both of them sing “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” together, because they are in this together. She doesn’t want to go out there yet, but is keeping up a pretense because she’s supposed to, and so he’ll know they can carry on, but maybe not all the way. It’s code, which people have always used, only it’s a little different in each era.

 

(I simply must go) Baby, it's cold outside
(The answer is no) Baby, it's cold outside
(The welcome has been) How lucky that you dropped in
(So nice and warm) Look out the window at the storm

Now here she says no, but it’s the kind of no he understands, not the kind you’re thinking of. She’s set a boundary. He was going too fast. But does she get up? No. She’s pressed up against him, that’s why, still performing her ought tos. She doesn’t stand up so he’ll stop kissing her, and he hasn’t pinned her down so she can’t move, because they are singing this thing together. Remember, this was written by a married couple, who performed it at a party for their friends. Their friends laughed because they understood it like you don’t. They knew the score.

(My sister will be suspicious) Gosh your lips look delicious
(My brother will be there at the door) Waves upon a tropical shore
(My maiden aunt's mind is vicious) Gosh your lips are delicious
(But maybe just a cigarette more) Never such a blizzard before

This is the verse that tells you the truth you don’t wish to know. He moves in for a kiss. She’s murmuring at this point, as their faces meet, and then when they do kiss, she decides maybe she can hang around a little longer, timing it with however long it takes to smoke an unfiltered cigarette. The cigarette was important, even though it seems really grosstastic now. She can sit up and he’ll light one, but at the same time, she can let him know that kiss was so good, she’ll be around for a few more. It’s another piece of cultural code. And the sister, the brother, the aunt? Now she’s just making up stuff. It isn’t a firmer defense, it’s a weaker one, but she is required to make it in this game.

(I got to get home) But, baby, you'd freeze out there
(Say lend me a comb) It's up to your knees out there
(You've really been grand) I thrill when you touch my hand
(But don't you see) How can you do this thing to me

Do you borrow a comb from a man who creeps you out? And she put her hand on his when she asked. Why is she touching him and asking to put something in her hair that he has had in his hair? Because she likes him, that’s why, not because rohypnol is taking over .

She knows he knows she’s into him, and he also knows she’s not taking him too seriously, and so he’ll ask again, because she’s not offended, she’s just going by the rules she’s set for herself, which are more about pacing than anything else. She’s indicating to him that she’s got people looking out for her, but at the same time, is making her own choice about what position she is taking with him on the couch.

 

(There's bound to be talk tomorrow) Think of my life long sorrow
(At least there will be plenty implied) If you caught pneumonia and died
(I really can't stay) Get over that old doubt
[Both] Baby, it's cold
[Both] Baby, it's cold outside (Sung together again)

That was the truth about 1949 or so, and is sometimes still the truth now. You’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. You draw your own line, but everyone else reads it according to their own, though sometimes they’re hypocrites about it, making their own decisions while judging others for making the same one.

You know how “they” say everyone thinks they’re an above-average driver? It is a truth not universally acknowledged that people think everyone else but them is dumber and needs life explained to them. The internet has made this worse. You Google a thing and learn a few talking points, and it never crosses your mind that the person you’re explaining it all to has maybe actually read whole books on the subject or has first-hand experience at it. Your insular confirmation bias bubble leads you to believe you’re the one who uncovered the truth, only actually, not only has it been there a lot longer than you knew, you have only a few pieces of the picture in the frame, and not the whole thing. Sometimes you don't even understand the frame, like when I first saw Impressionist paintings in a museum, and wondered why they were in big ornate gilded things, until someone explained to me that those frames were correct for the period, even though they didn't match the new painting style. That taught me something.

 

People take old texts like the Bible, and they translate them into modern languages. But they can’t make direct one-to-one translations without knowing what the writers meant by certain words (and phrases, since a word could mean something different when used with another,) because they aren’t what they mean now. Shakespeare is the same way. People who study the language of Shakespeare must decode it according to how he used words and how they’d be taken then, not how they wish for them to be taken now. We put on a play with Shakespeare’s intent, by understanding the context in which he wrote. We don't say, "Sorry, Hamlet doesn't get to mean that anymore; we changed what his words meant."

We can play with it a little, though, without ruining it.