Can the smell of sulfur give you a hangover?

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Mornin’ all.

Boy, what a day of celebrating our nation’s independence yesterday!

…for other people. I actually ended up going in to work for the morning to make a wedding cake. I didn’t mind going in, but it did raise a few questions that you’re probably asking as well. I’ll sum up the answers for you.

Yes, the couple was getting married on the 4th of July. No, I didn’t make any jokes to the bride about the irony of shackling herself to another human being on “Independence” Day. And yes, in fact I DO feel that it’s beyond selfish to have your wedding on a holiday.

“Bethie, didn’t we just trash on selfish brides last time?”

Fair enough. I’m just feeling a little testy this morning. I got shit for sleep last night, and I think there are some firework ashes in my morning Joe. To be honest, aside from the slight tang of sulfur on the finish, there’s not a whole lot of difference than the usual morning tar I make…

I’m in a bad mood, and my redneck town put me in this funk. It was the noise. The bangs. The booms. The whizzes and hisses and sizzles.

All.

Fucking.

Night.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I friggin’ love fireworks. We’ve spoken of my pyro admiration before. In fact, if we had even a couple bucks of spare cash this year that did not have to go immediately into fixing the cars, we would have been giddy, fireworking rednecks ourselves.

However, WE would have shot them off at a reasonable hour in consideration for everyone who has to get up this morning and face a regular old Tuesday at work.

Around 10 p.m., the barrage was constant. Makes sense. Late enough to be really dark, but not so late that people will oversleep their alarms in the morning. I could deal with that.

By 11, as I was staring up at the crack in my ceiling that looks like an “H”, I was thinking, “Okay. They’ve GOT to do the finale soon…”

But they didn’t, folks. They just kept setting them off. As the hours dragged, there started to be lulls in the activity. The drunk people got distracted by Stairway to Heaven or some shit and forgot the rest of the fireworks Bubba had in the back of his Bronco. I’d get a few minutes of silence, just long enough to be able to drift off, before Bubba had his hazy “aw shit tha’s what I was gonna do” moment and remembered he still had a bag they hadn’t lit up yet, bro.

At 2 a.m., there was a mega boom that shook my windows. In milliseconds, Panic Kitty raced across my chest, Wolverine claws out.

And then, of course, once the aftershocks of the last redneck-nuke stopped echoing through the valley, I was left trying to sleep angry.

Don’t you hate trying to sleep angry?

It’s one of the worst feelings in the world. The brain starts listing every single thing you’ve ever been mad about and you work yourself up into a good old snit. You roll over to get more comfortable, but the blankie bunches and that pisses you off more. The pillow has the audacity to be lumpy and warm, and you can’t get the goddamn fan to blow on your face without your fucking hair breaking loose and squiggling across your nose.

Trying to sleep angry is the worst.

So I got up at 4. More accurately, I gave up at 4. I’m slugging back this sulfur-infused rotgut I call coffee and hoping for the best. When my kids get up for school in a foul mood, I always tell them to go to school and come back with a sweeter disposition. Methinks I need to apply the same annoying edict to myself today.

Looming over us is another major car repair. At the moment I call it major, because we actually don’t know what caused my work horse to begin suddenly veering left and right. I wasn’t in the car when it happened. The man of the house was using my car because it had been acting funny, and he’s had much more experience behind the wheel of a hoopdie than I have. He’s fairly unflappable when it comes to limping home a broken rig, so when he came in the other night literally shaking like a leaf, I knew something was very seriously wrong.

My beastie sits in the drive, slumped down in defeat.

I had someone suggest to me that it was the steering rack. I, too, had thought of it, and immediately dismissed the idea. Not because it’s not valid or possible, because it totally is both. In fact, were I being a realist about it, I believe it’s probably even likely. But, I do not have a replacement steering rack, so it cannot be that.

…that’s how car repairs work, right?

I’m personally hoping we cracked a few major bushings or something, which is also extremely likely. Remember, we only paid $800 for the car two years ago and it was in such rough shape that it didn’t really have a functional floor. I can think of three bushings that could cause dangerously sloppy steering if they fall apart, so let’s hope for that. I mean, I don’t have spares of those on me, but they’re a helluva lot cheaper and easier to source than a steering rack for a 30 year old German diesel.

Teen Prime had his trip to Atlanta! Remember he placed third in the state for a game design competition through FBLA? The nationals in Atlanta were this past week. He said he’s not sure how he placed. They only posted the results for the top 10, and his team wasn’t on that list. He’s not a bit disappointed, though. He got three days in a new city, and seemed to love every minute of it.

I…I think somehow I gave birth to someone who…likes…traveling???

How does this happen? Is this some sort of rebellion? What’s next? Is he going to want to be an ACCOUNTANT, too!?? WHERE DID I GO WRONG???

…in all honesty, I’m very pleased that at least one of the kids wants to go out and see. He wants to go somewhere new and touch and taste. He wants to experience and do and try. And no bullshit, I love that. Somehow I managed to create a human that wants to go beyond the safe and the known, and I think that’s fantastic. Think of the postcards I’ll get!

Postcards are still a thing, right?

Speaking of travel, did you read the news that Juno has made it to Jupiter!? NASA’s latest probe locked into orbit around our solar system’s largest planet in the wee hours. Well, our wee hours. Who knows what the time was on Jupiter? There aren’t really locals there to tell us in which manner they arbitrarily mark “time”.

…or ARE there?

Maybe hidden under all those dark, swirling sulfuric clouds are Jupiterian rednecks scrambling to hide their spent, smoking firework shells from the Jupiterian cops, too.

“Wow Bethie. You really didn’t sleep last night, did you?”

Now, I’m not really expecting to find Jupiterians setting off fireworks. Do you even know the odds against that? They’re astronomical.

“*groan*”

But, there really is a chance we could find evidence of some sort of life forms that exist, or existed at some point in Jupiter’s stormy history. Just a cell. That’s all we’d need to see to help us better understand life.

And even if we don’t manage to find life, we will still be able to fill in some gaps in our knowledge void about why or why not. Juno is about to start sending us digital postcards from 370 MILLION miles away.

Fuck inconsiderate yokels and their cans of powdered thunder. We just sent a robot 370 million miles to unlock the secrets of an entirely different planet. If that’s not inspiring, I don’t know what is.

Thus concludes a ramble for Tuesday, July 5, 2016. Is it bad that I was only half kidding about “knowing” Jupiterians don’t exist? Come on, admit it. There’s part of you that’s hoping, too…

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.