Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Even Better Than Locking the Door

We’ve all had them, the ubiquitous callers out to save our soul and sign us up for their club/cult. Not so long ago, the Witnesses or Adventists or those tandem-traveling, bicycle-riding Mormons boys (cute, but would I trust them with my teen-age daughter?) would ring doorbells up and down our street attempting to convert the heathens. I know they meant well, but really, I’m a grown woman with just-about grown children; I’ve been contemplating spiritual matters and doing the metaphysical math for decades. What I haven’t figured out, I’ll wait for a burning bush to tell me, thank you very much. Until then, I am quite content with my lapsed-Unitarian, quasi-Buddhist ways. Best not to answer the door, for these people are over-trained in not taking no for an answer.

Way back in the day, in another town in a county south of here, my then-husband had cured the local Ultra-Christian gangs of rousting us from our coveted, heathenish weekend sleep. One Sunday morning, after a brisk round of knocking, he opened the door in his birthday suit. Nothing like a naked brown man with tousled hair to send proselytizers packing. After the brief commotion in which they hurriedly turned and hustled down the porch steps, shielding their kids' eyes, no doubt, never to return, I sleepily asked him why he even answered the door and then without the jammies God gave him last Christmas. He said with all that pounding on the door, he thought it was an emergency, like the time the hillside was on fire, or the drunk burglar was hiding, noisily, in the back yards on our block. I hazarded that the Adventists had probably once thought we were a spiritual emergency, but now thought we were spiritual felons. Or a lost cause, for they never came around again. None of them did. Must have been a note they passed amongst themselves: crazy naked heathen, black as Hades; don’t take the kids.

But that had been another neighborhood in another county, as I said. And while it had been a sure-fire method, that husband now lived on the other side of the globe and couldn’t be called in for doorbell duty.. When it rang in the middle of a weekend morning, I wasn’t ready to shuck my clothes, especially since I had probably just succeeded in getting into them. Nor did I think I carried quite the same scare-factor: a buck-naked woman, no matter how over the hill and hefty, might be considered an attraction to some. You just never know.

So one day I printed up a sign and posted it on the door. It read: “Herein resides a bunch of FUB's: Finnish Unitarian Buddhists. We promise not to proselytize you, if you promise not to proselytize us.” A few groups clomped up the steps, stood for few minutes, then retreated. They must have put some sort of hobo-sign on our house that warns others away from the FUB Cabal, as we haven’t had any cult-callers since, even though the sign disintegrated and disappeared years ago.

Saturday, February 23, 2008


Things happen, that's a fact. Especially when you least expect them. This time, it's mostly good news. Firstly, the Flash/Fall 2007 issue of Tiny Lights has now hit the news stands... no, that's not right-- it's being sent to subscribers and might be in an independent bookstore near you, if you live in the Bay Area. It's a well-designed print journal of personal narrative, with cool artwork and thoughtful, well-written, provocative essays. Not only that, but one of my essays, Chalk Talk, is in it. (short break for the Snoopy dance of joy). Anyway, the link to the Tiny Lights website is on my Link List. My essay isn't posted, at least not yet, but there are other writing-tastic things on the site: check out the Searchlights and Signal Flares page.

yes, there's more, but this is a darn good start!

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Washing Our Hands of The Whole Deal

So the Significant Other and I have been appliance shopping. Yes. One of the top ten experiences that can wreck a relationship. Last week, our Maytag washer of fifteen years seized, gasped, rattled and then oozed water all over the floor. Ruptured a blood vessel and bled to death, was the S.O.’s diagnosis. The rapidly expanding and festering mountain of dirty clothes enforced an atmosphere of cooperation and we got down to business right away.

Being eco-conscious consumers, we agreed immediately on a front loader. Plus they are soooo cool! After we got over the sticker shock (eased a teensy-tiny bit by rebates from the water and power companies), we continued our consumer research: cu ft, rpm’s, stainless steel baskets, the whole nine yards. But we really weren’t prepared for the showroom with candy-apple red and chrome stacking sets, all stainless-steel machines and German machines with steam cleaning. Not to mention the myriad of buttons and dials, the plethora of cycles with goddess-knows how many spin & temp modifications: it soon overwhelmed my tiny little brain. I stood in front of a row of round windows, transfixed to know that a machine can hand-wash.

And the stoves and refrigerators, whoa, Nellie! Some of the fridges were wired to the ‘net for reasons not exactly clear to me. I shied away from them, wondering if they would start downloading porn in the middle of the night from sheer boredom, and then shuddered to think what refrigerator porn might look like. Ooh, baby, you’re so… frigid!

Then you have the hybrid refrigerator-stoves-these hold the food refrigerated until such a time as you call it up and tell it to get cooking. Yep, voice control on a stove. That gave me serious pause. For one thing, I talk a whole hell of a lot in front of a stove, muttering imprecations and working recipe-math problems out loud. After years as a breakfast and line cook, making a meal always involves fast heat, plenty of fire and rounds of chef-style cursing — my family knows dinner is ready when the smoke alarm goes off.

But in the confusion of several dishes being timed to all come out together, I see the potential for some crossed signals and clipped expletives. “Burner three, go to medium, I mean high, no, no, wait, med high, hey, hey, burner two, off ! Off! OFFF! god f’ing damn it, now you’re burning the frickin’ green beans. Down you @%#& flames, down!” The smoke alarms goes off well before the broiled chicken is done because the cooktop is in flames, and the oven, in a snarl of confusion, has shut down. This is when the name-calling and shin-kicking comes in, and Mom (that would be me) would have to be restrained and escorted to her room to recover her good graces with a stiff drink and a fat novel.

But I fear this would not be the end of it. The stove, having sulked through the quickly ordered take-out and then left alone in the dark kitchen, would simmer in its own stew of righteousness and indignation. It might very well, in the manner of a spouse unjustly accused of overloading a washer (again! how could you…), heat up in retaliation. I could see the burners raging red in anger, smoke pouring out of the broiler, the whole appliance bulging with hot gases. By three in the morning, the curtains would be on fire, and the smoke alarm screaming--but no dinner in sight. No, voice-command stoves would not be for me.

By the way, the front load washer works just fine. A Maytag, of course, with a minimum of bells and whistles. And for a machine, it does a fabulous hand-wash. Go figure.