Strawberries, Blackberries

Most people think the strawberry the pinnacle of fruit, an epicurean delight.

I’m not that crazy about them myself.

Oh, I enjoy them dipped in chocolate or even just lightly sugared. I confess to adoring them topping a shortcake, too, especially if smothered in whipped cream and vanilla ice cream – but that has more to do with the additional toppings than the strawberries.  But when others swoon over a strawberry pie, I just shrug.

If I were to pick a favorite berry, it would probably be the black raspberry.   Or possibly the blackberry.  Or a red raspberry.  Or a blueberry.  Or a boysenberry. Or…well, you get the point.

Obviously, with the exception of strawberries, berries are high on my list of favored fruit. That is probably a little odd, because when I was growing up, berries were barely regarded as a viable fare, and certainly not a staple.  The cooks of my childhood used berries for pies and cobblers, but rarely for anything else.  Fruit in the households of my childhood consisted of apples and bananas, peaches or nectarines and oranges, perhaps some grapefruit or tangerines.  Pineapple was seen only on an upside down cake, and cherries were mostly baked into pies. Cranberries appeared on the table only at the holidays, and then in the form of  disgusting canned, jelled sauce. Kiwi or star fruit were unknown, and I really can’t recall papaya or mango being in the grocery bins, either.

Perhaps I came to enjoy berries because, when I was 10, my parents moved to a house in a neighborhood still under construction. Our new home, one of only three houses on that street, was surrounded by empty fields, full of milkweed and wild onion, but most of all growing wild with blackberry bramble.  I quickly discovered the berries.  I began going out the back door in the early mornings, clad only in my nightgown, to pick fresh berries from the bush at the end of our yard and add them to my bowl of cereal.  I was devastated when the builders arrived to clear the brush from the surrounding fields and begin building houses.

A few years ago, when I stumbled across the first few articles illustrating the amazing health benefits of berries, it was like discovering those fields of blackberry bramble all over again. My childhood love affair with berries was validated at last.  Not only were they the most delicious of all fruit, but they were good for you. It was exactly like hearing the first announcements that dark chocolate was good for you.  Delicious and good for you, full of polysyllabic nutrients that do wonderful things for the human body.  What more could one ask?

“Doubtless God could have made a better berry,” Dr. Butler famously said of the strawberry, “but doubtless God never did.”

Well, I may not have doctor as an honorific before my name, but I beg to differ. Give me a black raspberry any day.

Things in Movies That Drive Me Nuts!

I loved the original Star Wars movie.  I saw it at the theater the second weekend of its release.

But I spent the entire movie wishing that Luke Skywalker would just comb his damned hair.

This is just one minor chapter in a long, long list of movies, TV shows, books and songs in which one niggling little thing pretty much drives me over the edge and nearly ruins the entire experience for me. Hair issues in movies seem to comprise a surprising number of these irritants, for I felt exactly the same way about Meg Ryan’s hair in You’ve Got Mail.  “For the love of heaven, comb your hair, woman!” I longed to shout at the screen.  Fortunately for the other moviegoers, I kept my peace and just seethed in silence.  Weeks later, reading a magazine article by a hairstylist,  I almost choked when she referred to “Meg Ryan’s adorably tousled hair”.  My eyes rolled upward so hard they almost lodged there permanently. Adorably tousled?  Adorably tousled is a toddler’s hair after a long day.  This was a grown woman who just needed a comb and a mirror.

Despite my griping, let me point out that all of these were movies that I really liked. That fact in itself may be the key to my irritation.  Had I seen people wearing these ridiculous hairstyles in a movie I didn’t actually enjoy, I would probably just have shrugged.

Hair issues aside, there are the moments in movie plots that just seem so completely unrealistic or totally wrong that they simply set my teeth on edge.  For instance, I’ve watched My Best Friend’s Wedding a number of times,  which only goes to prove that I’m a complete masochist, because the ending always infuriates me.  Why? Because he marries the wrong woman. As the newly-wedded characters drive off into the night betwixt the romantic sparklers, I always think, “Well, there’s a marriage that’s not going to last six months past the honeymoon.”

I felt the same way about the characters in Sleepless in Seattle, although hardly anyone agrees with me, being blinded by the romantic “I just knew!” nonsense that comprises the heart of the script.  I myself got over that “I just knew!” rubbish at the age of 17, but apparently many grown people are still suckered in by it.  This may explain the national divorce rate.

Far more minor incongruities annoy me in other movies I love, such as The Holiday. I absolutely adore that show and watch it ever holiday season.  But the entire movie would have been made even better for me if a few improbable scenes had simply been smoothed by careful scriptwriting.  After all — let a total stranger have one’s home for a two weeks, without even a background check?! All that needed to come out of the American character’s mouth was something along the lines of, “I’ve been registered on that home exchange website for a year now….” and the whole scene would have been made realistic.  And being able to obtain a transatlantic plane ticket on less than 24 hour’s notice at the start of the Christmas season?! Why not a cry of protest – “We’ll never get tickets!” from the British character, and a response from the Hollywood American, “Don’t worry about that; I’ve got contacts.”  Simple Realism 101.

I felt even more flabbergasted watching a scene in Steel Magnolias, in which Sally Field’s character, working in the kitchen as she talks with her severely diabetic daughter, takes out a giant bag of sugar to begin cooking.  The first time I watched the movie I lost the next several seconds of the film because my mind couldn’t focus on anything but that five-pound bag of sugar…the five-pound bag of sugar being used by the mother of a diabetic while they discuss the girl’s condition. Yes, the scene was set during the Christmas treat-baking season; so what?  What mother of so seriously ill a diabetic would be cooking a ton of sugar right in front of her?  Had the director been lobotomized, I wondered?

And then there was that moment in the first Indiana Jones movie, in which Karen Carpenter’s character, having been gagged and bound in the heat of an Egyptian desert all day, is untied and served a meal and reaches for the sandwich first.  Say what?!  The water!  She would have chugged that water like a young partier doing Jello shots.

As picky as I undoubtedly am, I’m sure you’re wondering why I ever watch a movie in the first place. I wonder it myself sometimes. Nevertheless, if there’s ever a magic button that lets one change these little problems while home viewing a movie, I’ll certainly wear out my finger poking the darned thing!

The Name of the Goddess: Isis

Surely I cannot be the only individual worldwide who objects to the co-opting (only by an ignorant American press, I must point out) of the name great Mother Goddess of ancient Egypt to signify the Islamic militants. To employ the acronym ISIS, the same letters that compose the name of Isis, Goddess of compassion and enduring love, to signify terrorists who are anything but compassionate and loving – who do not even exemplify the tenets of the faith for which they claim to be waging war – is wrong.  Simply wrong.

During the years when Downtown Abbey was one of the most popular shows on TV,I read all too many reviews containing references to the “unfortunate” name of the fictional Earl of Grantham’s beloved dog.  So I was not surprised when the show’s final season made a carefully contrived reference to the ancient Egyptian origins of the name Isis.  British press, I understand, tends to refer to the militants as IS or ISIL, not ISIS, so obviously it was the American fans who were being coddled with this explanation.  But, I wondered grumpily, why was an explanation even necessary? Did most American viewers fail  to realize the name was that of a goddess of ancient Egypt? Obviously so.  The untutored American audience was, apparently, largely unaware that the name Isis was chosen as a compliment to the setting of the popular series, Highclare Castle, where Downtown Abbey was filmed.  Highclare was the onetime home of Lord Carnarvon, who financed archeologist Howard Carter’s magnificent discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb.  The dog’s name was an historical reference. Surely, I thought, everyone must know that.

Uh, no. It would seem not.  Not everyone, I finally acknowledged, was passionately interested in ancient Egyptian history.  Not everyone was a fan of the inimitable Elizabeth Peters’ Amelia Peabody series of archeological mysteries.   The subtle compliment to the series’ setting apparently did a complete flyby right over the heads of most of its American fans.

Still, if I were a member of the press, selecting an acronym for Islamic militants and terrorists, I would prefer to call them almost anything else. Probably something very rude. Sadly, I suspect that the acronym ISIS is too firmly entrenched in American minds to make the change.  That saddens me, and makes me long to beg: Please, please, stop using it!  Restore to grace the name of ancient Egypt’s great Goddess, she who was the Protector of Children, Resurrector of the Dead, Patron of Artisans, Protector of Slaves, Friend of Sinners, and Universal Mother: Isis.

Live Long and Prosper

I just read yet another article about a person who was celebrating a centenarian-plus birthday. As always happens, the aging individual was peppered with questions from the press about how it happened that they had managed to live so long.

These articles drive me nuts. I don’t know why I even read them, except that I am, perhaps, slightly masochistic.

I always long to reach out and grab the questioners by their collars and shake them silly. “For the love of heaven!” I want to shout.  “They’ve lived this long because they got a lucky shake in the gene pool!  And they were fortunate enough to avoid fatal accidents and survive epidemics! That’s why they are still alive!”

No matter what these centenarians claim when responding to inane questions, their longevity wasn’t really due their habit, however enjoyable, of having a shot of single malt daily – or flossing their teeth every morning – or even due to an irrepressibly sunny nature which saw the silver lining in every event, from the mundane to the dreadful, throughout a lifetime. Those things may (or may not) have contributed to their longevity, but the simple answer is: They got lucky.

They got genes that did not switch on diabetes or clogged arteries. Their bodies recognized cancer cells and immediately shut them down.  They were the product of long-lived ancestors.  They didn’t drink enough to destroy their livers with cirrhosis, and if they tried various illegal or potentially addictive drugs, they had the intelligence to recognize the their peril and stopped. They gave birth easily or had great medical care and so didn’t die in childbirth. They had strong immune systems. They were wise enough to choose spouses who did not abuse them.  They rarely took unnecessary physical risks.  There was no way to take selfies, so they didn’t pose at the edge of the cliff—and, anyway, they were bright enough not to go near the edge of the cliff in the first place. They had access to birth control and so weren’t worn out by constant childbearing. They were prescribed antibiotics to beat the very infections that once slaughtered thousands. They either didn’t encounter  or survived  house fires, muggings, wars, car accidents, or a myriad of other assorted personal disasters which could have ended their existence.

Good nutrition may have played a role in their survival, but here’s one thing I’ve noticed from reading about many of these survivors: Often these long-lived people began life in dirt-poor conditions, eating only subsistence rations. Nor can an absence of stress or tragedy explain their longevity, for many have lived lives so filled with calamity that an ancient Greek playwright would shudder.

So before I have to read another of these mindless stories asking, “How did you live so long?”, here’s the answer, short and simple: If you want to live long and prosper, choose the right ancestors. Pick the right DNA.  Behave wisely.

And get lucky. Very, very lucky.

Riding Past the Graveyard

I spent many years taking the bus to and from the office. Five days a week, wincing under the scorching summer sun in 99% humidity or shivering in the morning darkness while temperatures plunged well below zero, dashing through hailstones that began to fall just as I stepped off the bus, sliding across ice or slogging through snowdrifts, soaked and shivering when my umbrella turned inside out, furious when buses were late or broke down or completely failed to arrive because the regular driver had been co-opted to a training run….

It was rarely fun, but there were compensations, not the least of which was knowing that I was doing something, however small, for the benefit of Mother Earth. One less combustion engine on the roads – there I was, using mass transport in a city in which mass transport was, for the most part, pathetically inadequate.

Further compensations came in the form of what I referred to as my “bus buddies”: other dedicated riders, who, for a multitude of reasons, also braved the poorly-designed routes, the weather, and the many irritations of being a bus rider in a city with a terrible mass transit system. Over the years I knew many a great bus buddy with whom I shared conversation and laughter and even tears.  We persuaded one another to read favorite authors and discussed TV shows.  We supported each other emotionally through illnesses and myriad personal disasters, and celebrated joyous events, like engagements and weddings and  the births of children and grandchildren.  We commiserated over route changes and tardy buses that made us late for work.  We whined about bosses, spouses, intractable offspring and unpleasant in-laws. We looked at photographs of new homes. We doled out hugs when needed.  We criticized unfriendly drivers and lauded the ones we liked.  Bus Buddies were a great compensation for the frustrations of ridership.

However, probably the greatest compensation I found for the rigors of using mass transport was scenery. No, I’m not referring to meadows and vistas; those were largely absent as the bus lumbered through the grungy near-southside of the city and into the suburbs.  But there was a graveyard; two of them, in fact.  And one of them I inevitably found very entertaining.  Yes, you read that correctly: Entertaining.  It never failed to cheer me on my gloomiest afternoon.

It was an older section of the graveyard down by the road; most of the tombstones were bleached white, a little crumbly, small. But one stood out with startling clarity.  It appeared to be of brown granite or marble (I was never close enough to determine which.)  It was polished, shining, and very tall – probably five feet tall, at least.  It was a cylindrical monument with an odd, domed cap.

It looked, in fact, exactly like a giant penis.

Right in the middle of the graveyard.

The first time I noticed it, my reaction was, basically, “What were they thinking?”  What sort of family would erect (I apologize for the pun) such a monument on the grave of a loved one?  Then it occurred to me that perhaps this was their intention – a sort of character statement for the deceased.  Perhaps he — and I use the pronoun advisedly — had truly been a real dick.

Whatever the reason for that particular headstone, I always chose a bus seat where I could glimpse it as we drove past. And, as I say, it never failed to cheer me, and to draw a disbelieving laugh from those to whom I pointed it out.  Even now, writing this and remembering, I am smiling.  Or rather grinning.

Yes, despite everything, I always enjoyed riding the bus.

Dreaming in Technicolor

The first surviving photograph is dated from approximately 1826, and daguerreotypes were publicly available beginning in 1839. These are facts, incontrovertible. Those early processes used silver salts and sometimes metal plates, and the results were printed in tones of either sepia and ivory or grey and black and white.

How, then, prior to that, could people have dreamed in black and white when almost no one had ever seen the world that way? (Achromatopsia, a form of color blindness in which the sufferer sees the world only in shades of black and white, is the rarest form of the disorder, and my logical self bets that those in primitive societies who suffered this vision disorder did not long survive.)

Considering these facts, I’ve always wondered how the myth behind the question, “Do you dream in black and white?” evolved, unless it was a direct response to the invention of photography.  For about the last 200 years, I suppose, people who had seen a photograph might afterwards have translated the images of their dreams into monotones.  But why?  Why, when they had always seen the world in color?  Prior to photography, the only black and white landscape was seen by strong moonlight or firelight — candles and lanterns – and even in those pale lights, some very faint, washed-out color is discernable.  Few people living in the middle ages had ever seen a drawing done in pen and ink.  Why on earth then, I’ve always wondered, would people dream in black and white?  Why would anyone even ask that question?

I’ve always had a predilection for thinking through fables and urban legends this way. Just ask all the upset mothers who descended on my Mom when I, at the age of seven, announced to all my little playmates that there was no Santa Claus.  How, I asked them reasonably, could he get to all those houses in just one night? It wasn’t possible.  It wasn’t logical.  Ergo, Santa Claus was a myth.  (I was persona non grata at school for many weeks after this small fiasco.)

Then there is the currently popular “ you must sleep in a completely darkened room” fable.

Now look here, my logical left brain pronounces, it may have been years since I slept out under the stars, but I seem to recall that there were a couple of times when the full moon was pretty darned bright. Moreover, in those long ago camping trips, we had a campfire burning all night, even getting up in the wee hours to feed the fire until it burned very brightly.  I remember the dance of the flames against my closed eyelids.  And during those camping trips, we were keeping the fire up just for comfort and warmth–we weren’t using it as protection from marauding sabre tooth tigers or the odd prowling cave bear.

Our primitive ancestors would not have survived to be our ancestors had they been foolish enough to sleep in pitch-black darkness. Even deep within a cave, there was always a chance that some predator would arrive to claim the cave as its new den and make a meal out of handy little human snack packs.  A campfire was not a luxury, but a necessity.  And if our distant ancestors slept outside, then the waxing and waning of the moon added another layer of light to sleep cycles.

We humans are, I’ve concluded, programmed to sleep beneath varying cycles of soft, diffused and low, dancing light.

True, the lights we try to sleep under these days are different. I pull down room darkening shades against the ambient light from the nearby interstate highway  that filters into my second-floor bedroom.  I switch my Kindle to the blue-filtering setting when reading before bedtime.  But needing complete darkness to sleep is as big a fable as Santa Claus.

So the next time you hear that stupid question, “Do you dream in color or black and white?”, or lie awake with insomnia, wondering if  the light from your clock radio is to blame…think about it. Just think about all of it.

I bet you’ll fall asleep and dream in glorious, vivid color.

Beware the DST, My Friends!

I woke at just a little after 5:00 a.m. this morning, roused by a small furry animal who does not comprehend the latest clock change. I can’t really blame her; my body, too, has yet to adapt to this most recent nonsense of yanking the clocks backwards and forwards according to some mysterious formula which supposedly reduces energy consumption for lighting—lighting!–in an era in which air conditioners and electric furnaces operate year-long, and desktops, tablets, laptops, phones and all manner of other tech devices run ceaselessly, constantly in use, endlessly charging.

I grew up in an Indiana which refused to do Daylight Savings Time. Like Hawaii and Arizona (rational states in which the populace recognizes the salient fact that another hour of heat during the summer months is NOT desirable), most of Indiana, smack in the center of two warring Time Zones, stood in solitary and sane splendor.  Because their populace tended to cross the artificial borders of the various State lines for their work commutes, the northernmost of Indy’s 92 counties aligned themselves with Illinois, Michigan and Ohio, while the southernmost counties aligned themselves with Kentucky.

In actual practice, what all this meant to me, as a State employee, was that the Central Training Unit for which I worked for several years had to constantly figure out some way to gather regional employees to a designated site for a day of training that somehow encompassed different working hours. It also meant that (back when long distance calling rates varied according to the hour) my late friend Anastacia could never figure out what the heck time it was in Indiana when she was calling from Massachusetts.  And the lack of a time change spawned a pretty entertaining Eerie, Indiana episode.

But we dealt. We made it work. And most of us were pretty content with the status quo.

Eventually, though, the Indiana General Assembly decreed that Indy would join ranks with the other 48 split-personality states and do Daylight Savings Time. As to exactly why we were going to do this, I remain uncertain, although I personally blame former Governor Mitch Daniels.  I never liked the man, anyway, so it’s easy for me to blame him.  (Ah! To be a retired State employee and be able at last to say anything I can about the State’s governors, past and present, without fearing for my job!)

In any case, the State legislature gleefully announced that all of Indiana would be on the same time at last. All 92 counties worth of us.  In reality, though, we are no more on the same time than we were before the advent of the Dreaded DST.  A dozen Indiana counties, perched on the northern and southern tips of the State, remain aligned to Central rather than Eastern time.  So, the simple truth is, nobody outside the State—heck, not even most of the residents inside the State!–well, simply put, to this day, no one knows what the heck time it is in Indiana.

The real problem as I see it, though, is that I have yet to meet a single person who likes Daylight Savings Time.  Whether they align themselves on the “spring forward and leave it alone, for God’s sake!” or the “fall back and never touch the damn clocks again!” side of the debate, they are all united in one simple belief: DST sucks eggs big time.  It wrecks people’s internal body clocks.  Parents of small children lose their minds for fully two weeks after the twice-yearly time change, trying to help their children adapt to the lost-or-gained hour.  (It’s not, after all, like this is something one can explain to a newborn infant!)  And hungry pets demand to know why their palatial offerings of kibble and canned food are not being presented when the REAL timekeepers—those little clocks in their tummies, like a mantelpiece novelty—are informing them that it is, too, time for breakfast!

Sadly, since Indiana, (ever regressive and rural, despite its contemporary pretensions), remains one of the few States in the Union which denies its citizens the right of voter referendum, so that residents can place issues on the ballot, I don’t expect the unhappy Daylight Savings Time dispute to be resolved anytime soon. But I’ll continue agreeing with the proverb:

You can’t cut the end off a blanket, sew it to the other end, and pretend you have a longer blanket.

It’s the End of the World…Again

I’ve lived multiple times now through the End of the World.

The first of these “Ha! Still here!” scenarios occurred when I was barely out of my teens.  A classmate (we’ll call him Tony, because that was his name) was for weeks seen to be toting about a book written by a man who had calculated the End of the World.  Tony was preparing, because it was close, very close.  The year of our coming graduation, in fact.

Since we were in our senior year of high school, I wondered that Tony bothered coming to class, seeing as it was going to do him no good whatever, bound as we all were for the Celestial Chopping Block. But he did, all the while blithely anticipating an Armageddon that somehow failed to happen.  Sadly, Tony and I had long graduated and parted ways when the End of the World didn’t happen, denying me the pleasure of rubbing it in.

Then there was the Great Planetary Alignment. That was the next biggie I remember in the raft of EOW scenarios.  The planets were going to align, and the resultant gravitational forces exerted were literally going to rip the earth apart, pulling it piece from piece.

Didn’t happen. The planets lined up, nicely, like little soldiers falling in, and the birds tweeted, a soft breeze blew, and everything went peacefully on.  (Well, except for wars, devastation, plague, and starvation, but that’s all been going on since the beginning of recorded history.  Nothing to see here, folks.  Move along.)

Haley’s Comet missed the Earth. The Rapture failed to happen multiple times.  Nuclear war did not break out on the predicted dates (although it’s currently looking pretty ominous, with Twit and Twat running opposing countries).  Nostradamus and a whole lotta others got it wrong about 1999. The Y2K bug failed to trigger worldwide destruction, economic meltdown, and panic. Nibiru didn’t collide with Earth.

And then there was December 21, 2012. Despite a massive publicity campaign, including a big disaster-flick, it just didn’t happen.  The world didn’t end. Very thoughtless of it, after all that work.

Of course, most recently, the world was expected to end in September this year. When it failed to happen, the date was bumped up to October.

Or perhaps it was just that, in all the chaos surrounding the final preparations for my daughter’s wedding, I missed it. Although, considering all the things-gone-wrong scenarios I dealt with during that final month prior to the wedding, I would almost have welcomed  the end of the world to put me out of my misery.

I clicked up Wikipedia to check on the future dates for the EOW. 2020 seems to be the next one to watch out for.  That’s not such a bad idea, I’ve decided; at least Social Security won’t have the chance to run out of money for all us pensioners. Most of the dates, though, were far enough in the future that I will likely be sitting on a comfortable cloud in Heaven, watching the puny little beings scurry about below, stockpiling canned goods and searching out deep caves to hide in and possibly survive the devastation.

Having been to Mammoth Cave once as a child, I recommend it. It’s nice and deep and large and even has its own ecosystem.  Great place to survive Armageddon…if it ever happens.

My Doppelganger

I’ve heard that we all have doppelgangers, and I’ve marveled at the results on websites devoted to finding one’s double. But the concept troubles me, because for many years now I’ve been mistaken for another woman — someone who apparently lives very near me.

Because I am a relentless worrier, my first thought is always, “But what if my double is a really awful person? Omigosh, what if she’s a criminal?!”  And that is not, as it might appear, a ridiculous concern, because some of my encounters with those who apparently know my double have been extremely uncomfortable.

For instance, once while out shopping, I was accosted by a couple quite unknown to me. The woman half-dragged her male companion up to me and demanded, “Do you remember us?”  The ominous edge to her voice was warning enough to deny all knowledge–even if I had previously met the couple, I’d have replied that I didn’t know either of them from Adam’s housecat!

The woman and her companion were black, and I, with my fish-belly-white skin, am definitely not, so I wondered uneasily if there was a racial problem indicated by her tone – or if her demand had something to do with her obviously uneasy male companion. Either scenario seemed equally bad, so I was happy to be able to reply  honestly, “No, I’m afraid I’ve never met you. You must have me confused with someone else.”  The woman’s “hrrrmmmpphhh” indicated that she hardly believed my answer, but I turned and edged quickly away, grateful when they did not follow.

On another doppelganger occasion, I was taking a selection of goods to a drop site for a charity auction. After a terrible time finding the home of the person collecting the contributions, I hauled my sackful of goods out of the car and up to the door, where I knocked and waited.  The door was answered by a woman who looked visibly startled to see me.  “Oh, you’re back!” she exclaimed.  “Did you find more items for us?”

I stared for a moment, and then muttered in confusion, “Uh, I haven’t been here before. But here are some things for the pet rescue auction.”  I thrust the sack at her and hurried back to my car. Well, at least my double contributes to charity! I thought.

Another confusing encounter occurred as I was returning a heavy wall mirror to a home goods store. A car pulled up much too close to me as I trudged across the parking lot, and I nervously swung around to glare at its occupants, nearly dropping the mirror as I did so. “Don’t be scared. It’s just me!” a woman sang out, and then, in answer to my bewildered look said, “You know, from church?”

The problem with this being, of course, that I do not attend a church.

My list of these encounters could go on and on: the girl who stopped me outside a museum, believing I was the aunt she had not seen in years; the woman who dashed across the lawn at a festival, exclaiming hello but calling out to me a name that wasn’t mine, and who was astonished when I explained that I did not know her.

But perhaps my favorite of all my doppelganger encounters was the afternoon I boarded my regular bus to return home from work. I settled into a seat and, as usual, poked my nose into a book.  But a tiny elderly lady had boarded the bus just behind me at the same stop, and now sat in one of the sideways seats, glaring at me and muttering imprecations under her breath.  Engaged in my novel, I was totally oblivious to her behavior.  But those seated around us were nervously glancing at one another, wondering what the heck was going on.

As the bus pulled up to the next stop, the elderly lady bounced out of her seat and stormed past me, intentionally slamming her purse into my arm as hard as she could before darting out of the back door. Roused from my novel with a vengeance, I caught sight of her face as she rushed out.

I hadn’t the faintest notion in hell who she was.

The other riders exclaimed over the incident, telling me about her glares and curses, and asking me why she’d done that. I could only reply, “I have no idea!  I’ve never seen her before in my life!”

Whoever she was, she’d given me a pretty good walloping with that purse. My arm was bruised for days, and for the next week my daughter insist I lug about the huge hardback final edition of Harry Potter in my tote bag, just in case I needed to fight back.

So, as I say, I worry that my doppelganger is perhaps not always a very nice person. And I would really like to meet her someday, if only to thank her for contributing to charity before I advise her to contact her long-lost niece, attend festivals in Broad Ripple park, tell the people at church that she’s never bought a mirror, and please, please, be more courteous to elderly ladies armed with purses!

Proverbs, Old and New

I once read a proverb, purported to be Native American, which said, “When a great soul dies, the winds go mad.”

Well, judging by the number of horrific windstorms we’ve endured in Indiana over the past few years, I’d say the state, if not the entire planet, is rapidly emptying of great souls.

I adore proverbs and adages, though. Some are meaningful, some obscene, some absolutely hilarious, but they all delight me as wondrous workings of the English language.

When I was a very young office worker, my female supervisor strolled into the hidden department where we lowly clerical staff worked in seclusion, sequestered from the more important (read: male) employees. Since this was an all-female office, and in a time long before the era of political correctness, many things were said that today would have one immediately on the chopping block.  On this particular day, our boss announced to us that she was “making three tracks today.”  We all looked at her in confusion; what did she mean?  “I’m making three tracks,” she repeated, and then, with a great slap on her own backside, “and the third one is the deepest and the widest.”  Ah. The light dawned: Her ass was dragging.

I loved that phrase and have used it (and explained it) many times since.

Another employee in an office where I later worked in Charleston, South Carolina, legendary for her ability to save money, told us proudly that she could “squeeze a nickel until the buffalo mooed.” Again, a marvelous aphorism that I, also being a legendary tightwad, adopted as my own.

“Don’t judge a book by its cover” always tickles me, because I do precisely that. I’ve chosen many a book (and thereby discovered many a favorite author) by selecting a book based entirely on well-drawn cover art and an intriguing title.  I’m also notorious for rejecting books with what I think of as “high school art class” cover art.  No doubt I’ve missed many a good read that way, but, there you have it: I do judge my books by their covers.

During my childhood years, though, the saying, “You can’t have your cake and eat it, too,” bewildered me. That was because I thought of  the word “have” in the context of being served: “I’ll have a piece of cake, yes, please.”  It took me until my teen years to figure out that the aphorism meant that once eaten, one no longer had a piece of cake.  (And speaking of cake, I have learned never to say that some task will be “a piece of cake”, because if I dare to say those words, it definitely won’t be!)  I suppose I wasn’t always “the sharpest knife in the drawer” in respect to some sayings, though, for it wasn’t until the era of political correctness that I belatedly realized the saying, “The pot calling the kettle black” was based on a racial slur.  I try not to use it any longer.  I get around it by sighing dramatically and saying, “Pots and kettles, pots and kettles”, thereby allowing people to make anything they like of the statement.

I watched and delighted in the cultural evolution of the old euphemism, “Two ants short of a picnic” or “A few bricks shy of a load” into a raft of similar but updated catchphrases such as “Two french-fries short of a Happy Meal”. Ever a Star Trek fan, I was enchanted when, “His elevator doesn’t go all the way to the top floor” morphed into, “He’s not operating on all thrusters.”

But perhaps the best, funniest, and most obscene saying of all I must credit to my paternal grandmother, Marie. All of us, her many grandchildren, heard her remark upon this time and again, and it is just as riotous a description today as when she said it each time a heavy rainstorm began:  “It’s raining,” she would say with a shake of her head, “like a cow pissing on a flat rock.”

‘nuff said.