Monday, August 19, 2019

Taking the stairs, one at a time



This past summer, Cookie looked at the aging clock and I will be 57 in November.  In homosexual years, I will be 97.   But I also looked at the world around me and realized that because I am at the tail end of the baby boom era, I have a lot of stuff and memorabilia that has nowhere to go when I cease to be.  Face it, I am not on the upside of the bell curve of life.

So I am sorting, and giving away a little here, and a little there.

One of the piles I gave away contained the pictures from my nursery school on Fairmount Boulevard.  These were taken in my final days at the place before I started kindergarten.   My parents had remanded their divorce in the summer of 1968 - because the first nine years weren't miserable enough, they decided to see if they could make us even more emotionally damaged than we were - and that meant my father and his Polaroid were back in the picture. The nursery school was my respite from the hate and violence that awaited me at home.  Anyway, on those final days, the old man came and took some pictures of Cookie and his friends on the final days of carefree pre-school.

The pictures are adorable, and they feature lots of students who were going different directions, but too clueless to know that meant that our friendships would cease to exist.   We all had friends in our own neighborhoods, so playdates not only hadn't been invented but were decades away from being needed.  We would go our own ways, in life and scatter to the winds.  Now, fifty-one years later, for the life of me, I can't remember any of their names.  There is a certain sadness to that piece of childhood lost.

Also lost to time is my ability to recall the name of the kind woman who oversaw the place.  She was grandmotherly, I can see her face as clear as I can look at the screen, and her shoes!  How do you forget the orthopedic oxfords that laced on the side!   God! Those caused me no amount of tsuris.  Why, why, why, these?  They were so ugly, unnatural, and had crepe soles.  Why dear God?  Like brown Earth Shoes that laced on the port on the left foot and the starboard on the right.  They were not elegant, that's for sure, but day in and out, she had those hooves on.  Besides the shoes, I remember her car.  She drove a new 1967 Plymouth Valiant two-door sedan, blue, but with redwall tires - which were a thing back then.   Even at four, I was a gearhead.

That's right, Cookie can't remember her name, but I sure as Hell remember those brown clod hopping shoes and that snazzy royal blue car of hers. Both are burned into my brain.

I can see the women who cooked our meals - they all looked like Alf from Green Acres.  And they all looked down at us with their mouths in a snarl. They didn't want us in that kitchen and we had no business even being there, but we looked, and ran off, because that's what a four-year-old does. I am sure they were lovely women, but when they did to fish patties every Friday were criminal.

The teacher's names, however: that is a different matter.

I remember Mrs. Swartz, who smiled and was wore blue dresses and had red lipstick.  And Mrs. Washington who was gentle and also kind, and exceptionally patient with us in that 3-4 age range.

Miss Frances

But most of all I remember Miss Frances.

Miss Frances, who was very young, had the job of overseeing the children who were in their final year at the school.  She was very kind and very patient and she knew which children really needed a nap, and which one or two children were well behaved enough to go to the quiet room and play with amazing toys that never left that room.  To be chosen for that quiet room was a huge honor.  I think I went once.  Most of the time I needed that nap.

For the most part, I did everything she wanted without a fuss.  For example, the before mentioned fishbricks that were black as burnt toast?  Miss Frances knew that I was never going to eat those fried fish patties, but I also knew I was never getting the chocolate pudding dessert if I didn't eat it.  She was wise enough to know that forcing me to eat that burnt fish brick was a pyrrhic victory at best, and I loved her enough that a truce was declared and weekly we negotiated, maybe one bite of the charred-black fish patty for a pudding, maybe two bites the next.  I never ate the whole thing because it was nasty.  But I did finish that pudding.   And she taught us all how to ask permission to "scrape" the food residue off the plate and into the trash when we were done.

Once, they took us downtown to the top of Cleveland's Terminal Tower - a risky endeavor, even though we were all inside a room at the top.  We rode the Rapid downtown.  The Rapid meant the Rapid Transit.  They looked just like streetcars, but Shaker Heights back then had its own private system and they were never called trolly cars: it was the Rapid.

Anyhow, to get to the rapid we had to climb down the stairs from the street level to the grade level at Green Road.  Going down the stairs I was fine.  But back then, going up the stairs at four was a challenge because I hadn't learned how to take one stair with the left foot and the next with the right.  I could do that going down the stairs, but my mind had a had time wrapping itself around that concept coming back up.

Well, Miss Frances had my hand and she was going up those stairs.  Me?  Left foot up, then the right foot onto the same stair and stop. Left foot up, then the right foot up and stop.  I was really doing my best to take the stairs as quickly as she was, but the tune I was marching too was not the same tune she was climbing to.  She stopped, watched me, and very gently encouraged me to do what she was doing.  It took a little time but I got the gist of it.  So Miss Frances taught me how to climb the stairs.  And believe me, its come in handy.

She did other things for us.  She taught us how to say "hello" and "goodbye" in French, she taught us how to keep on sharing toys and crayons when our developing minds were moving into that older childhood "MINE-set" mentality.  We knew our limits with her and we never crossed that line.  But she got us ready to move out of nursery school and ready for kindergarten, which was her job.  All in the most loving way possible.

For graduation, she dressed us each up in costume, each representing a different country.  My friend got Korea, and that honked me off because there was something about his silk costume that called my name.  But no.  I was to be a waiter from France!  Complete with a cumberbund!  How unfair, alas, but such is life, no?

On that final day, I never once thought that hug from her would be the last, or that I would never see her again.  But that was the way it went.  And today I learned that the last hug was the final hug at that.  After years of trying to spell her last name - Frances was her first name, and he last name was very eastern European and very long, so we just called Miss Frances - today I found her.  The dear woman passed away in 2004, way too young. 

The nursery school will celebrate its 100th anniversary in a couple years  - it is still going strong.  I am hoping my pictures get displayed.  I have been invited back for the event, and I will have to go.   Of course, I will be 60 that year, and the chance of any of the teachers from my era being alive is slim to none. 

But to you, Miss Frances, I say "Merci."  One day, in that place where we all go when we cease to be, we will meet up.  And I may be old, and unsure, but I will take your hand and let you lead me upward, one foot on one stair, and the other on the next, just as you taught me so long ago.  Until we meet again.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

We all hate Karen...




Yes, Karen.  You.  Even when your name is Carol.  Or Suzette.  God, I hate Suzette.

This is the woman who doesn't bring up her "e-coupon" in advance of ordering or ringing through her transaction at Barnes and Noble.

This is the woman, who could by the name "Lynn" or "Char" (short for Charmaine) who holds up the entire fucking line because hs wants her $1 off her sugar laden mocha frapachino, or bitches up a STORM because "It's too early for pumpkin spice?  I want to talk to a manager."

And tell me Karen, Carol, Lynn, Char, or 'Nita, just what is the fucking manager going to do because the food truck hasn't brought the syrup or flavoring for that half-espresso half-decaf, low-foam extra milk FUCKING PUMPKIN SPICE that we can't serve because nothing has changed in the last 100 words of that whining what-wha pie hole of yours.

FINE!  Never come in here again, see who the fuck cares at the multi-billion dollar company that pays their meager wage.  See who the fuck cares.  Trust me, when that regional manager gets that angry message from you not feeling "valued" she is going to roll her eyes and say "Really, Karen, Carol, Suzette, Lynn, Char, Nita of Debi?  Again?"

Because we all know that e-coupon you can't find on your God Damned iPhone, filled with pro-Trump bullshittery from your friends doesn't exist because the company never issues those mother-fuckers BEFORE the ingredients hit the fucking store. 

WHY?

WHY would they send you a God Damned coupon for an item THEY DON'T STOCK THE STORES WITH UNTIL SEPTEMBER FUCKING FIRST.

So just go the fuck home to your five-bedroom cluster-fucking house with the three-car garage and flip on fucking Dr. Phil, light up that Parliament and look at the fucking sign on the wall that even your ex-husband didn't want in the divorce and wonder why everyone cringes when they see you park that fucking Cadillac and waddle up the walkway.

(Disclosure, Cookie doesn't work in a coffee shop or retailer of any kind.  I am the guy in line behind Karen, and today she held up the whole fucking line.  Fuck you Karen.  Fuck you.)


Friday, August 9, 2019

Hi tech and low touch bullshitery



Cookie goes to the doctor every 3 to four months.  My chronic gut issues and my blood pressure make it so.  I love my doctor and his practice.  I gladly pay for the visit - they treat us like humans, not billable and co-pays.

That love affair was put to the test last winter, in the height of flu season, when the practice put in a "self-service kiosk" for patients to sign in and pay their deductibles.

I was greeted by a woman who wouldn't let me speak with the receptionist.  "They only work with new patients from now on.  As an established patient, you will use this kiosk to sign in, and then you will pay your deductible."  I was asked, I was directed.

I found it dehumanizing.  There I was in a germ-ridden waiting room full of people hacking and coughing and all of us were to use the same touch screen?  Yes, the gave us a bottle of hand sanitizer for when we were done, but this was not a hand sanitizer moment* - after using that Petrie dish surface, you should have been able to wash your hands. 

The worst part was that after paying with the keypad, the machine asked me if I wanted cash back from my transaction.  "No, but a couple lottery cards a diet Pepsi would be nice," I thought.  The whole experience made me feel like I was at a Sunoco for a lube job.

The second time it happened, a young woman working at a newly installed stand up desk greeted me not with a "Hello" or a "How can I help you," but with "If you have an appointment, use the kiosk to sign in and pay for your visit."

Can't I go to the receptionist? 

"No, the receptionist is for new patients only."

I was so sour on the exchange that when the doctors assistant came at me with a needle to check my A1C, I refused.

"But my Buttercup, why," she asked.

If I can't deal with a real, live person when I check-in, I said, then you can't jab me with that needle.

When Marty, my doctor came in, he asked what was up.  "Concepcion is really vexed."

She was vexed, what about me?

He explained that it was the hospital that was doing this and that I would get a survey and to lay it out in the survey.  "They don't listen to the doctors - they do listen to the surveys."

So when the survey came, I lowered the boom.  I said I was tired of being treated like a second class citizen because I wasn't a "new patient", and that in my last two visits I had not been asked, but ordered to use the machines.  I explained that I found it a contradiction to the practice's mission statement.

"Efficiency is no excuse to forget that your patients are human beings, not trained seals.  If I wanted to use an ATM, I would go to a bank." 

Fast forward a few weeks and yesterday I got a call from the practice administrator.

"Hi Mr. Cookie, this is Rayleen from Dr. Doctor's office and I am calling about your survey responses..."

UGH!

"...and I wanted to let you know that we have heard from our patients about the self-pay kiosk in the waiting area..."

UGH!!

"...and I am calling to tell you that we have taken several steps that we hope will make your next visit more relaxing..."

UGH!!!

"...And you no longer will have to use the kiosks..."

Hello?

The upshot was that the front office staff, despite the training got the kiosk thing wrong. 

"We installed these to see if patients would decide to use them or prefer working with our staff and the staff misunderstood the message that they were supposed to share.  We asked them to walk you through a transaction, not force you to use them if you didn't want to."

Rayleen went on to tell me that patients either liked the machine, or hated it, but when they hated it "we heard that very clear.  You are not alone.  Even my mother read me the riot act."

So I received assurances that the staff was trained again to offer, but not insist. "They should ask you if you want to use the kiosk or wait for the next receptionist after greeting you."

This made things better.  Even my husband, a manly man afraid of nothing, said he disliked the machine.

As Rayleen spoke, I could feel my high blood pressure coming down.

"Going to the doctor is stressful - and we don't want to add to that stress.  And we have shared your opinions to the hospital management group.  The check-in kiosks across the board are being rethought.  You are certainly not alone."

When the call ended, I relaxed a bit.  I figured I had won, one small pyrrhic victory.  We'll see when the next visit comes up.

Now if we can only get them to ditch that fucking robocall confirmation system that calls at the worst possible moment, and the ChartHeart system that demands a second confirmation, because just one doesn't seem good enough.

One fucking automated system at a time, sweet Jesus.


*Even in hospitals, employees are warned that hand sanitizers are only good for three uses in-between hand washings - after that, even the most caustic of them do little to no good.

Monday, August 5, 2019

Words from Cookie


"Bitch, please. Your catharsis is not my epiphany." ~ Cookie

There: memorize it, live it, share it.

Be fabulous today.

Friday, August 2, 2019

If I ever see this woman at a another conference....




I would love to get my hands on that hair.


...I am leaving.

Cookie was at a huge conference this past week, and everywhere I went, this was the person I had to deal with.  The problem was that she was rude, loud, obnoxious, dismissive, passive-aggressive, negative, and uncouth.

She thought she was "all that".

But she wasn't.

She was the worst of human beings.

Take this picture.  It was not our first encounter.  I got to my session room for the ed session I selected for that hour and sat down on the seat in the back of the room, last row.  There was probably another fifty behind me to the ballroom doors.  I sat there for five minutes before Miss Charming showed up.  She stops, looks at me and says "Great, I was going to sit in that seat because I am only staying for twenty minutes, and you are there taking up two spaces."

In truth, I was taking up two spaces.

My backpack was on the seat next to me.  Why was I taking up two spaces, well, the backpack has a tendency to fall over, and the rest of the room, with chairs for 400 people, only had about 50 in it.  There were rows of empty seats.

Cookie was dumbstruck.  There were 350 seats in that room that were empty, but I had to go an upset her applecart by taking those two seats that didn't have her name on them.  Silly me.

As I said, this was not my first encounter with this Hellkite.  So I just looked at her and just smiled.  She was expecting something to create drama over and from me she just got crickets.   Drove her insane, so she sat in front of me.

The day after this encounter, she plopped herself down at a luncheon table I was seated at.  I was guest and had been given the seat by a Board member who was courting my future participation.  No sooner than she shoved a roll in her pie hole, my host returned to the table and said: "Muriel, this table is for Board members and guests."  Muriel picked up the salt and loaded up her salad and said "well they can sit someplace else."

That afternoon was my last at the conference and the next two sessions, there was Muriel.

In one session, the speaker instructed Muriel to put her phone down and not take pictures of the slides.  In another - technical writing - Muriel argued with the speaker that footnotes and citations were the same things.  They are not.

When I was checking out the hotel, there is Muriel again.  This time she looked at me and said "Oh, leaving so soon," in a voice dripping with passive-aggressiveness.

I smiled and walked by to waiting car.  I was not charmed by Muriel, and I wasn't going to engage her.

Look, I understand that it takes all kinds, but the woman was vile.  From my first interaction to my last.  My friend Katy said that Muriel was top of her game in her career. 

"Is she a Leona Helmsley impersonator?  Keeper of the Hellhounds for Gozor?"

I told the husband that if I ever encounter her again, all bets are off, I am leaving.

A little Muriel goes a long, long way.





Saturday, July 20, 2019

How hot is Cookie?




So I pose this question: How Hot Am I.

I am a prisoner of my home because it is ONE HUNDRED and TWO fucking degrees outside.

And let me tell you - it isn't a dry heat.  Nope.

This is the kind of hot that makes you yearn to go to the Soylent Green facility for that final ride into dog food land.

It's so hot that the dogs refuse to go out except to do what dogs do dodo outside.

It's so freaking hot that we have the AC set on 76 and when you come in from outside it feels like December in the house.

But Cookie isn't complaining.  About five years ago this weekend we moved into this house and the weather was worse.  It was 95 degrees and 95% humidity. 

I feel kind of bad - the family is moving in next door today, and I should be helping them, but instead, I went out, bought five bags of ice, three flats of bottled water and delivered that to them when the truck pulled up to unload its first load. 

They just left to get load number two out of storage.   And they hired A Guy in a Truck.  Not Two Men in a Truck, this is a guy.  His fifth-grade son and then two lanky teenagers.

In other news, Cookie sees travel in his future.  Nothing fun - a work conference.  So I have to get prepared. 

And as a teaser, let me tell you this is going to be filled mishegas and lots of schlepping.   

Monday, July 1, 2019


Meanwhile, in Shaker Heights, on July 1, 1963, Cookie shows off his chubby legs...

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Snotty



Remember when you were in grade school and someone got called snotty, and it had nothing to do with a runny nose?

"Margot is being snotty!" exclaimed Karen Hildebrand because she thought that Margot Stone was putty on airs. 

"Don't be snotty!" accused Rachel Rubenstein when Gretta Landau didn't want Rachel to play four-square on the playground. 

Calling someone "snotty" always seemed to me to be something very childish.  Pissy, if you will.

Maybe, because, I never heard anyone use it after fifth grade.

After fifth grade, "Stuck Up" took root.

"Billy Winslow is being so Stuck Up because his family spends their summers at his grandmother place on Cape Cod," Sally Sebreen opined in seventh grade.

"Well, wouldn't you?  They have a compound with three houses," Karen Richards pointed out.  "Like the Kennedy's do."

In high school, stuck up stayed around, but that was because moved to Marion, Ohio, and things were always a bit slow to roll into that town's stream of teen consciousness. By that point, "What a bitch," and "asshole" took over.

Now, Cookie's 40th class reunion is coming up, and over the over other put-downs came and went.   And in the gay community, they are sets of put-downs.  Snotty, isn't one of them unless you are sick with a head cold.   "My head is so snotty, and I have copious amounts of lung butter when I cough."  Ew!

In fact, aside for children, I seldom even come across "Snotty" anymore.

Which surprised me last week when Snotty shoved its way into the conversation, twice.

The first one was in an online genealogy forum when some woman hated the Ancestry.com "rainbow" logo.  So. Much. Hate. and So Much Drama!

"Cancel my account!"  "I will never again use your site!"  "Take it down or Ancestry will be rooo-in'd!"

My ass.

But someone replied to something I wrote essentially telling one of the bible belt drama queens to take a deep breath and refrain from jumping out of her basement window to end it all.  "Build a bridge Ethel; it's not about you anyway."

The response came from a woman named Carol who wrote: "There's no need to be snotty."  Really?  Really Carol?  Are you ten?

Then the other night, in a phone call with a family member, and she accused another family member of being "snotty".

To me, after the age of ten, when you call someone snotty, it really is a snotty thing to do. Like pointing a finger and having three fingers pointing back at you.

Even the husband later said "Where did that come from?"  Honestly? Years and years of pushing things down.  Deep, deep, down.

Now, stuck up, that I get.  Putting on airs. Sure.  But Snotty?  What's next, Nanny Nanny Bo-Bo?

But snotty is so childish.  It's so second grade.

I called our friend Bruce who works in Pop Culture Language at a major university, and I asked him: "Is snotty making a come back with adults?"

And I was surprised to learn that it is "rising", with tween girls.

"I blame it on Arrianna Grande.  But I blame a lot of things on that bitch.  Like donut licking.  Who does that?  It'll go away quickly, too.  It's so pissy sounding.  And kids don't hang onto childish sayings these days.  But if it gets picked up by someone like Cardi B, watch out."

English is so rich.  If you want to knock someone down, go to hauty.  Go to conceited.  Go to self-important. Go to opinionated.  You can even go to "Now, is that really the nicest thought you can have?"  Better yet, don't respond.

But leave snotty to the kids and the tweens.  Or not.  Just remember, if you use it with me, my response is going to be a raised eyebrow and a "Really?"

Really. 

Thursday, June 27, 2019

And the last one falls



So a bit of news from the Ohios is that the last of the "First Time Home Buyers Club" for 1993 has listed his house for sale and plans to move into a downsized condo.

Back in 1993, Cookie decided to buy a house.  I had never owned a house, but I worked for a company that trained mortgage lenders.  I had sat through so many seminars I was qualified to become a broker myself.

If I planned it right and bought in the right area, I could have walked into a nice house for a $2,000 down.  Back then, Mortgage lenders had something we called "Red Line Money".  These were programs, set aside to help mortgage companies and banks get loans to houses in neighborhoods where they didn't have many loans.  The idea was, that they would do just about anything to get first-time buyers to buy a house in a neighborhood where they were short mortgages. 

So I found a ramshackle place near Ohio State, in a neighborhood that could have tipped the wrong way.  It had 1,200 square feet, one bath and it was only 60K.  So I jumped.  My mortgage PITI was $500 a month, even.   Of course, it needed a ton of work, but we got it there when we sold it 19 years later, and it was lovely.

But then my friend Marty wanted a house.  He was an attorney, so why shouldn't she get in on the action.  And he did.  Same program, different neighborhood. 

Then George got in on it.  "If Cookie can do this, why can't I?"  And he did.

Finally, Mikey got in on it.  He bought a real monster in an "Up and Coming" neighborhood. Mikey hit the jackpot.  That neighborhood skyrockets in value.  And the former drug den became a very nice place.

We sold, to move to "Charm City" (A terribly disappointing name for a place that offers no charm, no charm at all.) in 2012.

Marty lost his mind, lost her job and lost me as a friend in 1999. "NO!" he ordered me at the last.  "You can't choose your husband over me!"  Wrong.  But he hung onto his place until 2017 when he stepped up to new place in Grandview Yard.

George died - cancer - and his sister sold that house in 2018.

Now Mikey has announced that he has sold his pile to a couple hipsters who paid $800,000 on a house he picked up for $98,000.  Of course, the hipsters won't have to shovel out piles of hypodermic needles like we did when he got overwhelmed with it all.   But then again, Mikey is seldom home, never cooks at home, spends his weekends away at his "summer house" (read that as "camper" in a "park") and he doesn't need a 4,000 pile to take care of.

So the last one of the group falls.

And word also came today that yet another friend has listed his place for something smaller, now that he's divorced from that witch he married ten years ago.  (If you are reading this Helen, I never liked you.)

So, the "Old Order Passeth."  Makes you kind of sad, and it's another reminder that you can't go home, or to your old friend's houses, again.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Home...

...is the place where, when you have to go there, they must take you in.  ~ Robert Frost

Cookie has just completed the first of TWO visits to the Ohios* this summer.   This was a one Ohio trip.  In the coming weeks is a more complex, multi-Ohio journey.

Will tell you more once I have reacclimated myself to Baltimore.


*Note a typo.  Ohio is not a single state, but a confederacy of city-states, each with its own political identity.


Sunday, June 16, 2019

Cousin Martha



People have asked Cookie why I love genealogy.

The answer is simple.  You meet people that you know and you dig up people you wish you could know.

Take Cousin Martha.  Actually, fourth cousin Martha, twice removed.

Now you are asking what does "fourth cousin, twice removed" mean?

Let me try and explain this without you going all glassy eyed.  When we determine relationships, we look at two people and the closest equal relationship that they have. with children, its parents. with grandchildren, its grandparents. With great-grandchildren, they share the same great-grandparents, who are their parent's grandparents. 

When it comes to determining cousins, we define a basic cousin as two people who have different parents but share a common set of ancestors.  You and your first cousins SHARE the same set of grandparents.  You and your second cousins mean that you share the same great grand-grandparents.

So a full cousin, be it a cousin, or a second cousin or a set of third cousins can go back an equal number of generations and find a set shared common ancestors.  (For a half-cousin, you share a single common ancestor who either remarried or procreated with a different mate.)

"Times Removed" means that there is an unequal number of generations between the common ancestors and your cousins.  So what we do is first find the two people who have an equal number of generations - that gives us the cousin degree, then we count the additional generations on one side as "removed" from one and other. 

So my fourth cousin, twice removed is someone with whom I share a common ancestor, plus two generations on one side of the equation.  Martha's fourth cousin was my grandfather, my parent and me being the two generations different from Martha.

Now someone will say that "Well you really aren't related..."

Au contraire mon frere!

If we really weren't cousins, there would be no common ancestors.  But there are, so we are.  Now it has nothing to do with shared common experiences.  I have first cousins that I barely know.  I do have third cousins that I am very close with.  I have two cousins that I am related on through both their grandfather and grandmother, through three different lines without any intermarriage.  Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

Anyhow, Martha and I were related, separated by space and time, but we share the same Revolutionary War era couple as common relatives.  All of our families knew the same people, but the families, themselves were like planets, everyone in their own orbit, crossing paths, never colliding, but passing closely one to another.

So back to Martha. 

Many years ago, in the early 1980s, I was on the hunt for a copy of the expansive family genealogy - a book my mother called the "Kennel Papers" or what I have grown to refer to as "the moldy tome".  There weren't many published, and if our branch of the family had one, my grandfather more than likely threw it out and/or burned it when he cleaned out his aunt's home in the 1940s. 

A local librarian had told me that I might want to go knock on the door of an overgrown house on the main street that had a rusting Mercury in the drive.   The house belonged to someone with my mothers family name, and we passed it frequently.  But it was someone my mother denied knowing.  "Maybe I met her once, but don't pester her.  She doesn't like people."

The librarian, however, was certain that the woman in the house might be open to parting with the book. "Martha probably has one and she most likely would sell it."

So, I went to the big ramshackle white house, with the weeds and poison ivy in the front yard and knocked on the door. And there was the black Mercury, rusty but operational.  The smell of cigarettes was terrific, and I have always hated cigarettes and the smell and the dirt.  But it was odd because I was on a stoop, not on an enclosed porch or such - and the smell as if someone had been smoking beside me.

I waited and was about to knock again when the door opened and through the screen door appeared a woman with a face like the Mighty Favog, but topped a mop of chopped hair like Roseanne Roseannadanna, grey tinged with yellow from cigarette smoke.

I introduced myself, explained my quest and she said "Susan called and said you would be by," and opened the door.

The day outside was bright and hot, and the house was warm and dark.  The air was thick with Pall Mall smoke and as my eyes adjusted there was clutter here and there, but not to the extent that she was a hoarder.  She motioned me to the left and opened up a pair of French doors. "I don't often have company."

The room was dark, the air was thick and the bark cloth drapes drawn against any sunlight, but slices of light cut through the dim light to show the film of decades of smoke and dust whirling about.  It wasn't until I was seated that I really could see around the room, and it was pure "Chinatown".  If Hollywood was going to set a scene of California in the thirties and forties, this was it.

Bentwood furniture, bark cloth, wicker lamps, art deco cigarette boxes, bakelite pulls and rattan chairs.  Pulled back against the walls was older furniture, more in line with the 1900s.  A large tall case clock stood in the corner, its pendulum still.

We chatted, figured out how we were related. 

"I may have met your mother in 1935 - when I came back from California for the reunion.  Is she in that picture?"  She pointed to a long boy picture of about two hundred people that I had never seen. "We used to be a bigger family, but we all have scattered to the winds," she said.

I complimented her on the furniture.  In the 80's, this stuff was worth a small fortune.

"I left for California in '23.  On a vacation to the Coronado.  After two weeks beyond my return, my mother called to see when I was coming home.  I told her I was home.  I adored the California lifestyle.  So when I moved back in '65 to take care of her, I bought my things.  I thought I would move back, but you know how it goes sometimes."

Yes, she had a book.  And yes, she would sell it for a $100, firm.  "But I would have to look," and that she planned to get the house in order in the coming month. 

"Would you like 'a hot Sanka' and a cookie?  I hate to have a coffee alone."

I followed through the dining room, the butler's pantry into the kitchen where a table and chairs. 

"I don't cook much."

For as dark and cluttered as the living rooms of the house were, the kitchen was clean.  The range was from the forties and the refrigerator was like the one at my grandparent's house, a one door GE.

She sat down a cup with hot water, the jar of Sanka and some archway cookies that were hard as rocks.  And prattled on, in between drags on the cigarette, after cigarette.

"When I decided to stay I went to Los Angeles and visited cousin Walter.  He gave me a job in his bank.  I didn't like working in a bank.  But Walter had made the arrangements and I didn't want to disappoint him.  When Walter died, I was a branch manager.  The War started, but there was no way to move home, so I stayed with the bank.  You know how these things work out."

"Mother cooked.  I don't.  She's been gone since 1969.  So I keep the kitchen clean, because I may need to cook one day."  I think her entire diet was "hot Sanka", stale cookies and Pall Malls.

I left, she promised to look, and a couple months later she invited me back, and we talked but I mostly listened.

"I wasn't interested in men when I was young.  I was having too much fun.  And when I was older, men weren't interested in me," she said.  "Do you play rummy?"

We met twice more before she said "I have exhausted hiding places where the book would be.  So I called (her sister) Millie, and Millie has it in Chicago.  You know how these things work out."  That was fine, I had enjoyed spending time with her. 

We talked about her side of the family: "Now Corliss married Fred Weaver.  They bought a farm by McCutchenville...Emery died from an accident - a thresher ripped his arm off and he bled to death in the field...Movie stars are alright, but they have a right to go to the grocery without people bothering them...I never cared for modern art - I have a hard time with the battle between what I see and what the artist meant to communicate...Jerry Donovan was a nice man, crushed to death by a tractor wheel in the field...Dorothy? She lost her finger in the cream seperator...did you know about cousin Leon Wigglesworth?  He was going to make it big in film, but he spent too much time with Billy Haines...Do you cook? What doi you like to cook?"  You know how that goes.

She did bring forth her grandmother's "Misery Books". 

Evidently, her grandmother loved to clip out news stories of misery, bad luck, and tragedy.  The books were made from published books that she glued the newspaper stories onto the pages.  The newsprint was brown with age and the horse glue had hardened.  But there it was "Mrs. Dorothy Williams Loses Finger, New Cream Separation Machine Blamed: WARNS OTHERS  OF POTENTIAL DANGER OF ELECTRIC MACHINES."  She gave me one book, and I still have it, but am mostly afraid to open it after 35 years.

We met once more ("Can you bring over a jar of Sanka with you?"), and then not long after I moved out of the area.

Martha died in 1986, and Millie - like my uncle - cleaned out the house by throwing everything away that had any value.  By the time I made it back, the house was gone.

My mother said that they had to tear the house down because the Firestone bought the house and needed the parking the lot would yield.  More like they tore the house down because it was old and unkempt and beyond a quick coat of paint.  I would see the Mercury around town on my visits.

So, what did I get from meeting Martha and talking about family, California in the 20s and 30s and beyond?  Well, I still hate Sanka, hot or otherwise, I still hate cigarette smoke. 

But on the plus side, I got to meet her, appreciate her love of "the California LIfestyle" and now I know everything about cousin Leon Wigglesworth.  And I know not to become distracted and to be careful when and if I ever use a cream separator.

But its the experience of meeting people and hearing them and asking them questions that makes it worthwhile.

You know that goes, right?





Sunday, June 9, 2019

Write your own description




"Two days after they messed up her order at Panera, perimenopausal, chain-smoking Karen was still upset that they forgot to add extra feta to her salad so she’s thinking about going back to speak with the manager." ~~~ Faith S. on Facebook

Cookie loves bad art.  In fact, I have several pieces hanging in my house because it brings me great joy. 

So when Cookie found this picture in a thrift store group and that description - and I couldn't write it any better than Faith, I had to share. 

But she looked more like a Judith to me.

Anyway, I invite you to write your own cutline about this painting and post it in the comments.section. 

Friday, June 7, 2019

Goodies!

Trust me, lady; he will be disappointed when he gets his hands on the truth.


Yesterday I wrote about cleaning out my papers and files from my previous career. 

And what did the postman deliver to me today?

Goodies for my current career!

I can't say what the goodies are, but let's say that one blows the locks off one of the most told foundational stories in American business in the 20th Century.  Obliterates it.  YAY!!!!

So I am currently in talks with a major archive, a major university depository, a major library's manuscript division, and a national museum to see who wants this, and who gets it.  More importantly, who will take it and give access to researchers who will want to look at it. 

Very excited and a little annoyed that I can't play with the stuff until I get the clean out completed. 


Thursday, June 6, 2019

Yeah, I don't think I can do that



Cookie is in the middle of a massive home office reorganization project that is meant to get rid of twenty years worth of detritus accumulated in my former career now that I have retired from writing local and regional histories for a major publisher.

Frankly, it's not my job to be the archivists for these communities. So all these copies of pictures that we made while we were writing these books are getting shipped off to the towns around the Midwest where I worked and wrote.

I was reminded today of the types of locals who just don't get it.  I mean they don't get what a local and regional history book is. 

An elderly man back in Ohio died.  He was really old when he died.  Really, really old.  Like in the running for world oldest person old.  He was old when I started this venture. 

The way the books would work is I would get hired, I would go in, get what I could at local historical societies, scanning and writing "cutlines" - telling the story of what was going on in the image in 120-140 words, max.  After that, we would invite locals in to bring their pictures in for scanning and story swapping.

Well, this one day, with about ten people waiting, in comes this elderly man with his three daughters - and they were old, too.  I think he was about 90, and the "fillies" as daddy called them were in their 70s. 

Instead of taking a seat, and filling out the form and meeting with the local interns I used for "intake", one daughter barged her way up and lied to the others saying she had an appointment.  She did not - if she had an appointment, I would have written it down.

"I'm sorry but my father (insert the guy's name) is here and he can't wait to be interviewed for his chapter."

Huh?

"Surely you have heard about my father.  He's the oldest man in this county."

Now, the historical society for the said town had a man on it who was 101 and he was still driving.  That's something you remember.  If for no other reason to stay off the roads.   So I asked how old he was and the daughter said 90 something.

How interesting. 

"And I know that these people won't mind letting my father move to the top of the line."

The faces of the people who had been pushed aside certainly looked as if they minded.  Of course, they did.  They had played by the rules until the fillies stampeded the event.

So I asked her to wait, finished with the person who I was working with - a dear woman who timidly came in and "Oh, these pictures won't be of any interest."  That was an understatement!  She had pure gold - one of the images ended being the cover shot.

So I went over and the old man says "My 'fillies' tell me that you are going to write a chapter on me."  I introduced myself, shook his hand and smiled.   I asked what kind of images they brought and the daughters looked perplexed.  Pictures?  "No, we just brought daddy."

OK, then, perhaps we should schedule a time when I can come and visit and we can look at some pictures and do an interview.

The oldest filly - who was one hoof to the glue factory - said that "Daddy's life is more interesting than any picture from the past."  Sensing disaster, I suggested then, that an in residence appointment would be best.  "You see, today was for scanning pictures and these people who signed in before you brought their images, and we have the equipment for that purpose..."

The oldest filly, Mrs. Ed, said: "Aren't you interested in even talking to daddy?"

Just as I started to say what I had kindly just said, again, a local historian named Corlis came in and thankfully inserted herself into the middle. 

"Margaret, I told you it isn't that kind of book...This is a book that will have more photographs than body text...Well yes, and I am sure he has many wonderful stories to tell...The society might want to write a book based on his stories...I will call you Howard and set something up...Good seeing you, b-bye...So who is next in line?"

Later Corlis said while we were packing up "I told them, and I told them again, and they just don't hear a word anybody says."  Verily, Corlis was over the fillies.  "Their father is a really nice man, but he's dull as a dangerous knife and whenever anyone has a project they foist him on us.  When we built the new library, they wanted his name on the plaque inside the door because he was the first child to get a library card when they opened the old building when it was new.  That's a nice piece of trivia, but it isn't plaque-worthy."

Looking through my box of notes I found a card from Corlis - who died about five years ago - so says Legacy the death notice people - telling me that she met with the fillies and daddy but there "wasn't really enough for a paragraph, let alone a book.  I told them to write the stories down, as he tells them, and I will do something with them."

The other thing I was reminded of was when we did a signing and some woman came in and said "My friend said that there would be a chapter on their father.  I don't see it. Now this book is a present for their father so inscribe it with "'I am sorry that I didn't write a chapter about you for the book.'"

I literally wished I had a spray bottle of water so I could have sprayed in her face and said "NO!"

Instead, I smiled and said "I am not writing that. But I will write War?"

Deep down, I think the fillies did their father a disservice, time and again.  Great love can make you do things like that.  But that love is usually blind to carnage it creates with empty promises and misunderstandings.



Wednesday, May 29, 2019

You know that family, a driveway instead of central air

Yes, we are those people...

Cookie has two terrible headaches and is very hot.

No, not hot in that way.

Hot because Ville Cookie, located in the Capitol of Mid Atlantic heatwaves, Bawlimore, has no central air conditioning. 

You heard me - no central air - on the first floor.

The previous owners did install AC on the second and third floors, but they never did for the first.  That's because our house has radiator heat and not forced air.  So it is easier to put the condenser in the attic and run flexible ductwork around the third floor than is it to pipe the stuff down two floors lower.

So we rely on window units on the first floor, and that means fans to move the air about, room to room.  The noise!  The inability to rend the air of moisture!

To add central air to the first floor, we would have to add a second AC unit and place the condenser in the basement.  From there it is easy to install floor registers, etc. and so on.  But its expensive.

But no, we needed the driveway.   So we have a drive, but days are feverish feeling in the heat.

And it's early this year.  Miserable early.

So I have a headache from the heat.  But I have another headache on the street.

The brand new hybrid has a fucked up radio/Bluetooth unit. Bother.  We noticed it when we returned from vacation.  Normally, you start it up, the system pops up on screen and you drive away.   But that first day back, it took forever to load, and then it crashed, and loaded and crashed and over and over and over.  Every third crash, the audio source dropped.

So off to the dealer we went, they loaded the OS and then the latest map update, and said it was fine to go. 

Got in the car, started it up, set it in gear and the audio system crashed and started acting up.  Without leaving the parking lot, back into the service bay it went.  So the service department studmuffin jumps into the car.  and we remove my iPhone from the system, and the system from my iPhone system - the technical manual calls this a divorce. 

The car runs fine.  The audio system stays up.

Then we turn off the car and restart it, re-pair the phone to the car and the car to the phone.  Everything is fine.

I ask if we can test it from a cold start, and we shut the car down, restart it, the car and the phone hook up like Gidget and Moondog, I put it in gear and drive five feet and like Gidget and Moondog, it crashes.

Reader, I have to say that only thing more exciting than sharing my car with an incredibly good looking man is to have an electronic device FAIL exactly like it did for you when you were alone, but in front of a witness at the dealership. 

No, I am not going crazy.

This time we get "System Is Unable To Update. Continue Y/N"

Praise Jesus, we have a twofer!

So they call the manufacturer of the car's advanced diagnostics department and hook up the car.  Nothing.  They call Apple, and there are no bulletins, but Apple asks me to update et the phone, which was updated two days before. So that's no it. They ordered me a new radio unit - "It should be here in  ten days."  UGH.

Anyhow, in the past ten days, I have been keeping a log.  What makes the system fail and what doesn't:

1) The system fails if the phone is on when you turn the car on.
2) The system doesn't fail is the phone is on when you turn the car on and you back up (because the review camera function breaks the chain of failure.
3) Number two, but then the phone book doesn't load.
4) The system works if you start the car and the phone is off.  Turn the phone on and the car and radio and nav system work fine, but the phone book may, or may not, load.
5) Back to number one, and the system fails on a cycle of one to three minutes.  Every third failure loses the audio source if the radio is on.

We tried this with my husbands iPhone and had no issues just loading the phone alone. But when I loaded the phone and the phone book, it repeated the crash cycle.

My diagnosis is that the nav system can't load the phone book from the phone and that causes it to fail.

Unfortunately, a week has passed and the dealership called to say "shipments are running slow because of the holiday weekend."  So I wait and stress.  I know, let go and let Toyota.  But it's cramping my style. (Whine)

So yes, I have first world problems, and they are very, very real.


Saturday, May 25, 2019

You'll find me out watering the driveway

What Witchery is this? Not our house, but you get the idea.

In water conservation terms, you always hear people saying "Don't waste water on the driveway!"  But our new driveway grows!

So the husband and I have done the eco-bay friendly thing and added a "green driveway".  Its concrete pavers, like in the picture, but the holes are filled in and the grass is planted.  Slows the runoff, absorbs water, doesn't absorb heat, etc.  And when the grass comes in, you really won't see the pavers so much.

The house was never built with a drive, but one was in the plans from day one.

These are not very common here, so we get a lot of gawkers and they all have comments:

  • "What do you think you are doing?"

  • "What's the meaning of this?"

  • "Are you going to pave over it?"

  • "Well, I am not sure it's a good idea."

The most ludicrous comments come from old white men.  What flying monkey's ass do you think I care about when Mr. 70-Something Year Old Man thinks its "not a good idea or not?"

"How do you think you are going to shovel that?"

What difference does it make to you, Pickle Puss?

The neighborhood busybody came by and told us she would get an injunction to force us to remove it.  "I will do everything I can to keep this out."

Not so fast Dora. I showed her the permit from the city.  And I smiled.  It's totally legal, and the city wants more stuff like this.

We do get more positive comments than bad ones.  Most of the people come by and say it looks "neat", "cool", or "progressive."

"These are all over the Netherlands," said a woman down the street. 

Marylanders who live near the Bay or watersheds that drain into the Bay are all being told to do what we can to protect the Bay, so this qualifies - thus we were so easily able to shoo-off Dora. 

One word of advice - unless you have a very strong back - hire this work down.  We paid to have this driveway laid down and the contractor gave us $40k worth of work on a 20K contract.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Having a wonderful time, wish you were...

Looks like rain. Too much rain is bad for crops.  Too little is bad, too.


So we made our annual pilgrimage to New England, which is mostly us sitting with the in laws. 

I know, big fun.

But it happens once a year. 

This time we ate well, but it was a wee bit rainy.

On our first day we made it to Weston, Connecticut, to see a beloved friend.  I miss her very much.  We were stunned that she's been in Connecticut for thirty years.   But she looks fabulous.  Moreover she seems happy, all good things with her children and husband, too.  And she deserves all of it and more.  You when you make friends with someone who is special? Audrey is all that and more.

On the second day we pushed on to Windsor, the first European settlement in Connecticut.  There we found the "Ship" monument to the towns first settlers and found the names of my forefathers.  Sadly, the foremothers were not on the list.  That seemed a wee bit unfair.

I take that back, that is horribly unfair. 

Women are really unvalued, and in "His"-story, even more so.

In many cases, before 1850, unless your courthouse hasn't been burned down, that woman in your past may never be found.  1850 was when the census in the United States began to record women.  Before that, if they were not heads of households, they were just hashmarks on a sheet of paper.  Not even shown as a wife, they were just a woman in a certain age-range.

Anyhow, we honored the women with a moment of thought and pushed on.

Next we headed to rural, Eastern Connecticut, which is very lovely!  Stops were made in Windham, Ashford and Chaplin. 

We went to one cemetery to view the graves of ancestors only to find out that Find A Grave had applied the wrong address to the cemetery we were searching for.   That was a major bother.   But we pushed on and eventually found ourselves in the bosom of the in-laws in Natick.

In Boston I got a respite t the unending merriment with the in-laws when I drove down to Newton - to Newton Center to be specific -  to visit my fourth cousin, Murial, and Murial's twin sister Miriam.  They are 86 and both are very sharp.  Having a conversation with them is fun.  They speak in partial sentences, each one finishing the others sentences.   Their cousin Mordecai was there and he was fascinated that I was married to a man.   

I was the youngest person there by 30 years.

There was lots of good food, a lot of laughs and a great deal of Yiddish.  We are all getting together in Cleveland at the end of July for the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies conference. 

Then today, we drove home, got the dogs and settled back into our lives. 

I love going back there, but to be honest, I really hate the traffic. 

So that was our week.  A real rip-snorting time!


Saturday, April 27, 2019

Well, that was inconvenient

The guest suite in the garret is named for her


Well, Cookie has been through the wringer!

More and ongoing computer woes.  The hard drive in the 8930 died, and after a great clusterfuck, was returned to Cookie last Saturday.   So I spent all Easter resurrecting the beast.  Since I am here, you know, it has powered up and is working.  It has risen: a miracle.

This mark the FIFTH time in six months that Cookie has had to install programs, bother.

I am too cheap to pay money, monthly, for Photoshop CC, so that means going out, inputting all manner of byzantine information into Adobe to get the pass free version of Photoshop CS3 that is available to those of us who shelled out $799 when it was new, then jumping through more hoops to get CS5 Upgrade working.   Then there is Office, blah, blah and legacy programs.  Suffice it say, if you are reading this, then we are working at full steam.

On top of this, Cookie has been rehabbing our guest suite, which probably hasn't been painted correctly since 1965.

I don't know what Floyd and Martha painted with, but paint wouldn't stick to the depressing color that we called "Renter's Office White".    So we had to use a bonding primer on the walls, which are not plaster, not drywall, but something else that was manufactured in 1928.  It's panels, nailed up, and then had wooden straps installed over every seam.  And after 91 years, all those panels and straps had to be caulked.

So that was 32 panels that all had to be caulked, have cut in work done, then sealed and painted.  Three gallons of paint later (Ceiling, Trim, Walls, and Windows) one room of the "Edna Garret Suite" is finished.   That's right.  One week, three gallons of paint, one room.   But it is lovely and very metropolitan, very sleek.  The upholstered headboard is finished and mounted on the wall.  Cookie went beige, off white and white almost a tone on tone on tone to cut down the busy feeling.  The end result is restful, clean, inviting.

I had hoped to have both rooms and the stair hall done, but that will have to wait for May.  Cookie is FIN.

Coming up:  I am heading back to school for a class on graphics for three weeks in May.  Which will be fun, but its a concentrated course with classroom lab time an hour from home.  UGH.  But it was the only one I could find that wasn't "Distance Learning", which for a hands-on learner is a terrible thing.   Those of us who learn like this want on-hands time with the "thing" we are learning about and we like to ask questions. 

"Why is it doing this?"

"What if I do this?"

"Where do I find it?"

"How do I structure this, and who thought it was a good idea to do something counter-intuitive?"

That kind of learning doesn't do well with canned online lectures and screen time with your professor.

In other news, the latest on our City Hall mess, the Mayor of Baltimore, Catherine Pugh has disappeared.  MIA.

"She isn't lucid," says her attorney.

We feel like she is playing ("cough") Camille.  Her attorney says she is trying to recover.   Her pneumonia has turned into bronchitis, but after a month of this, she no longer in the hospital and is trying to recover.  But WHERE?

MEANWHILE, the FBI raided City Hall, her two homes and three other locations.

And then we learned that her consignment shop, a side business that we all knew existed, that was offering GROUPONS until it wasn't offering GROUPONS?  Well, it closed.  Kinda.  When it closed has been up for some debate, because her business partner, Baltimore Comptroller Joan Pratt - who used to be the only adult in the room at City Hall - first said it was open by appointment.  Now she has corrected that statement by saying it closed on December 31, 2018.  Which is it Joan?   Was it open by appointment until Holly Hit the fan in March when it was selling GROUPON, or did it close in December, (cough) the date your corrected statement said?

Now we knew about the store, but not that Joan Pratt was in a side business with the mayor. 

There is yet another conflict of interest.

Why?

Because the Comptroller and the Mayor make up two votes out of three on the Board of Estimates.

That's the Board that approves city contracts.  See why that is a conflict?

Cookie spent many years working in the consumer financial institution world, and the number one rule, aside from "Thou shalt not keep two sets of books," is "The auditor is never your friend, they can never be your friend." 

An auditor, or comptroller, is a neutral observer who is loyal to the law and the rules of accounting.   Always.

Sort of like your shrink.  You can never be friends with your shrink - ever.

So no - you cannot be friends with the comptroller.  Ever!

And also happening this week?  The head of Univerity Maryland Medical Center - when the mayor used to serve on the Board, and initially got caught with the first shred of Healthy Holly stuff broke, has resigned.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

An accommodation, hope in the ashes, as Cookie would have loved it.

Faye was ROBBED!


So, what has Cookie been up to...

I am having a true First-World Existential Crisis.  For the FOURTH TIME in six months, my new Dell computer has died.  I know, I know, Apple, Apple, Apple.  But unless you are going to cough up the money for a new Apple, shut your yapple and just let me vent a true "woe is me" moment.

The situation is being solved by Trusted Retailer after Dell pissed me off.

When I buy your product, and it is under your warranty, and I play by the rules in reporting the problem, do not treat me, or any other customer as an "accommodation" that you have to bestow largess upon. 

It's a very dickish thing, James, at Dell.

Hopefully, the newly images SSHD will be fixed tomorrow so I can spend the weekend reinstalling everything.  The takeaway? Moving forward sometimes means taking charge and calling people on their bullshit.

In other news...

Cookie was heartbroken by the fire at Notre Dame.  I was watching CNN when the reports of the fire started, and once again, just like on 9-11 watched history unfold, and feeling helpless not to be able to stop it.

But, unlike 9-11 we can find some good in this event.  No lives were lost.  No country was attacked.  No faith was attacked, nor were fanatics attacking, either. The walls are still standing, though the north wall is in serious condition - not from the fire, so much.  But it was in poor condition beforehand.  Things of historical and theological value were saved.  Even the alter.  But sometimes we have to look at the ruins and find the sprigs of promise. The work of artists and artisans was lost, but more artists and artisans will be put to work. This offers a true chance to rehab the structure in a way that will help it stand for another 800 years.

My friend who works at the Beefhouse Strip Club said that sales of Hugo's Hunchback of Notre Dame - the book that forced the French to own up to centuries of abuse and neglect and helped to propel the Cathedral into a new era of popularity in the 19th Century - are flying off the shelves.

And perhaps this serves as a reminder to Catholics and the Catholic Church that this holy week, faith, like Christ, sometimes needs to be resurrected.

Maybe this fire will serve as a reminder to the church that terrible things can happen when you ignore problems and refused to modernize the inner workings, much like Notre Dame's stewards failed to maintain the electrical system that created the hazard that led to the fire.

Every day, find a silver lining where none seems to exist.  It's out there.  You have to be open to finding it.

Final Thought?

Faye Dunaway should have been Cersei Lannister.

Faye, you was robbed, dog.

Monday, April 8, 2019

Pee-U? Oh, no, not again




So y'all know that we have been in BMore for almost seven years, and the situation here keeps getting worse and worse.   Case in point, or Mayor's office.

In seven years, Baltimore has had two mayors and the specter of a third:

1) Shelia Dixon.  Shelia Dixon was elected mayor, she was very popular with the electorate.  Why?  Shelia is one of these people who develops instant rapport with the people she meets.  You really feel that she connects with you. That's good.  What's bad is that Shelia was found guilty of theft in office after she got caught stealing gift cards that were meant to be distributed to the poorest of the poor children in this community.   So Shelia had to resign in shame since she was convicted of a crime. 

2) Stephanie Rawlings Blake.  Steph is a brilliant woman, with the legacy of her father's lifetime of good works hanging over her head.  She is an Oberlin graduate, brainy, smart, but was terrible at connecting with people, and worse on TV.  Stephanie came to the job as City Council President, as per the charter, assumes the office of Mayor when the Mayor is unable to do their job or is removed from office.  And in this case, it was Shelia Dixon's conviction that brought Stephanie to the mayor's office.  But as Baltimore burned and rioted in 2015 over the murder of Freddie Gray, Stephanie was nowhere to be found.  She was not out on the front lines, she was not speaking to the people. She was spending a great deal of time getting her hair and makeup done.   So she removed herself from reelection, sensing certain defeat.

Now we have Catherine Pugh, a former state senator, who was doing what Stephanie should have been doing during the riots.  Catherine was out there on the front lines bravely standing up to the fear and the violence of the rioters.  Locking arms with Congressman Elijah Cummings, she walked into the buzzsaw and helped to bring people together.  And the city elected her mayor.

But since winning office in 2016, the clusterfuck that is Baltimore City Hall hasn't gotten better.  It's still a clusterfuck.  In some ways worse.  And department and division leaders are still making excuses for slipshod work.

INTO THIS came news, starting around March 15th that Mayor Pugh has been selling a whole lot of children's books that she wrote and self-published.  And that's fishy. 

Why? 

Each year thousands of children's books get published by major publishers and they go nowhere beyond their initial printings.  Unless you are an award-winning book author, even the cleverest kiddie books go into the toilet.  Remember Fred Gwynne, Herman Munster?  He wrote children's books - marvelous works with great art.  Anyone remember them?  Nope.

But Catherine Pugh is selling THOUSANDS of her self-published books about "Healthy Hannah".  But you can't get them at the nearest library, and you can't get them at your local or national bookseller either.  But she is selling them in bulk, by the box load!  Thousands at a time!

Where are they going?  Well the University of Maryland Health Center, on whose board the mayor sits, bought a whole lot of books.  Enough for the mayor to pay cash for a house in Ashburton, a traditionally black, middle-class neighborhood of very nice 1920s era houses.  She also rehabbed that house, but without pulling the right permits and with pending fines.  Yes, the mayor's people didn't pull the correct permits!

But wait!  There's more!


  • Not only did she get money for that first batch, but she failed to recuse herself from Univerity business that impacted dealings with city hall. 
  • Then the books that the UofMHC were found sitting in a warehouse until they weren't.  Then they reappeared. 
  • Then Kaiser Permanente bought a load of books and SUPRISE they were awarded a contract to provide medical treatment to City Employees!  Better yet, it was the Board of Estimates - on which the mayor is seated by virtue of holding the office of Mayor - that approved the bid, with Mayor Pugh not recusing herself from that vote. 
  • Now ALL of the mayor's deals are coming under scrutiny.  Acting Mayor Jack Young has asked that the deals she has struck over the past two years be looked at. 
In a "really?" moment while this was all breaking, the mayor developed pnuemonia.  And what hospital was she taken to?   University of Maryland Medical Center, of course.  A decent crisis management team would have said "Anywhere but there!"  But no one was thinking.   They took the Mayor, accused with insider dealing to the hospital that the dealing was happening with. 

Then in a Camille moment, the horse and raspy-voiced mayor made one last stand when she defended what happened in a presser with no questions.  From there, she placed herself on an indefinite leave of absence.  

City Council President, Jack Young, who also ran for Mayor in the last race, took over in Pugh's absence.  Now, did you catch that?  History repeating itself. Dixon out, Rawling-Blake in, Rawlings Blake out, Pugh in, and Pugh out with Young in.

Every day for two weeks its been one revelation after another. 

Meanwhile, "Rome is burning".  A Canadian racetrack operator is trying to strip the Preakness from Baltimore and move it to a track in Laurel.  We have gone through four chiefs of police in three years.  Murders are up.  City services are down. 

Honestly, if you think the shitstorm in Washington is bad, it's business as usual in Baltimore. 

And those of us who believed in Mayor Pugh are disappointed, demoralized and dazed. 

As for Shelia Dixon, she still thinking about running for mayor the next time office opens up. Lucky us.  Maybe not.  It would be difficult for Dixon to run in a race where illegalities are the topic of discussion because its an easy way to ask her about her own troubled past. 


But the best part???

The books that started it all?  Healthy Holly?  Poorly written and dialog like a Christmas pageant. 

What this city needs is a Lori Lightfoot, outside of the machine, to come in and put their foot down.


Baltimore: We're so damned proud.






Saturday, April 6, 2019

Lacking boundaries



Cookie asks the age-old question: What is wrong with some people?

Today, the husband was working out back behind our house.  We don't have a garage, just a shed, and the shed is located where the garage should be.  Actually, the previous owners, Merle and Pearl should have built a garage and not the shed, but that is neither here nor there.

Because the shed is where the garage should be, you can see it from the street.

At the same time, I saw a couple - older, white - get out of their ancient K-Car in front of our house.  Merle and Pearl have been gone for five years, yet their friends still come over hoping to see them.  This annoys me because if you haven't heard from someone in five years, that tells me that you aren't quite good enough friends just to drop in unannounced.

I noticed them standing and looking towards the shed, which was open because the husband was in our Back 40 doing yard work.   I got up - sensing that an intervention was needed - went downstairs and opened the door, went out of the stoop and asked if I could help them with anything.

Man: "I was just wondering what you had for sale in that shed."

Cookie: "Excuse me?"

Man: "I saw that your shed was open.  Would you mind if I looked through your shed to see if I might want to buy something."

Cookie: "No. We aren't having a sale."

Man: "I just want to look-see what you have."

Cookie: "I said we are not having a sale."

Man: "I just figured since the shed was open..."

Cookie: "Ah, allow me to introduce myself - my name is Cookie.  And who are you?"

Man: "You don't need to know that."

Cookie: "Ah, well then...."

I explained to Mister "You Don't Need to Know That" that no, he could not go on my property to my shed, and that no, he could not look through stuff because nothing was for sale, and that it would be best if he and his lovely wife moved it along, back to Essex, or Middle River, or wherever they are from.

His wife pulled on his arm and said that she thought there was another sale in the neighborhood.  And they left in their garbage filled K-Car.

Now, here's the thing: There is nothing in front of our house that says "Sale".  There are no yard sales in the neighborhood today.  The shed door is open because the husband is going in and out taking things out as he works in the back yard, and returning them when he is done.

So, I ask, "What is wrong with some people?"

In this case, it's the T.V. show, American Pickers, I guess, which has planted the seed that it's OK to nose around in other peoples stuff looking for things that are worth money, and then offering a fraction of the value so you can resell it.   Maybe too much exhaust from that fine K-Car is drifting into the passenger cabin and smoking their brains.

Still, I am eagle eye, from my office, ready to call 911 if they should return.




Monday, April 1, 2019

"Fincaria Verna" is not a Harry Potter Spell



Happy April 1st, and I wish this were a joke, alas it is not.  Meet Fincaria Verna, better known as "Lesser Celandine", also known as "Pilewort", also known as the bane of Cookie's existence.

This vile little plant is everywhere in Maryland and is considered an intrusive species.  This crap starts pushing up thick, waxy, vivid green leaves at the end of February and can choke out native plants.  The flower is a Yellow daisy like thing.  It's toxic to animals that eat it, and once it gets established, good luck getting rid of it.

Worse still, when it gets into a yard, it chokes out the lawn grasses, THEN when it dies back (by the end of May) it exposes bald patches perfect for spread of weed grasses like crab grass, Running Bermuda Grass, etc.

And how does it get established?  When someone buys it "herbal properties" as a topical treatment for external piles, aka hemorrhoids.  But if you don't get on it immediately, it will spread.

Only two things get rid of it.  1) Is a ton of round up, applied constantly until the tubers are dead, or 2) you dig up the top soil, remove it, and put down new sterilized soil.  This year we are trying to smother it with a ton of much.

Cookie wants to try a third method, a flame thrower.  None to worry, they are illegal and I am not about to do anything that will result in me heading to a local jail.

Still, it makes me pine for the noble dandelion, a weed that could be eaten if need be.  This stuff, seriously, it will kill you. 

The dottery old people who owned the house before us let this crap get established, and every time I go out into the fenced part of the yard, I curse their very names.

Other than that, not much new here. 

April is my favorite month - one that holds the promise for warmer days, greener trees and bluer skies.

People always say that they want to see the Cherry Blossom Trees when they bloom and I tell them not to waste their money.  The Mid-Atlantic really shines in the weeks after the cherry trees bloom, but before the humidity settles in.  The Azalea and Rhododendron show out here is beyond words fabulous, and it can, with the right weather, last for weeks.   Baltimore and Washington are at their most beautiful then.

This year I promise to take pictures.  They don't do justice to the spectacular color, but I will try and shoot some photos.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Gotta get my springs furs ready

That dog has an incredibly high ass if you ask me. 


Spring is around the corner and its time to get the spring furs ready for those few weeks when it's cool, but not cold.   So Autumn Haze comes back out and the others go into storage.

In other news, my big handsome husband has a problem, and I can't pussyfoot around it any longer.  So let me be frank:

Frank: My husband is a sucker for terrible movies. Gawd he loves them. The more corny, the better.

No, not the camp type of terrible, I mean the real stinkers.  This afternoon he almost got hooked in the 1956 stinker that sank RKO, "The First Traveling Saleslady."  TFTS was the lead production for RKO but it bombed at the box office so bad that students in grade schools did a duck and cover.  It's failure set into motion Lucille Ball and Desi Arnez' purchase of the RKO lot for Desilu Productions.

If the title doesn't already tell you that something is forced, trust me, the whole thing is a giant clinker.  Poor Ginger Rogers.  This was her Trog.  And the BIG reveal is that it's Carol Channing's first movie.  And there is a song about "corsets".  Need I say more?

Well, the hubby comes home early, plops his butt on the sofa, and starts watching it!

I turned it off and he walked the dogs.  Then the sneak got back on the sofa and switched it back on.  So I told him his hair needs cut, and off he went.

He just called and asked if we need anything from the store.   Quickly, I shall slink down the stairs and pull the Comcast cord.

If nothing else, I am a stinker.





Thursday, March 14, 2019

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Felicity Huffman lives the Lynette Scavo lifestyle



Few things disappoint me as when someone that you have a lot of respect gets involved with something really bad, and stupid.

Remember Lynette Scavo on Desperate Housewives?  The frazzled mother was always getting chewed to pieces when her moves in life came back to haunt her.

Apparently, Felicity Huffman never learned from playing Lynette Scavo lifestyle.

Today, Huffman and a host of others were implicated at buying their children's way into colleges and collegiate athletic programs at a number of high profile universities and colleges.

Initial new made it sound as if Huffman, and Lorie Loughlin we running the ring.  Not true.

What we do know is that they "hired" a firm to buy influence for their child's acceptance into a school and that the amounts paid were channeled into non-profits, which in turn paid coaches and admissions people at the school's kickbacks for preferred or manipulated admission.

In fact, Huffman was taped discussing what this consultant was going to do for her child.

Scandal traps Huffman, Loughlin and about 28 more parents caught with their hands in the kitty.

It also traps the people running the racket, and it traps college staff members who took the money.

What we have yet to see is how this is going to impact the schools, their athletic programs.

The biggest losers?

The kids who earned their spaces in these schools and earned the right to play sports.  They are the ones who could get screwed the hardest if the NCAA decides to do something really shitty, like cancel the programs and invalidate wins as punishment for the programs.  And the NCAA has a pretty good track record of fucking over collateral students who were never involved when these things blow up.

Huffman's daughter and all the children whose parents try to game the system are also victims.   I cannot imagine what is and will be going through their minds.  Think about it: Getting into a college should be one of the first "adult" decisions and efforts in life.   Now, everyone will look at them and wonder how bad their accomplishments must be for their parents to resort to these tactics.

Of course, this gaming the system is nothing new.

How do you think that Forty-Five got into college and ended up with a degree from Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania?  We know that he knows that the degree was bought because he is flipping out over his transcriptions and what they show.  Moreover, no one at Wharton really remembers Donald Trump.  Strange, don't you think?

And the last person I knew of who bragged about being a Wharton grad was a former co-worker of mine in Ohio who got busted for all sorts of fraud when her house came tumbling down.  She even ended up with a prohibition against working in a Federally insured institution. She displayed Wharton as her Alma Mater, too.

As for Felicity, even the genealogy community is BUZZING about this because a couple weeks ago she and her hard-luck childhood were featured Dr. Louis Gates, Finding Your Roots.

So yeah, I am angry with Felicity.  This really stains her brand.

But like Lynette, downing Ritalin to be super Mom, or Julia Ann Norbeck getting fingered for consumer financial fraud, when you are dishonest, you get caught.

Now, Felicity is pretty desperate, I bet.

Sources:

USA TODAY, 20190312, "Felicity Huffman, Lori Loughlin among dozens indicted in largest-ever case alleging bribery to get kids into colleges"  https://www.usatoday.com/story/life/2019/03/12/felicity-huffman-lori-loughlin-indicted-admissions-bribery-case-reports/3139204002/

Valentina Zarya, ESQUIRE, 2015/08/14 No one knows what Donald Trump Did at Wharton,

97-12-02IV--Final Order of Prohibition Julia Ann Norback, National Credit Union Administration.