Another year without a nuclear meltdown has got to be making them rethink the calendars…

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Mornin’ all.

We done went and had ourselves a bit of winter this week. It was sleeting so hard that when I got up the other day that it sounded like a pipe had broken. I had a momentary flashback to last years’ Pipes of Hell winter production before I got a grip and realized that it was a balmy 30 degrees, and the water was coming down from above, not up from below.

I took a look outside. A couple inches of snow, then ice pellets as far as the eye could see. What an awful mess! Fortunately for us, no one had anywhere they needed to go. Kids were home from school, man was home from work. There wasn’t a single reason any of us had to go out.

So of course we went out.

…what? Oh come on. It’s a New England tradition. The plows had already come through, so we weren’t clogging up the roads and getting in their way, and there was almost no traffic. As soon as you can, you get in your car and chug the mile to the local grocery store to make sure every other redneck congregated there still agrees with your assessment that winter is wicked fahkin’ shitty. It’s just what you do. I don’t make the rules, people.

Besides, we were low on milk. Not quite out, but low enough that the morning joe would be tan, not khaki. Couldn’t have that first world problem, now could I? I mean, I chipped a nail this week, too. There’s only so much one person can take.

We’re halfway through the kids’ holiday break. For the most part, it’s been pretty smooth. They needed to clean their rooms to make space for fresh inventory after Christmas. I remember when that meant they played with the rediscovered toys while I sat buried under the heaps of long forgotten treasures, desperately trying to throw out the crap that the kids only suddenly NEEDED because it was time for it to go.

Now, even the littlest pup is old enough to mostly guide himself in cleaning.

I’m not saying I don’t have a couple in the litter who show the same hoarding tendencies I possess. Sometimes I’ll catch the pup sneaking a broken toy under the bed. “What’s that?” I’ll say. “I can fix it,” he’ll protest. “Put it in the trash before you end up with an hour long TLC special,” I’ll tell him, carefully creasing my brow in practiced parental consternation.

Aside from cleaning, it’s been mellow and game-filled. They are my little flock of geeks and got some cool games for Christmas. And while they got out and played before the shit weather rolled in, I can’t say any of them seemed the least bit disappointed to discover that Mother Nature made sure their time was free for digital adventuring.

Pokemons explored caves. Isaacs were…bound? I’m sorry, I don’t really know how that game works. Brain puzzles were solved, and, if the excited tittering wafting from the teen lair was any indication, large battleships were thwarted.

Looks like they’ll have that same kind of morning again today, at least. It’s raining and the snow/ice is getting a fresh, glossy glaze. Hey, I suppose I can’t complain. I mean, it’s the first real sign of winter, and it’s almost 2016.

Can you believe it? Another year out. Pfft, just like that. Seems like I cracked open my free 2015 calendar the nuclear power plant sends to all the folks that live in the potential fallout zone just yesterday.

…true story. Got next year’s unusual bribe all ready to hang in the morning. If the plant ever blows, at least I’ll have the warm memories of all the free calendars they sent over the years to temper my anger at their incompetence and give me comfort. Well, the warm memories and the literal warmth of the radiation…

It’s that time of year again when we look back and reflect on the old shitstorm we’re leaving behind before our hungover asses wake up to the first misting sprays of the new one. Everyone’s recapping the year as only the internet can.

Most sites are linking their favorite lists by category. The news this year was, by and large, fairly bleak. I’m looking through these lists of murders and scandals and jihads and arrests and it’s depressing as hell. There was a link on MSN to the “20 Cutest Internet Cats of 2015.” I was thinking that would take the sting off the hell hole we’re in and clicked on it. True to their word, some of the kitties really did have squiffy wiffy faces. I was feeling more positive until I clicked on the last cat. The last cat on the list looked like Donald Trump.

Donald Trump is now ruining the palate-cleansing ability of internet kittehs. Screw you, Donald Trump. #generalmessageof2015

Then there are the usual lists of celebrity lives that ended in the course of the year. The entertainment sections have lists of actors and singers that shuffled off this mortal coil. The sports section listed “7 Sports Heroes You’ll Miss Next Year.” What a set up articles like that are. I didn’t even know these people existed until you told me, and then as soon as I find out about them, you tell me they died. I was in a world of blissful ignorance before. Any emptiness and loss I now feel for heroes I will never get to know is completely your fault, sports writers. Screw you, too.

Science and tech sections also have their loss articles, but no one reads them. I think that’s probably sadder than the fabricated depression from the sports writers. This keyboard I’m typing on could have been invented by someone who died this year, and I’ll never know. I mean, I *could* know, I guess. I just won’t.

Hey, at least I’m honest.

Aside from the news bits, many of the lists on the internet are sponsored. “Top 20 Hairstyles of 2015,” brought to you by Wen hair care. Just guessing here, but I think these styles are going to be held in place with Wen’s Dr. MacGuillicuddy Formula Super Shiny Impossible-to-Muss All Purpose Hair Shellac Elixir and Floor Polish. They’re also linking their least favorite lists. “Worst Hairstyles in 2015.” Looks like there are many folks out there who didn’t buy Wen. Tighten that shit up in 2016, folks. Just call Wen and ask for “magic hair beans.” They’ll know what you’re talking about.

Here’s a good one. “50 of the Best Cars of 2015.” How about, “80 Great Breakfasts to Start off the New Year.” This is one you cannot miss: “101 Life Hacks We Learned in 2015.”

It cracks me up when I see lists like this. 50 Best Cars…so, like…ALL the cars of 2015, then? I think they just try to one up each other. I think the folks at BuzzFeed brainstorm or interface or idea-share or whatever they call it to try and come up with a list that cannot be topped.

“Let’s see if we can think of a list that will dwarf all other lists,” some asshole in an ill-fitting plaid shirt says as he pushes thick-framed, lensless glasses up his nose.

Stanley gulps, though whether because of genuine panic or simply discomfort the starched bow tie pressing against his Adam’s apple creates is undetermined. “Dave,” he rasps. “You’re talking about…the Golden List.”

The group gasps as one, but Dave is undeterred. He holds up a perfectly manicured hand, mostly to flash the sweet 1986 Casio calculator watch he found at a yardsale that sometimes even works, and the group stills. “Yes.”

The one word gets the hipsters riled enough to forget their corporate catchphrases. “That’s fucking nuts!” someone shouts. “It’s a pipe dream, Dave!” says another.

“This is it,” Dave shouts above the din of the crowd. Everyone settles back down. “I said it in January and I meant it. This is OUR year. We’re not leaving this office until we finally do it. I want everyone to network and give each other input and no one is leaving until we come away with the Golden List.”

Stanley hitches up his high waisted acid washed jeans he’s totally wearing ironically, duh, and takes a deep breath. “You do know that’s the top, right? That’s the pinnacle. If we create the world’s most comprehensive list, it’s all downhill from there. We’ll never be able to beat it.”

Dave removes the annoying empty frames, stares long and hard at his expectant hispt-herd, and finally utters, “Then we go out in a blaze of glory, my friends. Who’s with me?”

50 cars. 80 breakfasts. 101 life hacks… I tried to do a Google search for “longest compilation lists,” “longest year end wrap up lists,” and “longest dumb lists of shit that happened in 2015,” but I simply confused the Google Overlords. They still think I want a list of armed conflicts near large rivers. Should make my autofill even more interesting next time.

Things happened this year. More things did not. We were great at realizing problems, but really shitty at fixing them. We’ve got to work on that in 2016. We’ve had some deaths, some more personal than others, and some births. Folks set records, smashed records, invented records, and some even recorded records, though they won’t just call them “records” anymore and that’s super annoying. There was a lot to 2015.

I look back on the news, the media, the trends and stories and pop culture ebbs and flows. What do I want to talk about in terms of the year we’re leaving behind? I have spent the year blogging. I got most of it out of my system when it happened. Something grabbed my attention, I hopped on and “Mornin’ all-ed”, and walked away feeling lighter and freer. I generally don’t need to recap, since it’s all archived and anyone is free to look back on their own if they want.

However, there is something nagging me that I need to get off my chest before I can move forward. Somehow I missed the news when it came out, and then it became awkward to talk about apropos of nothing. But that’s what year end round ups are for, right? It’s a time to have one last chance to air your grievances before you close the calendar, throw it away, and start fresh.

With that in mind, here’s Bethie’s Huge Annoyance of 2015. I’m not even going to try and compete for the Golden List award. It’s really simple. Just one thing.

This:

hoverboard

THIS IS NOT A HOVERBOARD!!! It doesn’t hover. It doesn’t even come CLOSE to hovering. It’s on GODDAMN WHEELS for crying out loud. It’s AT BEST a crooked skateboard. It’s not innovative. It’s not the “future”. It’s just a board with spinny wheels on it. WHEELS. No hovering capabilities whatsoever. The emperor is naked and it’s time someone stood up and said something.

STOP CALLING IT A FUCKING HOVERBOARD!!!!! GAAAHHH!!!!

*exhausted panting* *deep breath* *slicks back crazy wayward lock of hair* *clears throat*

There. NOW I’m ready for 2016.

Thus concludes the last Musing for 2015. I say this every year, and every year some dope ignores the good advice. If you want to usher in 2016 by getting utterly shit faced, cheers! Now, grab a couch. A floor. Be the huddled mass in the bathtub moaning all night. Whatever you do, DON’T DRIVE AFTER YOU DRINK!! Any is too many. I hope everyone gets to wake up tomorrow morning with a headache, cotton mouth, and a nagging suspicion that the lampshade and goat weren’t actually a dream…

Any more additions to the injured roster and we’ll have to forfeit the game…

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Mornin’ all.

I’m just going to warn you right off the bat to stay away from the coffee today. Have some tea. Or water. We’ve got some of the cleanest, purest water in the state. Fresh ice in the freezer. Help yourself.

“So you invite me over for coffee and a chat, and won’t share your coffee?”

You misunderstand.

See the coffee pot? See the melting handle? If you listen closely, you’ll hear the quiet gloop of the glass morphing from a solid to a liquid state under the corrosive properties of the contents within.

It’s been a week, my friends. A long, long week. And it’s not even over yet.

To get through, I stood there this morning and just kept adding scoops of cheap coffee to the machine until my brain began to quake in fearful anticipation. My previous limit was five, and that’s enough to make your stomach pack up and leave in protest.

You know the “big red button?” Turns out, six scoops does exactly the same thing as smacking that button.

As soon as the first drop of devil’s brew blopped out of the machine, a dry, lonely wind began to blow and a tumbleweed rolled across the scuffed wood floor. I wouldn’t at all be surprised to make it to the end of the pot and find a scorpion or worm preserved at the bottom.

I’m not bogarting the coffee all for myself because I don’t want to share. I’m saving you from my fate. #IGYB

Last week at work, one of the teens pulled an abdominal muscle. Because he is

a) male, and

b) teenaged,

he is a teenage male. Anyone who has one of these knows that when they get injured, they will instantly try and prove how unaffected they are by said injury.

Why? Why you gotta do this, guys? Just take the ibuprofen and use the heat pack and lay still for a few damn days. It’s not being a baby to take care of yourself! Gah.

Then my man got the first flu-like illness of the season. He was feeling very crummy, but at least he’s old enough to just take the ibuprofen and use the heat pack and lay still for a few damn days.

Not to be outdone by father or brother, the youngest decided his bones were all way too pristine. First trip to the ER for that one. Frankly, I’m surprised it took so long. If any of my kids can be considered “extreme,” it’s that one. He mushed an arm bone.

That’s how they explained it. It’s a type of fracture that happens when the bone bends too much but doesn’t actually snap. The x-ray looked like someone had just pushed on the side of the bone with something flat, like a ruler. It’s just…mushed.

Gawd that kid is tough. Almost no crying. In fact, the triage nurse and doc in the ER at first thought he was kind of faking. The doc came back with the x-ray results and said, “Well, this is surprising.”

He just doesn’t cry. That doesn’t mean he wasn’t in a ton of pain. I could see the signs. He gets fidgetty. His answers get short and he holds his breath. And he was shaking like a leaf for hours. He just does not cry.

Not in front of other people, anyway.

They give you a temporary cast in the ER now. When I was a kid, a friend of mine and I decided that THE thing to do was play full contact basketball. On a lawn. Yeah, that ended pretty much how you’d expect.

When I got to the ER, they gave me a full cast right there. After a few days, the swelling went down and my ankle could wiggle around in there so much that I think the only thing the cast really did was collect the coins my older sister decided to stick down it to piss me off. And a knitting needle, a broken plastic fork, and car from the Game of Life.

…don’t ask.

My kiddo got a temporary cast in the ER, then went back a couple days later to get his hard cast. He got a bright red one and can’t wait to show it off at school today.

The cast person asked if he was going to let friends sign it. He thought for a minute, then said, “I don’t know. I have some pretty inappropriate friends. I don’t think I want to wear what they’re going to write.”

Smart boy. I hobbled around with more than one Sharpied “fart” on my cast for six weeks.

Because I don’t need anyone else getting sick or injured, I put gas masks and hazmat suits on the other two, then wrapped them in bubble wrap. There were some muffled noises. Maybe protests. Who knows? Couldn’t really hear them through the masks and wrap. Eh, they’ll be fine. I will MAKE them be fine.

Yesterday was Veteran’s Day. Agree with the conflicts and wars or not, we live in a world that requires soldiers. Some other asshole is ALWAYS going to be waving a pointed stick at us, and I, for one, am very thankful for the women and men who willingly put aside their lives to protect and defend our nation. I may be an anti-conflict hippie at heart, but I most definitely love and respect the military. As much as we might want Utopia, we don’t have it. The military keeps us safe when morons try to prove it.

Being Veteran’s Day, there were many posts on Facebook thanking vets. Paying homage. Poems in tribute and all that. Some were well intentioned but eye-rolling in their insincerity. Some were very moving. Some were powerful. I’m guessing all were appreciated by the veterans.

However, I noticed a trend I hadn’t seen before.

People started posting Veteran’s Day posts in honor of military service animals.

Like, “Thank you to the women and men who risked your lives for us, but who I’d REALLY like to remember today is a fucking dog. He sniffed soldier asses and licked his balls with courage. And let’s not even talk about the way he chased that tennis ball in the line of service. I mean, it was an Iraqi tennis ball. Now THAT’S bravery.”

Let’s just forget for a minute that there are zero military service animals looking at Facebook to read your thanks in the first place. Let’s not even bother to address what kind of mental state it takes for a person to post a thank you to a god dammed horse on Facebook. We’ll just accept that in someone’s warped mind, animals have FB accounts and are touched to read messages from average citizens about their service. I’ll sadly stipulate to these facts even though everything inside is now weeping for the world.

All that aside…

Really? We’re really going to dilute the importance of Veteran’s Day by thanking animals? It’s not enough that we keep cutting spending on after care for our vets? Or don’t pay them jack shit? Or rally against them when we disagree with a conflict the government has joined? We’re now going to degrade them further by taking the one day half of America remember soldiers exist and using it to thank dogs and ponies?

I understand that animals play a role in our military. I understand that those animals are loved and respected by the units that utilize them. But it’s not really the same thing, is it?

A pup is born. The breeder says, “Say, now, that’s a swell pup. Let’s give him to the military to train.” The military trains the dog to hone its skills. Maybe it’s a good sniffer and can help find mines. Maybe it’s better at detecting bombs. It could just have a cutesy-wootsey face and be a really good morale booster for the soldiers. Whatever the skills, the dog is just that. A dog. The dog made no choice to be in the military. The dog did not enlist. There was no thought whatsoever given by the animal to the potential consequences of being a military service critter. The pup didn’t worry about the family left behind, or what would happen to the rest of his litter if he died in duty. It just did what it was told to do in order to get a treat and a belly rub.

I’m not saying that the animals of the military shouldn’t be thought of or respected. In fact, when you think about it, what kind of assholes are we to make all those choices and rope OTHER DAMN SPECIES into OUR stupid fighting in the first place!? Why aren’t there robots to replace them yet? We have the technology. Make it happen!

What I AM saying is that Veteran’s Day should be for the humans who knowingly and willingly chose to make such sacrifices. Who could fully understand the scope and magnitude of their choices and still join the line to protect hippies like myself. Who somehow get okay with the idea of dying as long as they can do it FOR US.

It strikes me as such a slap in the face to say to a veteran “Thanks,” and use your very next breath to say, “But let’s not forget to also thank the brave carrier pigeons because their sacrifice was just as meaningful.”

It wasn’t, folks. It just wasn’t.

Thus concludes a quick Musing for Thursday, November 12, 2015. I didn’t make that up, you know. Someone actually posted a Veteran’s Day thank you to carrier pigeons. I…I just…*sigh*

Is it worse to glam up Mary, or to shit next to a manger?

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Mornin’ all.

It’s retro music time. “House of the Rising Sun” by the Animals is on at the moment. I can’t think of any other song where the organ upstages the guitar. Shred that organ, man.

“Crimson and Clover” is next in the queue. Pardon me if I pause to rock the hell out from time to time.

This has been a nostalgia week in general, though mostly the not good kind. You know how sometimes you get into one of those fuzzy-camera-lens periods where the sun flares rainbows over all your warm memories to the backdrop of autumn leaves tumbling down a country lane?

Yeah, not that.

This was one of those “THINK OF EVERY WAY YOU FAILED LOSER” journeys. You know what I mean. Sometimes your Memory gains control and is all, “Hey. Hey, bud. Psst. Over here. Remember in sixth grade when you were super happy to wear that new green striped sweater because you didn’t realize it made you look even fatter or that the green was the wrong shade of green? Good thing you had a classroom full of girls who would point it out to you! Hey, did you ever get over the embarrassment of crying in front of them? Lemme go ask Emotions how she still feels about it…”

You can see why I had to break out some old classic rock. I’m hoping the smokin’ organ riffs and ripping guitars can end my trip down memory pain.

I went to the dump the other day. Oh, sorry. I mean, the transfer station…which is just a high falutin’ dump. While there, not one, but TWO campaigners for Hillary Clinton approached me to try to entice me to vote for Clinton.

Campaigning at a DUMP??

I know they want to reach a large audience, and the fancy dump here in town is THE place to be on a Saturday morning. But, it’s still a dump. It’s the place you go to get rid of all your stinky garbage. Why in the hell would Clinton want her name tied with that mental image?

There’s a lot of psychology involved in getting votes. When it’s time for casting, the last thing the Clinton campaign wants is for people’s memories to conjure stinky garbage when they look at the little box next to her name. It’s just baffling why they thought it was a good idea.

Besides, they were so very out of place. That aspect alone made it uncomfortably comical. Close your eyes and picture a Hillary campaigner. They were both exactly that. Now, put those thirty-something yuppies in a redneck dump. Surrounded by rednecks. And trash. It was honestly like something out of a bad sitcom.

One of them asked me, “Can I speak with you about Hillary Clinton?”

I said, “Nope.”

What I should have said was, “Lady, I’ve got the week’s worth of stink in my wagon and I’m just trying ditch it and get away from my family’s refuse as fast as possible.”

NOBODY wants to hang around a dump and chit chat about foreign policy.

Teen Prime said, “Now, if it was a Trump campaigner, that would make sense.”

And it would rhyme, too! Oh the fun you could have. Dump for Trump. Dump with Trump. Trump at the dump. Be a chump with Trump at the dump. There are just so many ways you could go with it, and all of them would make the ferret headed man-child pat-a-cake with glee. Maybe I should email the Trump campaign and pass on the idea? I bet if I said, “Hillary is totally smoking you in dump polls,” they’d be booking themselves some stinky stomping grounds before I could even finish the sentence.

“In A Gadda Da Vida” now. It’s a bit weird listening to it at 5:00 am with coffee in my hand instead of vodka and no one telling me they love me, man…nah, like, for real…but it’s still a good song.

So I went on to read the news. I wanted to maybe do a Roundup, because it’s been awhile, but the headlines were all either lame or about death and murder. I do have lines, as nebulous as they may seem at times. However, one article did catch my attention.

“Barbie as Mary Gets Argentinian Artist Duo in Hot Water”

Oooh. Gotta be good, right?

The Argentinian artist team of Marianela Perelli and Pool Paolini have created an art installation of Barbie dolls that are dressed up as famous religious figures. To be clear, the dolls are one-offs for a display, not being mass produced, and, at this point in time, not up for sale in any way. That needs to be said, because a big part of the controversy seems to stem from people thinking the artists have plans to pump these Barbies out left and right.

Though other religions are represented in the display with figures such as Buddha and Kali, it is certainly a Christian-centric art installation overall. That’s no surprise. The overwhelming religious majority in Argentina is Catholicism. The Christian figures span the range from what I’d consider classic nativity characters, to Joan of Arc and Spanish Crusaders. Here’s an example of what we’re talking about:

barbiecontroversey1

It wouldn’t be news if it wasn’t considered controversial. Religious leaders “around the world” are upset. So upset, in fact, that this is the second attempt at holding the exhibit. The first one closed before it ever opened due to death threats deemed “very significant” and “highly credible” against not only the artists, but the owner of the previous venue slated for the display.

People, forgive the expression in this circumstance, but…what the hell?

Why are people so upset?

Let’s see if we can dissect this.

The vast majority of the public outcry is coming from Christians. In fact, while a Hindu group spoke out against the display, they also spoke out against the threats that the artists were receiving. They don’t like the installment, stated their feelings, and are willing to simply not attend.

The Christians were not of the same mind.

In fact, it is widely accepted that it was a group of devout Catholics that issued the very real death threats the first time, backed by the local authorities. No, for real. Instead of offering the artists protection, local law enforcement and government officials made public comments against the artists, saying that the artists were making a mockery of religion and that they should have petitioned the government for a permit to make something so controversial so the government could tell them not to do it in the first place.

Political speak for “GIT ‘EM!!!”

Since the majority of the outrage is coming from Christians, specifically Catholics in Argentina but all sects globally, let’s take a look at their main complaints. Ooh! I know. Let’s make a list. We like lists!

Reasons that Christians want to Kill Artists Over Barbie Religious Figurines:

1. They make a profit off religion and that is a no no.

2. By turning important figures into toys, the artists have made a mockery of Christianity.

…er…that’s it. I guess we didn’t really have to do it in list format, huh?

I’mma go ahead and get that first ridiculous, insane, stupid reason to be up in arms about this out of the way in two words:

Christmas decorations.

Actually, why stop there? Not just Christmas decor…ALL religion-centric home decor. Velvet Jesus posters, praying Mary hands, light up crucifixes, decorative rosary beads, cross necklaces, “Jesus Loves Me” embroidered pillows… I could go on, but I don’t think I need to.

“Okay, Bethie, but Argentina is far more devout than the admittedly lax US. Surely they adhere to a more strict observation of the tenets of…”

Near Buenos Aires is a town called Lujan. In Lujan, there is a statue of the Virgin Mary, the only woman the Catholic church ever considered to be important. People not only flock to the church that was built to house the statue, but they walk away with souvenirs from the many gift shops. Mini copies of the statue, Mary necklaces, photos of the statue and church, prayer cards…

Prayer cards.

They SELL PRAYERS. If that’s not profiting off a religion, I don’t know what is.

“Yes, but the Barbie artists do it by making a mockery of Christianity. It’s not the same.”

Isn’t it, though?

Let’s take a look at the nativity portion of the installation. Baby Jesus, Mary, Joseph. Now, let’s look at some other nativity sets that are commercially available.

barbiecontroversey3

Wait a second. That’s…that’s a nativity set made out of children’s toys. Someone has already taken a very serious, deeply important Bible story and make a toy set of it? Where’s the outrage? Where are the death threats? Where are the authorities up in arms about such a vile mockery?

That set has been sold for years. It’s got 4.5 stars on Amazon, with many ecstatic reviewers saying it’s a great way to teach the Bible story to kids.

Here’s another.

barbiecontroversey7

Uh…ducks? That’s, um…different.

barbiecontroversey2

My initial reaction to this was to balk, but then I realized it’s a Canadian set. Can’t be controversial if it’s Canadian, right?

In fact, none of the above sets have raised anyone’s ire. Well, maybe people were upset with the ducks, but that’s probably because they’re so poorly rendered. Look at it again. What the hell are those wise men offering for gifts? Cheese and a turkey leg? And what’s with Mary’s hair? Yikes, lady. It’s not a 70’s swinger party.

My point is that people have been adding their own twist to religion for years. Yes, even Christianity. ESPECIALLY Christianity. People do this to create a personal bond with the stories they’re reading. They’re trying to relate, and to put the story in relatable terms for their children.

Balloonman Jesus is a-okay.

barbiecontroversey5

Claymation Joseph is a bit of a dick for ignoring Mary’s suffering there, but this figure set is still okay.

barbiecontroversey4

Snow globe head Mary is, frankly, a hot mess…but okay.

barbiecontroversey6

And it all HAS to be okay. Because if one is acceptable, they’re ALL acceptable. If you let your kids play with the Little People nativity set, you cannot pretend to be up in arms about Mary Barbie. You just can’t.

Now, I’m not into the whole WWJD thing. But I can guarantee that WWJ-NOT-D is issue death threats against an artist turning the most popular doll set to ever exist into classic religious figures.

I think all the outrage is silly. In a world where Caganers exist, and have since the 17th century, free from controversy or zealous religious ire, there’s certainly room for Barbie Mary.

…you’ve never heard of a Caganer?

Here. Without my help, see if you can spot the oddball in the mix.

barbiecontroversey8

Okay, so maybe there’s a bit of prompting on my part. And no, that’s not someone’s idea of a funny holiday prank. In the general France-y area of the world, it’s a tradition to place a shitting figurine in the nativity set.

And no, that’s not a typo. The dude is taking a shit.

“…uh….Whaaaa???”

Yep! And it doesn’t have to be a little elf. In fact, it’s very popular to get figurines in the likenesses of favorite leaders or celebrities taking a dump for Christ. Google it. I’ll wait.

“…HOW…”

I see you now have the glazed look of someone who has seen too much. Glad we’re on the same page!

The tradition began around the end of the 17th century and is loosely supposed to be about the Caganer nourishing the earth.

…at least that’s the bullshit reason they give now. I believe it probably started out as a political commentary and spread in popularity as a way to subtly stick it to the man. You know, relegating a recognizable politician or leader to the same status as the ox and pigs in the barn. That makes a hell of a lot more sense than the current popular explanation given by the French when a confused visitor sees someone literally shitting on Christmas.

So before you get mad that two artists have turned a popular doll into symbols of different religions, just remember that somewhere across the sea right now, someone is standing in a shopping mall Noel store trying to decide if they should buy the Kanye Caganer, or if Kim would be more appropriate to shit next to the baby Jesus this year.

Perspective, folks. It’s all about perspective.

Thus concludes a Musing for Monday, October 26, 2015. I’ve got housework on the docket today. Boo. Maybe it’s time to break out the big guns go full “Nights in White Satin”…

Do you think the junkyard will let me play Taps when they crush it?

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1 Effective Way to Say Hello

Mornin’ all.

I was just trying to look through the news, and it hit me that even mainstream, “serious” news sites are now clickbaiting with numbers.

10 Times the IS was More Terrifying Than Hitler

14 Ways Hillary’s Policy Changes Could Affect Everyday Life

5 Reasons You Need to Pay Attention to the Refugee Crisis

Gah. Is this really what we’re becoming?

…and is it a bad thing?

3 Important Points to Ponder While You Drink Your Coffee

1) Humans are lazy. We are extraordinarily lazy. In the animal world, we take the cake. It’s this laziness that makes us evolve. There is a constant push, our only true innate drive, to be creative and think outside the box for the sole purpose of coming up with new solutions to get our asses out of as much work as possible.

The sharpened stick was invented because killing dinner with a dull thud of an unsharpened stick was slower than killing it with a pointy stabby stab.

The wheel was invented because Caveman Ugh was sick of busting his caveballs trying to tug and pull and lug that stabbed dinner back to the cave.

Horses were tamed to do all sorts of neat things that allowed our ancestors to sit back and let someone else do the work.

…and on and on and on. Every invention we’ve come up with has been designed with one purpose: Make life for humanity easier.

Is it any wonder, then, that the news would eventually be presented in bullet point format? It’s quick, it’s efficient, and it speaks to the deep laziness in all of us.

2) News sites are lazy. Dude, it is SO much easier to make a list than it is to sit down and write a coherent article. Plus, in a bullet point style presentation, things like grammar and syntax are apparently unnecessary.

3) Reading a condensed list makes you feel smarter faster. I don’t know if the PuffHo really put much thought into this trend it widely started. I’m sure bullet pointing the news started out as a way to save space and time. I highly doubt they ever really put much thought into the psychology. However, they stumbled on a real way to make people feel more confident and sure of not only the facts of a situation, but their overall retention of knowledge afterwards.

It’s an unintentionally brilliant way to make people keep going back to their website, I’ll give them that. I’d much rather keep reading news on a site that makes me walk away feeling like I learned something, even if I didn’t really learn a damned thing.

Which leads me to…

3 Ways Bullet Point Reporting is Ruining the News

1) Bullet point news would work well if the information presented was accurate…

2)…and well written. There is no need to forgo grammar, spelling, and proper framing of a coherent thought simply because there is a number in front of the sentence. Gah. This is dumbing us down. This aspect of this style of clickbait reporting is making the average person feel smarter by making them dumber. And it’s all because…

3) HUMANS ARE LAZY. Modern reporters are lazy. Modern editors are lazy. And all this laziness sucks because people have been programmed by clickbait “journalism” to expect yet another fun filled list of anti-facts NOW NOW NOW. It’s too much work to be fast, efficient, AND accurate. Jeez. What do you want from reporters? It’s almost as if you expect accurate, reliable, dependable summations of important events that could have an impact on the world around you. Pipe dream much?

I think it’s going to stay around for awhile, so I suppose we best get used to it. Life swings on a pendulum, though. There will come a time in the not-so-distant-future when post modern hipsters will find the old style of reporting the news through well-researched, carefully crafted essays just the bees knees. It’s a cycle. We just have to wait until the pendulum swings the other way.

Until then, I suppose we must embrace it. Here goes.

1 Thing That Epically Sucked in the House of Bethie This Week

Muh car died.

The first one that I really lead the resurrection team to bring back to life. *sniff*

Here’s the sad tale of woe. The Mr. took Soppy to work.

(Er, that was the car. We named her the Sopwith Llama. A Sopwith Camel was an old timey fighter plane before new fangled fighter jets flew onto the scene. But, the kids like llamas, soooo…)

He called me from his business of employ to tell me that “Sop’s acting weird.” We hoped it was a momentary lapse in functionality, or that she was just feeling annoyed.

“Uh, Bethie. I hate to interrupt…”

Liar.

“…but, it’s just a car. It can’t feel anything.”

Yes. Yes it can. And anyone out there who doesn’t think that cars have moods, including temper tantrums and hissy fits, simply hasn’t been paying attention to their car. Shame on you. Go out and sit in your car and apologize for ignoring it all this time before it proves me right. It helps if you rub the dashboard, but don’t take it too far. Don’t make it weird, bro.

Anyway, my guy came home late. That was probably the only reason he made it home at all. There was a distinct lack of traffic and, for the most part, he had one clear last run with Soppy. Before he left work, he checked the fluids and the oil. Everything looked good under the hood. Proper fluid and oil levels. So he wished on a star and headed home.

He got within a couple miles of our house and “running rough” turned into her dumping all her coolant into the oil and seizing just as she pulled into our drive.

As far as close calls go, it doesn’t get any closer than that.

Soppy didn’t go quietly. The tail lights were upgraded LEDs that were insanely bright, a modification we did because it was a black car that was driven largely at night, and the Mr. was sick of drunk rednecks riding his bumper. She also began to belch huge plumes of thick, white smoke of doom. The bright taillights caught in the billowing clouds like Soppy was spewing forth the fires of hell itself. The Mr. told me that when he looked in his rear view, all he could see was a fiery wall of clouds.

Man I wish I was there to see it!

What we had was catastrophic parts failure. The head gasket went all at once. At that point, there was no saving her.

Oh, I know we could have (and still technically could) take her to a shop and have them completely go through it cleaning out the cappuccino colored oil/coolant from the engine block, retool the head, and replace all the gaskets. Or, we could buy a crate engine to drop in. However, it’s not worth it. I love that car, but there comes a point when the cost exceeds the value.

She’s done for. And today I must strip the parts to sell. I must rob the grave of my beloved beastie. As difficult as it is, I know it’s for the best. Through organ donation, Soppy can live on.

*hats off in a moment of silence for the brave and noble sacrifice of my Sopwith Llama*

*clears throat* *wipes tear*

Yes. Well. Moving on.

We picked up a cheapie from craigslist yesterday. Boy, I don’t know what folks did before craigslist when their cars shit the bed. The Mr. got his automotive shake-up at about ten on Thursday night. By eight Friday morning, I had already made arrangements to go see a $500 hoopdie that’ll get us through until we can really find a good replacement.

It’s a VW wagon. It needs stuff. It comes with most of the stuff it needs. The guy selling it was in the middle of repairs when a buddy offered him a Jeep that he really wanted. Nice guy…he threw in all the parts, including a new hood, for free. The engine has high miles but sounds so quiet that my guy kept thinking he stalled it…always a good sign.

Today, my tinkering cohort (our youngest) is going to help me strip parts from Sop, then pep a few things up on the newbie. I think the hubby is leaning toward the name Hobbes for the VW. Why Hobbes? We had a $400 Neon once that lasted us THREE YEARS that we named Calvin, and after the 45 minute drive home yesterday, he got out and said, “Boy does that remind me of Calvin!”

Of course, you can’t call two cars the same thing. And if you do “the second” or “junior”, the auto is instantly insulted. Rightfully so!

The only thing that’s giving him pause about the new moniker is that he feels the VW is female. I asked him why he must saddle the name “Hobbes” with gender constraints. He gave me a *blink**blink*. Heh. I love it when he has no response.

Sop gets dissected today, and Maybe-Hobbes gets spruced up. It seems a bit sadistic to fancify Hobbes next to Soppy’s corpse, but really, what can I do? I have to get one ready for the scrapper and one ready for the road.

It’s the circle of life, friends.

Hukuna machina.

Thus concludes the Musing for Saturday, October 17, 2015. Holy shit. I babbled so much about other things that I never actually got to talk about what I started writing to talk about in the first place. Damn bullet pointing getting me off track. Eh, it’s probably for the best. It was a fairly controversial point of view that would most definitely NOT win me friends or influence people. It would have been fun, though. Hm. Guess I’ll save it for another day…

The Eye of Bessie sees all…

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Mornin’ all.

Crazy week here. Seems like we’re in the middle of a run of them. I’m hoping things will slow down soon. I hate not knowing one day to the next where things are heading!

“Don’t tell me you’re having a problem going with the flow. I thought you were a hippie, Bethie?”

I am. I’m just not that good at it.

One upside is the hectic, electric vibe. While it sucks for sitting down and concentrating on writing, it’s fantastic for other projects. Over the past couple weeks, I’ve bastardized a Renoir print, updated an Italian classic, and am currently working on a third lamp. Pretty soon I’ll have enough to stop selling on ebay and Craigslist and actually give Etsy a try.

“*gasp of horror*”

I KNOW, okay? I already KNOW I’m a sellout. I don’t need you telling me that. I get it.

I want money from my crafts. I AM a sellout.

Look, I write when I need to get things out, when I want to create worlds, when I have a group of characters that just want to *be*. I make stuff out of my junk to give me $$$. That’s the difference between one type of creating and another. I truly enjoy making stuff out of my junk pile. But it’s not the same as crafting an entire universe with words.

My point is that I can sell my bastard crafts with impunity and without guilt. IF I can find the right market.

Locally, I’m not so sure I’d have an audience. I think I may have mentioned once or seventeen dozen times that I live in a small NH town. The local craft fairs largely focus on hand spun fibers, woven scarves, plaques with “home is where the heart is” inked over smiling heads of a rudimentarily rendered bovine. Painted saw blades are popular, but not quite as in demand as knitted toilet paper covers. That makes sense, since in these parts, toilet paper spoils quickly if not properly stored.

When I was a kid, a popular item at craft fairs was a disco ball…type…thing…made of Christmas bulbs and garland. ALL the rage at the annual Christmas Bazaar in the St. Stanislaus church basement (which, of course, was known in OUR household as the Christmas Bizarre. What? Not all jokes have to ooze originality.).

Also hot with the choir member crew were those creepy half-Barbie doll half-crocheted southern belle skirt abominations. You know the ones. Some sick old grandma chops a dollar store Barbie in half and glues it to this crocheted pillow that looks like a large hoop skirt. They then tat little doilies to drape over the whole deal in an attempt to make it look fancy enough for the casual observer to ignore the sadism.

You didn’t fool me, Grandma. And while I was too terrified to ask 33 years ago, I’m asking now.

WHY DO YOU CUT OFF THE LEGS???!!!

It seems like such a needlessly violent step. Couldn’t you just crochet a skirt!?

I can just see some cackly old granny, popping off the Barbie’s legs, muttering about how great her own gams used to be with a scratchy record player skipping its way through “The Jitterbug” in the background of her single bulb-lit, sepia-toned room…

Freaky.

…oh. Oh gawd I just thought of something. What if they use the legs for something else!?

*shudder*

Though the times have changed, the crafts of the area largely have not. If the showing at the craft area of the Pickle Fest was any indication (and I see no reason why it shouldn’t have been) then the local population still has an affinity for the classics. One lady was trying hard to break the mold and sell clay magnets, but the villagers drove her out with pitchforks, as well they should. Everyone knows magnets are witchcraft and have no business in a bazaar. OUT YE VILE TEMPTRESS! We put OUR important pictures and turkey-hand drawings on the fridge with Scotch tape!

Mile-high hair bows were aflutter in the afternoon breeze at one stall. Those aren’t new. They were popular in my elementary school when I was a kid. Someone had the brilliant idea to tie colorful shoelaces together and stick them on clips to make ugly, loopy hair bows. The trend died down when people realized they looked like idiots, but this year, the bows were back with a vengeance. I’m not sure if the vendor was trying to recapture her glory days, or if the bows are actually making a comeback. Several people were walking around in acid washed jeans, so who knows? The one thing I will say is that at 7 friggin’ dollars a bow, that lady was DREAMING.

Honey, no one’s going to pay $7 to put shoelaces in their hair, even if they are day-glo pink.

And if they do, I don’t really think that’s my demographic.

Now, I really might be selling my town short. There may be people ravenous for a change in the craft scene. I don’t have the money to pay for a booth to risk it. If I had hand painted pig figurines or lace-trimmed toilet seat covers, I’d go for it. That shit sells itself. But my stuff?

Besides, if I wanted to really break into the scene at a fair larger than a church basement bazaar, I’d have to go up against the old guards.

I love crafts. I love the crafting community…in general. But anyone, ANYONE who lives in a crafting area knows that it’s run by a core group of people. Around here, most of the big craft shows are juried. This means that before you’re allowed to buy booth space, you have to submit samples of your products for a group of other crafters to judge. They get to determine whether or not your crafts and art are good enough for the show. And, unfortunately, the same group tends to judge the majority of fairs in the area. Basically, if you piss one off, you’re never, ever getting a booth.

Again, a booth that you would pay for.

It’s a weird system that creates a lot of questions. Why does there need to be a jury if you’re paying for vending space? Isn’t that level of subjectivity pretty contradictory to the basic tenets of the crafting world? Why does a group of old hags (and usually one grandpa…he’s the saw painter) get to decide what’s art? Who elects these folks? Who gives them such power?

It’s a head scratcher, that’s for sure. It’s been rumored that there are Illuminati dealings, but take that with a grain of salt. Every clandestine group is rumored to be affiliated with the Illuminati these days. I’m, personally, more apt to believe there’s a secret crafting synod run by the dairy conglomerations of Vermont.

“Uh, Bethie? You okay over there?”

Think about it. Why else would there be cows on EVERYTHING? I’ve seen members give a milking motion handshake on the sly when they didn’t think folks were watching. They have a secret sign language which matches the cud chewing patterns of common Holsteins. And if you look closely enough, every member has the Eye of Bessie tattooed on their neck, just below the hairline, almost invisible unless you know what you’re looking for.

How can I possibly break into such an organization? Especially since I’m on record as saying that I prefer Wisconsin cheese?

“Oh, Bethie… *shakes head*…”

It was a great plate of nachos. I was young and naive, and surrounded by peers all hyped up on football. I had no notion of the life-long ramifications. Ah, the folly of youth. You can see, though, why my hands are tied as far as local sales go.

Etsy has their own clandestine operation going, though I’m almost positive that one IS run by the Illuminati. The Illuminati like odd stuff, though. And they don’t care a whit which cheese I prefer. It’s my best shot at a broader audience that’s not stuck under the oppressive hoof of the Ruminati.

I’ve been playing around with LED lights. Boy are they neat. We’ve refitted all our house lamps with them, and three years later not a single one has burned out and it really did drop our monthly electric bill by a significant amount. I had never tried wiring my own up before this week, though, like taking bulbs and stringing them together how I want to make my own light display.

Incandescent bulbs are easy. Connect them together with a positive wire, add a negative at the end of the string, stick it on a plug, et voila…light. LEDs use so little power, though, that they need to have “x” amount of resistors added to the lineup, depending on how many bulbs you have. If you just wired it straight to a plug, they would burn out. There’s a learning curve, and it’s a bit more work, but the benefits of the LEDs in crafting terms are worth it. Not only do they take very little energy to run (you can plug into one outlet and run 43 50-bulb strings in tandem! OFF ONE PLUG!!!), but they never get hot.
THEY NEVER GET HOT!!

This means you don’t need ventilation, you don’t have to stop and consider the fact that the entire metal sculpture is going to become a very interesting branding iron if you aren’t careful, you don’t need to put wattage warnings on them, and you can wire the bulbs near flammable glues, laces, paper, etc. and not have to worry. Little LED bulbs themselves are plastic, so breakage isn’t an issue, and the bulbs last a whole lot longer than incandescents or fluorescents. Not to mention the fact that they are so very bright that you can use about half as many to get the effect you want.

“Bethie, are you working for an LED light bulb company?”

No, but if they wanna kick me a little something for gushing, I wouldn’t be opposed. We’ve already established that I’m a sellout.

The lamps I’ve made this week all have LEDs. The discount store downtown sells LED Christmas strings dirt cheap and I keep buying them. I wonder what the owner thinks I’m doing with them all? Eh, so long as I’m not chopping Barbies in half, it’s all good. I keep hoping that my interest in his stock of them doesn’t drive the price up. It has to, though, wouldn’t you think? He’s selling them many dollars cheaper than anyone else in the area. Eventually he’ll wake up and realize he could be making so much more money off me. I best pick up some more today, just to be safe.

It’s not hoarding if I’m going to use them, right?

“Uh, I don’t think that’s how it works…”

Oh! I forgot to mention! I have quince.

STOLEN quince.

AND my hands are completely and utterly clean in the whole deal. Er, except for the fact that I knowingly received stolen goods, I guess. I had cohorts, and they stole quince on my behalf. I’ve got a whole box of them in my kitchen. I was going to cook them up this weekend, but they smell so damn good. They give off this fragrance that’s like flowers and pears. Smells a whole lot better than solder and flux, let me tell you.

I suppose I should find time today to cook them. The good thing about quince is that they’ll last a really long time. The bad thing is that you can’t tell they’re going until they’re already gone. They’re so hard and the only time they turn soft is when their insides have already rotted.

So that’s what’s going on in the House of Bethie. Crazy schedule, madcap crafting antics, laundry, and processing my pirated quince. Not a lot, and yet so much.

Thus concludes a rambly Musing for Tuesday, October 6, 2015. When you’re cruising the autumn craft fairs, remember to look for the signs of the Ruminati. The only way they’ll be defeated is if we make sure not to support them. Do it on the sly, though. Always remember that the Eye of Bessie is watching…

It be a briny day for this landlubber…

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Mornin’ all.

Okay, so the madcap book writing thing is not going to plan.

“You’re procrastinating again, aren’t you, Bethie?”

No!

…well, maybe a little. I hit a sticky section. I know how I want the book to end, I know the generalities of the plot line, I even have a few distinct scenes in my head ready to flow through my fingers to enter the world. However, to get there, I need to get past one major bump in the road that feels like it’s covered in wet tar.

I think I know how. I had a burst of inspiration last night.

Unfortunately, that inspiration can’t be used yet. This is building up and it’s going to be one of those situations where my fingers feel like they’re injected with Red Bull and I’ve got the headphones on blasting my murder playlist (literary murder, folks. Jeez. What kind of idiot do you think I am? If I was actually going to murder someone in real life, I wouldn’t have a playlist called “murder”, would I?) and going to town. I need to be able to sit in the zone and just write.

I haven’t been able to do that this week, and I won’t get a chance to until at least tonight. Very soon my herd of giants will be waking up eager to get to…the Pickle Fest!

Yep, today is our little hamlet’s annual festival to celebrate what I believe is one of the tastiest methods of food preservation.

It seems like the hubbub is a little more bubby this year. This could have something to do with multiple factors. First, we live in the general area of the infamous Pumkin Fest. Remember that? It was on the news because some asshats decided to have riots there. RIOTS. At a pumpkin festival. I think people are kind of amped to see whether or not there will be trouble at our little fest.

If there is, I guarantee it won’t last long. Unlike the big city of past pumpkin shame, we’re a small town. In NH. I’ve said it before, but in case you’ve forgotten, let me refresh your memory with a simple math equation to keep in mind anytime you travel through my fair state:

small NH town = lots of guns

Hm. I suppose that’s less of an equation and more of a life lesson, huh? Here. I’ll make it more mathy so it seems important and official:

trouble making outsider + small NH town = wicked bad fahkin’ day fer that guy

Get the point?

Anyone would be beyond stupid to try and start shit here. We’re celebrating pickles today, people. Pickles. Vegetables that have been given balls and grit through copious amounts of vinegar and salt. This isn’t some bullshit fest to honor a damn hipster coffee-flavoring gourd. This is real mans’ man’s stuff. Salt to toughen you up, vinegar to give you the squint of an ornery bastard. GRRRR!

“Whoa now, Bethie. Calm down.”

*deep breath* Don’t be startin’ shit in MY fest.

There. Had to be said. Though I don’t think there will be any legitimate problems, I do think the “what if” is driving the buzz.

Another excitement factor this year is how nice our town is starting to look. There are some redone buildings downtown. An investor came in and converted a building that started out as a factory, changed to a store, housed a hardware business forever, then sat useless for a decade into a combination distillery and farmer’s market.

No, wait. I know it might sound like a silly concept to combine a produce stand with a moonshine factory. But have you been to a farmer’s market lately? The prices are getting INSANE. I think it’s brilliant to get the customers all liquored up before they pay $4.99/lb for organic roots and twigs. Takes the sting off the sticker shock.

Love or hate the concept, the building has been totally renovated and looks so awesome. There has been a massive amount of activity in and around it this week…I wonder if today will be their grand opening?

Right next to the new highbrow boozery is a karate dojo. It’s in a tall, skinny building on a corner right next to a very narrow bridge. In my lifetime, there have been perhaps two dozen different companies that tried to run a successful business in that building. All of them have failed.

Local lore is that it’s haunted.

Back in the town’s heyday, when the tannery was running full steam and the grand hotel hadn’t yet turned into a bawdy house of disrepute, the building in question housed a high end garment shop. It wasn’t a standard tailor. This shop catered to the upper echelon who would stop over for a night in the grand hotel on their train journey north to the luxury of the White Mountain resorts that were a popular summer destination for the pre-civil war elite.

At three stories tall, the building is one of the largest in town and was very hard to miss. It sat directly across from the grand hotel itself, yet another marketing coup for a small town seamstress named Annabelle Green. Getting business was never a problem for the self-professed “Lady of Lace,” and her rich clients, happy with her work, would tout her ability far and wide. At her prime, she was creating fashion for the wives and mistresses of the most powerful men in the northeast. She quickly became one of the richest and most influential people in town, in a time when “rich” and “influential” were generally not words used to describe a woman.

Lucky as she was in her career, she could not find a husband that would allow her to continue to control her own business. There are two separate engagement announcements in the old newspaper accounts for Annabelle, and two separate gossip bits about those engagements ending without marriage. Though the specifics are mere story with no actual verification, the rumor was that after the second failed engagement, Annabelle kind of went mad.

I don’t think that’s true. It’s a rumor that’s endured through the generations because after the second broken engagement, Annabelle refused to deal with men. There was a sign in her shop that forbade men from crossing the threshold. She insisted that all accounts be settled either by mail or by hand delivery from the “party serviced,” meaning the women, not their husbands. She would not speak to men on the street, and when it came time to pay her own tax bills, she’d always send one of her workers to deal with the male-centric town offices.

I think people said she went bonkers because they wanted some explanation other than “she hated that she was used and abused by men her whole life and they were assholes that deserved to be shunned.” I think in that misogynistic society, any woman who was sick of mens’ shit was just called “mad”. They couldn’t believe that THEY were the problem, NOT her.

Anyway, whether she went mad or not, that last attempt at love was a turning point. She loved her business before. After? She was a woman obsessed with it. She poured herself so completely into the shop that there is an old log in the town hall that proves she was fined for breaking the working hours ordinance no less than seven separate times because she just would not stop the machines and send her employees home by 6 pm.

The town, getting sick of her shit and sick of her attitude and just generally sick of her, had enough of the late hours right in the middle of their town and began to put the pressure on to drive her away. There are myriad ways a small town hellbent against one lone businesswoman could make her life hell and cause her business to dry up, and it seems every one of those tricks was employed.

I’d like to tell you that she bucked the system and kept on sewing. I can’t. The system beat her down, and in 1842, she had to close her doors. However, she lived on the third story, and by that time, she owned the building. They could make her close, but they couldn’t make her leave.

Annabelle would spend her days sitting in a chair on the balcony of the third floor, glaring down at the townspeople like some crazed, bitter gargoyle. They tried fining her, but there was no law against sitting on your own balcony and looking at folks. As she sat, day in and day out, her eyes passing judgment on everyone, she allowed her building to fall into disrepair. Right in the center of town and across from a grand hotel, the peeling paint and broken windows were not only an eyesore, they were a major flip of the bird to those who made her dream crumble.

They tried forcing her to keep her building neat and tidy. She never showed up to the hearing in front of the town board of selectmen, and she also never paid the resulting fine. The town took her to court. Or, tried to, anyway. She refused to leave her building to go to that court hearing, either, and a judgment was passed in her absence ordering Annabelle to either repair the building, or cede it to the town under threat of physical eviction should she not comply.

Do you think Annabelle complied?

Legend has it that the scene was a great, riotous affair on the day the police went to forcibly evict Annabelle. Gossip accounts of the time make it seem like there were hundreds of people gathered to witness the event, with folks squaring off on either side of the debate. The “let an old woman live in peace!” do gooders against the “make that bitch pay for ruining our town!” contingent.

Personally, I doubt the veracity of that part of the story. I’ve lived in this town almost my whole life, and while some things change about a small community over the years, the basic ethos will always remain. Though we do like a good spectacle, I think to get teeming masses involved, there would have to be some free beer or snacks.

Now, don’t get me wrong…I’m not saying there wasn’t drama on the fateful day. Though not the riotous affair the rumor mill created, it was one of our town’s most infamous events.

As the police forced their way into the building to apprehend the once powerful Annabelle, she gave the town her one last “SCREW YOU!” and dove off her balcony to her death. She landed right in front of the building, her neck twisted and blood staining the sidewalks in the very center of town just as a coach of wealthy travelers, some no doubt her former clients, pulled to a stop at the grand hotel right across the street.

Since that day, every business that has tried to make a go of it in Annabelle’s building has failed, some of them only a few months after opening their doors.

When I was a kid, the trend was to try to make it a little restaurant. Former tenants claimed that they’ve come in in the morning to find rows of glasses shattered, or the refrigerator with all the prep food for the next day unplugged and thousands of dollars worth of groceries spoiled. Things placed in the attic will be mysteriously shredded. Odd music will play when the owners are there alone at night. You know, standard haunting type stories.

However, even the folks who claim not to believe in ghosts have left the building in a hurry after more nefarious happenings. There are dozens of reports of people being pushed or tripped on the stairs. Reasonable men and women have fled in a panic after feeling as if they’ve been punched or slapped if they dare enter the third story, what was once Annabelle’s private quarters. Two people have been driven to insanity by the relentless torture, and one sadly died the same way as the seamstress herself.

No business lasts there, people. Why? Because Annabelle won’t let it.

…nah. Just kidding. Gosh you’re gullible today! The building never housed a high priced seamstress shop. I’m pretty sure it was the opposite of a grand hotel *nudge**nudge* *wink**wink* if you catch my drift. A saloon on the bottom floor, and bottoms on the top. I bet people did die there, but it was probably from gonorrhea or a heart attack. Maybe cheatin’ at cards like a yellow-bellied varmint.

It’s true that no business has lasted in that space, but the reason for that is quite simple and, frankly, boring. The building is in a horrible location. It’s right by the first of two intersections in town (yes, two WHOLE intersections), with a narrow bridge on one side and just awful parking, to boot. Any business like a shop or a restaurant, where people know they are only going to be there a short while, will not do well. It’s such a hassle to back out of the parking right into the intersection that people decide it’s not worth it to come back.

A dojo, though…now there’s a winning idea. Why? Because parents can drop their kids off and then park anywhere downtown. They’ve got at least an hour to wait while the kids are in class, so there’s no hurry, no rush. All the downtown parking is free, and if you’re not in a time crunch, the dojo is definitely within easy walking distance. Hell, a lot of the folks are probably going to head on over to do their laundry while they wait anyway. A dojo might work there, it just might.

Even if the dojo doesn’t last, the owners of the building have decided to spiff it up, too. They redid it to look like a cross between the old saloon it most likely was and a modern building with a bank of large windows on the entire second story. It looks classy, that’s what I’m saying, especially right next to the farmer’s mar*hic*ket.

Aw shit. I just put it together. The drunk-ket is in cahoots with the dojo. The folks who drop their kids off to kick ass in karate can then go drink some expensive liquor and buy kale while they wait. Brilliant.

We’ve also got a new candle shop in town. Yep, candles.

All of this together gives us fancy roots and organic twigs, craft liquors to make people forget they are going to eat said roots and twigs, a dojo where the folks who are going to buy the liquor and roots and twigs can send their kids while they do it, and a fancy candle to take home as a New Englandy memento.

Oooh lah lah. Lookit us all high and uppity over here. Bring on the snotty cheese-eaters!

…but remember, we still have guns. Lots of them. And even though a vast majority of the gun-toters will be watching a cow take a shit in the field to see if they struck it rich, I guarantee they’re all good enough shots to take down any rioters from that distance.

You know what we call that ’round here?

052

Thus concludes a briny Musing for Saturday, Pickle Fest Day, 2015. I’m off to buy a jar of half sours so I can pre-game.

“Uh, Bethie?”

Huh?

“Are you going to explain the cow shit comment?”

Well now, I don’t think I will. Mystery is the spice of life.

Embrace it.

Is a stolen quince still fancy, or can I eat it with my pinkie down?

Standard

Mornin’ all.

Kitty did something new this morning. Normally if she wants me to get up, she bursts into my room like a furry dust devil, dons lead boots, and pounces on my chest. While I struggle and gasp, trying to get both my breath and my bearings, she whips off the lead boots and becomes my tiny cat again before rushing to give nose bumps and purrs as if nothing nefarious just happened.

That’s not the best way to wake up, but at least I get nose bumps. And I’ve grown accustom. It’s pretty much the status quo.

This morning, though, she bucked the system. Instead of jumping on my chest with her leaden Feet ‘O Doom, she got on my chest without me even noticing. She must have just tiptoed up on me, because I never even noticed that.

No, it was the repeated soft paw slapping across the face that woke me up.

*Bap*. *Bapbap*… …*BAPBAPBAPBAPBAPBAP*

Still got the nose bumps and purrs, but damn was that disorienting. I wasn’t sure if I was waking up in my own bed or if shit went down in the night and someone was trying to bring me ’round to rally and lead my people to victory.

I suppose if that were the case, it probably wouldn’t have been a cat waking me, huh? Or, at least, I hope not. If shit gets so desperate that a CAT has to be waking me up, I’m fairly certain all hope already jumped ship.

Right now, Kitty’s currently sitting on the back of my chair, purring, yet flicking me in the face with her tail. I guess it’s just going to be one of those kitty days. Lemme just go move all the breakables to lower shelves.

Who am I kidding? I’ve got 3 teenagers and a 9 year old I’m convinced is part firecracker. All my breakable stuff broke YEARS ago. Do your worst, Kitty.

Driving the youngest to school the other morning, I noticed that one of the houses near the school appears to be completely abandoned. The yard has really grown up, the dirt drive is mostly weeds, no lights, no cars. Unfortunately, that’s nothing new. I’m guessing it might be a foreclosure…there certainly are many of those around town, even on that particular street. That is the Desirable Neighborhood.

I don’t know how things work where you live, but around these parts, we don’t have sales tax or state income tax. To make up for this deficit in budgeting, we have inSANE property tax. The tax rate is set by the town, and assessors come ’round once in awhile to check the property and make sure that either your hunk of shit is still a steaming pile, or your epic mansion is still quality enough to put dollar signs in the budget committee’s eyes.

I personally live in a section of houses that used to be factory homes. For a lot of years, there was a huge leather tannery right down the way that employed a lot of folks and wanted to keep those folks beholden to the company (translation: they employed immigrants fresh off the boat and took advantage). Many companies did this before the government and unions said, “Uh, you can’t force folks who work for you to turn around and give you their entire paychecks. Pretty sure that’s called slavery, and fairly certain we don’t want that happening.”

If you go into any older town in New England and head toward the local river, you’ll find remains of an old factory or mill that’s either gone to Nature or has been turned into a quaint little antique shop. In the direct vicinity of the defunct factory or mill, you’ll also see a neighborhood of older looking, similarly styled, not-at-all fancy homes with small front yards and an overall utilitarian appearance.

And you thought suburbia was a new concept!

Anyway, we live in one of those old factory houses. It’s probably around a hundred and fifty years old…somewhere in there. Since these homes were built to hold as many poor people as possible, they were not maintained very well. Turns out, poor immigrants who worked their fingers to the bone and breathed in the combo of rotting animal carcasses and harsh tanning chemicals all day didn’t really have that Martha Stewart urge once they clocked out. These homes weren’t built to look nice. Or, really, to last. It’s why ours has a half-assed foundation that needs frequent attention to keep the whole house of cards from collapsing.

My neighbor’s house is quite similar. All the houses around are quite similar. We’re directly on the main road, because that would have made it very easy for the Polish immigrant employees to find their way to work every morning, and also close enough to the factory for the land we’re on to be considered crappy.

In a nutshell, I most certainly do NOT live in a Desirable Neighborhood.

Even though we’re pretty much the Clampetts before they struck black gold…

*classic TV fist bump, y’all*

…the landlords still pay a mint in taxes. The yearly property tax on this rundown joint comes to around $2500. That’s every single year.

In fairness, it’s a duplex, so the assessed value is higher than it really should be. It’s considered an “income property”. If it was just a one family, it would be a tad lower. Maybe around $2,000. Still, a lotta money every single year for a rundown row house.

Now, to give you an idea of just how unfair property assessment is, the Desirable Neighborhood is made up of two blocks in one straight strip. The first block is made up of factory housing. About a half mile away from the factory, it would have been for higher level employees. Managers, overseers, that sort. Folks who had earned the right to live far enough away from the factory to get clean air in their lungs at night.

But not too far. Gotta get to work at sunup, ya know.

The second half of the street is comprised of Fancy Homes. It’s been years since I’ve studied the survey maps the Historical Society keeps, but if I remember correctly, the Fancy Homes belonged to the town business owners. You can tell, too. They’re Victorian in style, have large yards with statement piece trees. Though still too shabby to belong in Beverly Hills by any stretch of the imagination, they truly are some of the best homes in town.

They’re right near a school. They’re across the street from the town’s community center. The police/fire station combo sits at the beginning of the street and there’s even a classic old white church that plays bells every evening at 5.

Majestic.

All of these things mean that the assessed value of ANY of the homes on that street is way higher than the assessed value of the same style of property anywhere else in town, even for the row houses that are boring with no front yard and, at best, statement shrubs, not trees.

To give you an idea, if the house we lived in were picked up and moved to the Desirable Neighborhood, our taxes would go from $2500/year to around $5000/year.

We looked into a couple properties on that street because nearly all of them are on the market at the moment. The one we were interested in had a smaller lawn, less overall property, same square footage in the home, same level of run-down-ness…and the house was valued so high that the tax would have been $5,300. Once again, that would be essentially the same thing we’ve got now (minus the duplex “income property” designation) not even a mile away.

Is it any wonder more than half the damn street is for sale right now? It’s insane.

So, seeing a house for sale, or even abandoned, on that road is nothing new. However, what struck me about this particular house wasn’t the home so much as what was in the yard.

Several years ago, the property was purchased and the owners had a dream of making it into some niche orchard. They planted and maintained a few apple, quince, and peach trees. They planted berry bushes and built an impressive box garden. They shipped in bees so they could produce honey and it looked to me as if they were in the process of turning their barn into one of those quaint “New Englandy” shops that pull in all the snotty cheese eaters who can’t wait to see the foliage every year.

Not knocking snotty cheese eaters. We NEED snotty cheese eaters. It keeps the owners of our New Englandy shops in business.

It was clear that someone was trying something new in this town.

The first thing that happened was “concern” being raised by the folks about the bees being so close to the school. As human nature has proven time and again, science and fact were no match for het up rhetoric in that debate. It wasn’t more than a year before I think the owners just got sick of the hostility and the idiots, and took down the cute “Fresh Pressed Honey” sign.

No more bees.

But, they still had the fruits. I talk like it’s an orchard. It’s not. It’s only six trees. However, what those folks managed to cram into the small space was amazing. They also chose their trees carefully. These trees are epic producers. It’s a veritable bounty, folks.

Maybe the taxes got to be too much. Maybe the townspeople got to be too much. Maybe the dream they clearly had wasn’t worth the battle it took to realize. They left. Someone else moved in, someone who did not have the same dream, someone who did not care about peaches and apples and quince.

And now it appears as if even that someone is gone.

The trees are heavy with fruit. They are sitting there, loaded. Kids walk by those trees every day, some of them hungry, some of them itchy to have a juicy bite of the dream that’s been abandoned.

I’ve had my share of apples this year. I can’t even LOOK at those. But the two quince trees…that’s a different story. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t thinking of stepping slightly off the public sidewalk and nipping a stray quince of two.

They aren’t wanted. They’ve been abandoned. Beautiful, top shelf quality food sits on forgotten branches to rot. No one wants them. The custodians of the property, probably some vague yet menacing secret foreclosure society, have ignored the very existence of the bounty. The fruits sit there, alone, unwanted, destined to never live out their purpose in life.

When viewed in that light, I’d be doing the world a favor by taking some of the fruit. It’s noble, really, sacrificing my morals to lift up another life form, to give meaning to the hollowness of their current existence, to make their hard work and devotion COUNT in this crazy, mixed up world, to…

“Bethie.”

…what?

“Do not steal the fruit.”

But…

“.no.”

*sigh* Fine. I’ll leave the fruit. It can rot. Go to seed. Fall to the ground in a poetic allegory that the majority of folks who walk by won’t stop to ponder. I won’t steal the fruit. I promise.

But you have to admit, I almost swayed you, didn’t I?

Thus concludes a disappointingly quinceless Musing for Saturday, September 12, 2015. I mentioned last time that I’m gearing up for writing. I’m not sure if that’ll be this week or next. If you don’t hear from me for a bit, that’s what I’m up to. And if you DO hear from me, you know I’m procrastinating and you should yell at me to put away my toys and get to work. I’d do the same for you.