Now, how do I look to you?
Sometimes, like last Monday night, I wonder how I look to people.
I have photos of my grandmothers at my same age and I think they look much, much older than this age that I’m not telling you here. My medical friend Nancy says that has to do with medicine and nutrition being so much better now than it was then. My grandmothers also didn’t dye their hair, which may have to do with it, too! I didn’t used to dye my hair, until about the year 2003 when my friend got married and I was the baby wrangler, as she had a new baby at the time, and I took care of the baby at the event so she could have a good time. My hair was happily gray, but the bride’s mama, who was much older than we were, had dyed her hair a golden blond, was wearing a mini skirt and was out on the floor dancing the night away. While I loved taking care of the baby, EVERYONE came to me to ask, “Are you her grandmother?” And the very next day I went and got my hair did RIGHT! And it’s been one color or another, ever since.
Monday evening I got interviewed for a radio podcast! A real one! When I know more about it (if it’ll even air and I don’t want to jinx it by saying anything at all about it!) I’ll tell you about it, but that’s only the set-up for this story, now. The radio producer is a young woman of about . . . late twenties, I’d say. (See? How do people look to me?) But I’ve spent most of my adult life in the world of Production (festival production, show production, movie production – Production!) and I know very well what I’m doing. Production people are a special lot and we are efficient and good at what we do. But I was being interviewed, so there not as a Production Person, but as a person who used to own Elmer’s and that’s a whole different world! And she, the interviewer was the very capable Producer! And I, Older Production Person, wondered how she, Younger Production Person saw me as: As an old person? As a retired person? As a “Bless her heart, she’s got stories of the grand days” person? Or as I see myself, a Grown Person of no age who is doing a whole lot of stuff!
Often times, like when the XM Sirius people call me to try to get me to subscribe to all the channels they have, I cheerfully say, “I’m old! I’ve lived ALL these years without that and so I don’t care about it! You got to call the young ‘uns! They care!”
My favorite old person ever was Miss Rose, back in the neighborhood who used to say, “I’m seventy-two years old! These chirruns now, when they beef, they all be shootin’ each other with guns! Back in my day, we had to use our fists!” Now, that’s OLD!
It’s not an important question, if I seem old to the young’uns – it’s just one of those things that makes me laugh the next day.
By the way! Speaking of back in the day and the nutrition that we always think was wholesome, natural and from-the-earth in the good old days before processed food and the FDA, do you know about The Poison Squad?? Read this! It’s FASCINATING! No wonder my grandmas looked old!
This Saturday they have a gorgeous art opening at Elmer’s --- that I can't show you a picture of because these stupid-ass Mail Chimps decide what "My files" are instead of letting ME decide what they are! They have chosen 200 photos that I can upload - none of them are what I want to upload, stupid-ass, fucking "technology" that makes all the rules for you because they think they are SO fucking clever. See? Y'all Millennials? You keep saying you got no problem with technology running your lives? WATCH! You will have no control whatsoever. It'll all be Elon Musk, Google and Apple and what they think you should be doing. You think I'm kidding? You're sliding right into it and you don't even care.
How about that? Do I sound old now?
Here's the info (stupid-ass technology-hoarding monkey-ass monkeys! - Not you, them!)
At Elmer's this Saturday from 2 to 4 pm they have a joint art opening with works by Jim Murphy and Macalister Sloan Anderson. Mac is only 17 but BOY is he good! And Jim is older - and one of Mac's art instructors and MAN is he even better! But it's a gorgeous show and I wish you could see the picture I wanted to upload, but I can't. So now you just have to go to the show.
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I love the conversation! Of course I mostly get to be the one who reads it, but sometimes I ask you guys if it’s okay for me to print some of your answers. And usually you say, okay! (But it’s always okay if you don’t want me to! I won’t!)
The prevailing winds in this group (at least the ones who write back) blow towards liking banks that have doors you can knock on. Several people wrote to say that they use only people-staffed banks in order to keep those staffers in jobs! (Elon Musk, Peter Thiel and those other AI providers would scoff at that – ‘course they get to keep their jobs when Robots rule the earth.) I stand with the Keep-the-People-at-Work crowd, though I’m interested in what my brother who works at Microsoft thinks about that. I’m hoping he’ll read this and write back.
(Man! There’s something dead in my house today, this Halloween! I don’t think it’s a person though. DON’T BE LOOKING AT ME WITH THAT SMUG, DISGUSTED LOOK! All y’all New Englanders know this is the time of year animals come inside to hang out and die if it comes to that! All y’all got dead stuff in your house! You just don’t smell it yet!)
But I got this reply and I thought it was very interesting – and great! He asked me to use only his first name, though:
Here is my two cents about savings accounts (although I have a few more cents than that in my accounts).
First caution, I'm only 22, so I'm not that experienced in life. I just really enjoy reading and researching personal finance related things.
My first actual thought. Savings accounts aren't as great as they're cracked up to be. This kind of blew my world last week or the week before when I learned it: you're going to be losing money in a savings account pretty much no matter what. Why? Inflation! You can see here: https://www.thebalance.com/u-s-inflation-rate-history-by-year-and-forecast-3306093 that inflation for the past few years has been about 2% or over. You're going to be very hard pressed to find a bank with a savings rate that good. The savings rate is a matter of losing less money. Even though my online bank has a 1.9 % interest rate, I'm still losing money because the money is worth less, because of inflation.
So, what's my strategy? I have an emergency fund in a normal brick and mortar bank that barely earns any interest (and thus the value of it goes down about 2% per year because of inflation). But I have the emergency fund in there because I can access that money immediately, in case of a real emergency, like a car breakdown or needing to withdraw cash to eat at Elmer's (I've only been once, and I can't remember if it's cash-only. Regardless, I like to pay cash to local stores so they don't have credit card fees).
Online banks have great rates, but it can take a while to access the funds. When I transfer funds, it typically takes 4 business days for that to happen. If I had a real honest to goodness emergency, that would be 3.9999 business days too long! I would want my money immediately. With the brick and mortar bank, I can transfer the money from my savings account instantly. As far as I can tell, that's the major advantage of the brick and mortar bank
In addition to the emergency fund, I invest small amounts of money (hopefully more once I get a higher paying job). Investing is the only way that your money can really make money, but again, you can also lose money that way if we have another recession. I also have an online-only bank account through Synchrony Bank, with a 1.9% interest rate. This is where I put my actual savings. This is for things like potential graduate school (if I go crazy and decide to go to school again!) and Christmas presents for my family. I know because of the higher interest rate, the money will barely be losing any value.
Anyways, the moral of the story is that I see advantages in both. I don't put my eggs in one basket. But then again, I'm only 22.
Ladies and gentlemen – there it is, the answer and the Future! from a guy who is only 22. I’m curious now as to what he invests in. Eli! What do you invest in? Write back and tell us!
Aight! I’m getting ready to go over to Elmer’s to paint faces for Halloween! Come on in! If not for face-painting, then dinner and the bar (and candy out front!)
I was talking to a financial advisor friend the other day who told me he recommends people put their money into a particular on-line bank as it gives better interest rates than do regulation brick-and-mortar banks, keeping their costs low and their rates high exactly because they don’t have to deal with all it takes to see people in person. It’s easy. You put your money with them and everything is done on the internet.
See, I’m old. I don’t trust this newfangled thing they call The Internet to be there when you need it any more than I trust Russian hackers not to be working every day to find a way to take it down.
My nephew is the kind of kid who goes to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute over in Troy, New York and we were discussing recently the practicality of knowing how to read maps instead of relying solely on the GPS machine. “Knowing how to do things the old fashioned way will help you if the system ever goes down so that you can still function without the internet,” I said.
“You mean like in case of a Coronal Mass Ejection?” he asked.
“Is that where the queen goes into a rage, takes off her crown and throws it on the ground?” I asked.
“No, it’s a large solar flare that, when it’s large enough, like the one in 1859 that destroyed the newly formed telegraph system, can cause massive power outages.” (That’s what he finally said by the time I understood what he was saying. His other words were much more complicated than those.)
“Right!” I said. “If a Coronal Mass Ejection hits the earth and takes out the internet you still need to know how to get someplace. If you can read a map, you won’t be interrupted.”
He contemplated on that for a while and thought it sounded reasonable.
If a Coronal Mass Ejection hooks up with a Russian hacker (or even one from New Jersey) and turns all of these computers into paperweights, I want to be able to trot down to Shelburne Falls, knock on the bank door and say, “Hey! You got my money in there? I’d like it back now please.” And have them give it to me.
My financial advisor friend says that if we all go off-line we will have larger problems than that, but I know that I will feel much better being able to discuss this with someone in person instead of having the place that houses everything I got, disappear into the Mass of Coronal Ejection.
It puts me in the mind of a friend of mine back in the 1980s whose mother kept all of her money in her house. In the attic, the basement, between the pages of books, in the kitchen cabinet, under the sink, and anyplace else she thought it might be safe and unreachable. (Robert’s the friend who told me to always keep your money in a tampon box as no guy will ever touch that. Turned out the one time I got broken into, that worked! Remember that, Financial Advisors!) Growing up Black, poor and in the Jim Crow south, my friend’s mother had learned well not to trust anyone, especially when it came to her money, and now that she finally had some, she was going to make very sure it was safe and well-hid.
It took a while but Robert finally convinced his mother that keeping all her money in her little wooden Louisiana house made it susceptible to fire, flood, theft and a whole lot of other invaders she hadn’t even thought about yet, so she finally bagged it all up and they went together to see Mr. Sherman down at the bank to open her very first bank account, at age 66. She gave the money to the man, got her little passbook (this was well before the internet complicated things) and they went home.
The next day Robert got a telephone call from a very nervous bank manager who asked if Robert might come down there right away. Robert hurried over and found his mother in Mr. Sherman’s office, holding a gun on him, demanding to see her money. She had written those numbers on those bills down and she wanted to see them. All of ‘em! Hers! Not no one else’s!
Robert persuaded his mother to put the gun away, and she only did it because Mr. Sherman said he would give her all her money back right now. It might not all have the same identification numbers she’d written down, but it would all add up to the same amount. Right now. Here. Just please take it.
She took her money home and hid it back in its little hidey holes that she marked with secret touches that, if disturbed, would let her know someone had been in there. And then, a few years later she suddenly died. And when Robert went to her house to look for the money it was gone. He knew the places, he knew the secondary places. He knew the places she would think of if the first two places were full up or unavailable. All the places were empty. She’d either taken it with her to Heaven or someone else knew what they were looking for. And then the house caught fire and anything that might still be someplace was gone for good.
See? Let that be a lesson to you. Somehow.
I am, however, very interested to see how you guys feel about accounts that are solely on-line vs. brick-and-mortar banks. Do you trust the on-line-only kind? Let me know! I’m always interested in what you guys think! Even until this very day! Email me back at Nan@NanParati.com!
ALSO! Tomorrow is Halloween and I will be at Elmer’s beginning at 2pm to paint faces just like I have in the past years! (See? Some things don’t change at all!) Elmer’s will be serving two kinds of soup tomorrow night (just like we always have on Halloween!) so you can come in, have some fall-type dinner, hang out at the bar and pass a good time. And as usual, Sandy Lilly and her friends will be sitting on the front porch of Elmer’s handing out candy!
See you then!
Y’all! I FINALLY, REALLY DID figure out how to make this whole email thing work again! (That other time I said I did, it turned out that I hadn't. But now I have.) And it only took three months and somebody else to do it! But I finally did it, if you don’t count somebody else doing it as not me! Remember how technology was supposed to make thing fun and easier? They fixed that. Now it’s just frustrating as heck and impossible unless you have a degree. Fun and easy didn’t make as much money as what they figured out to do next. Every time I thought I had it figured out it was like being on the beginning on Get Smart with all the doors slamming in my face. Remember that?
But finally a friend who lives right here in Ashfield figured it all out. (ALL in the world I wanted to do was to send out a freaking email to 1100 of my closest friends, not have it be from Elmer’s Store but from me, not have it be simultaneously rejected as spam, and not have my email account shut down. And I also wanted my own website with my own name on it where I could post these things in case anyone ever wanted to read them. (Because sometimes they do!)
So a guy who I won’t name because he’s the only guy in the eastern half of the country who knows how to do this and he might get overrun, set this all up for me finally. I hope it works.
Since I saw you last I’ve been working on festivals, making lots of signs and writing a whole, whole lot. And cleaning up my house. (I’ve been busy!) And of course, thinking about things, too. And what I want to know is, why do I have three rocks sitting on my end table in my living room and, are those the missing Moon Rocks that I just heard about on a podcast on the radio, and I’ve had them so long I forgot what they were? Why would I have three rocks sitting on an end table with no reference to anything else? My mom would have done that, and my sister, but not me. I’m not really a rock collector unless they have value or some sort of personal significance, and the only reason I can imagine I have three disparate rocks on an end table from Before I Owned Elmer’s, which is the last time I looked at that end table, is because they’re very, very important. But I can’t remember why. They might have to go back outside and play with the other rocks. I hope they aren’t from the moon and thus end up with immigration issues.
So that’s what I’ve been thinking about.
BUT GUESS WHAT!
Remember Jack, who cooked for us last summer at Elmer’s (wait! This isn’t an Elmer’s email! Except that right now it sort of is!) And Jack’s the guy who, for the last few years made our crawfish pasta and gumbo for us at Fall Festival. We’ll, Jack’s in town and he’s going to cook dinner at Elmer’s this Friday night!!
And what’s he making? Crawfish Pasta!!
Just as I brought my southern ways with me from Louisiana and made a lot of southern food for you, so will Andreas and Florencia fashion their new version of Fall Festival into an actual German Oktoberfest that they know how to do!
So if you would like your annual Crawfish Pasta, come to dinner this Friday night at Elmer’s! And just to make it even more like an acid trip, I’ll be working! Danielle and I will be front of house working JUST like it was 2017!! And Jack’ll be in the kitchen!
There will be more to the menu, but that’s what I have for now. (Jack showed up in my driveway this morning at 3:30, though I didn’t know it ‘til about 7. He’s up here doing some mushroom hunting. All this rain we’ve had is making one person happy: Jack Odell, Mushroom hunter.)
I’m going to keep this email fairly short in case you’re thinking, “Oh Good Lord, how in the WORLD did I get on THIS email list???” (You like how three pages is short?)
If you’d like to stay on it, then you can just by doing nothing. If you’d like to get off it, I think there’s an unsubscribe button at the bottom. If you’d like to write back OR if someone else would like to get on it, just email me at Nan@NanParati.com (How you like that!) Don’t sign up for it at NanParati.com – I have no idea in the world where that would go, though it’s supposed to sign you up. But I don’t think it would sign you up for anything good. (I’m still asking my friend to see if he can figure that out.)
But I know some stuff coming up!!
This Sunday, Sept 30th I’m doing a
Stories of Old-time Ashfield
At the Old Grange
(as the storytellers keep calling it. You might know it as
With Norm Nye, Doug Field, Doug Mollison, Doug and Muriel Cranson (I think back in the day, “Doug” was the number one Ashfield name,) Nancy Garvin and a few more shy people I’m trying to coax in.
Brian Dickinson will be there to tell some stories if he doesn’t have a car show.
It starts at 4pm
And costs $2 to get in so I can pay for the hall and everything.
I think it’s gonna be fun!
Double Edge Theater has shows this weekend too!
7 Songs of the Refugee
September 28 & 29 at 8:00pm
Tickets: DoubleEdgeTheatre.org or (413) 628-0277
7 Songs of the Refugee, created and performed by Geddy Aniksdal and directed by Tor Arne Ursin, takes us to China 1200 years ago to the downfall of the mighty Tang dynasty. We meet the hermit Tu, an old man who is "exiled forever." Now he is a refugee, living on the few herbs he can find under the snow. In a flashback he remembers his years as a soldier at the front, how he had to leave his family, and the bloody battles he fought.
September 30 at 1:00pm
Tickets: DoubleEdgeTheatre.org or (413) 628-0277
Created and performed by Lars Vik, Mr. Fumblebody is inspired by and a homage to the great silent movie masters Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin. A hilarious show for families that combines physical slapstick with vivid audience participation and on-the spot improvisations. Mr. Fumblebody aims at people from five years and up and will be performed in English.
They’re from Double Edge! You know they’re gonna be good! (Did y’all see their Spectacle, “We the People” this summer? I want to watch those Shakers again – they were mesmerizing! I’m also presently reading the History of Ashfield and am finding that whole show right in that book!)
Okay Cool! So nice to see you again! Let me know how you are!
Voting Day in Ashfield
Yesterday was voting day in Ashfield. Ashfield doesn’t mess around with any sort of voting tom foolery; in Ashfield you walk in and introduce yourself at the CHECK-IN table on the left to the people you live next door to by giving them your name and your address. Then you tell them what way you stand in your voting registration and they give you the Reader’s Digest version of a ballot: Bright-colored depending on your party and in 72-point type words you get all the candidates, where they’re from, what government job they’ve been doing up to today if any, and a big box for a potential X beside each name.
Then you go to a long wooden shelf divided up into non-transgressionable sections by more wood, where you’ll find a number-two golfing pencil, and you lay your ballot there on the shelf and you write big Xs by your favorites. Then you fold it back up.
Then you take it to the CHECK-OUT table and hand it to your neighbor on the other side, ask about his mama and why he wasn’t at dinner last Friday night, was he okay? Oh, just going to visit the nephews, well that’s good, I was a little worried when you didn’t show up. My name? Nan Parati. And they check you off the list.
And then you take your ballot to the box. A large wooden box built at the onset of the industrial age, I’d say, with a crank on the side and rolling numbers on the front. You slide your folded-up ballot into the slot on the top and then the man turns the big, iron crank. Something inside that box (mechanics, not squirrels) grabs the ballot and sends it down to where you can’t at get it anymore and the number on the front turns and you are number 193. And all day people say, “What number were you?” “I’m 193.” “I was 324!” It’s good to keep track of that stuff.
Back in the day, if you were infirm and couldn’t get out of your car, the town clerk would bring a ballot out to you so you could make your Xs in the private voting booth of your Buick, but those days went out with the Great Police Chief Scandal of ‘09. Now we’re less accommodating, but more serious about our voting. You can’t come in, you have to vote absentee even though you’re just out there in the car while your husband’s inside, voting. But that’s what keeps us serious.
Now, I have been a big fan of Natalie the “establishment” candidate replacing Steve Kulik this year for State Senate. I was a big fan of Steve’s too – he used to come to Elmer’s on a regular basis and hold meetings there or just come in to take the temperature of Western Massachusetts breakfast-eaters. Just about everybody loved Steve, and Natalie was Steve’s recommendation for who should follow him in that office.
While I’m not a phone-caller, (all those years in public-business owning I laid low on my political leanings, as one loud opinion could cost me a whole lot of money and, this being my first election since selling the place, I haven’t grown out of that phobia yet) I do now express quiet opinions to those who might be undecided. My years of political quietude probably makes my opinion a little more interesting as nobody knows what I was thinking.
So I was walking home from the post office yesterday morning and I saw Brian Dickinson walking Tuffy, his Little Tiny Dog home from the gas station.
“Who you voting for?” I asked him.
“Is it voting day?” asked Brian.
“Yup,” I said, “Who have you decided to vote for?’
“Oh, I don’t even know who’s running!” he said.
“Well, in that case, you should vote for Natalie Blais.”
“She’s the best qualified candidate – has worked in state government for several years; I’ve worked with her in her position at the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce for about a year now and I know she’s good. She has great ideas and follows through on them. She has a lot of experience and that’s what we need.”
“Well,” said Brian, “I don’t know. I wasn’t gonna vote.”
“And she’s pretty.”
“Oh she’s pretty, is she?”
“She’s REAL pretty. You’d like her a lot.”
“Well if she’s pretty, then,”
“She’s pretty. And nice.”
“And nice, too, huh? Well maybe I’ll vote for her.”
“You do that!” I said. “Don’t forget! Natalie Blais. Natalie. You remember that name. Natalie.”
“I can remember that,” said Brian. “Natalie. Okay.” And he and Tuffy ambled on home.
Now it comes to the vote counting. No influencible, hackable, chad-hanging shenanigans going on in Ashfield; we count the votes! Fifty ballots at a time. Two people, sworn in by Bridget the Town Clerk where you hold up your right hand and everything. No Bibles are involved, though. Massachusetts don’t hold with Bible-swearing.
Sandy Lilly and Faye Whitney have been counting ballots together so long they can fly through 300 ballots in the time it took Amy Shapiro and me to count 50. We asked them their system and they said, “No spaces.”
So you get your stack of ballots and your spread sheet with all of the candidates’ names and a grid with a number for each ballot at the top.
One of you (Amy) takes the first ballot and reads out, “Governor: Bob Massie.” And you, the recorder (me) puts a check beside Bob Massie’s name.
“Senator: Elizabeth Warren” And you, the recorder put a check beside Elizabeth Warren, who’s running unopposed, much to the daily irritation of the president. Calvin Coolidge was the mayor of Northampton, just down the road, back in 1910 and 11, before he left that office to run and win the office of state senator. Imagine the local excited murmurs by the recording teams when they made individual checkmarks by Warren G Harding’s name for president back in 1920, when Calvin Coolidge was Harding’s running mate! (Harding died in office so people didn’t get to put check-marks by Coolidge’s name for president, he just stepped up at that point.) But that’s how we vote in Ashfield for presidents, too. And how we count them. By the second ballot you’re calling out just their first names, you know them so well, and while you’ve been sworn in and will indeed do your job as honestly as the day is long, you can’t help but say, “Natalie!” when putting another check-mark by her name, noticing that she is getting the most votes.
And in that stack of Democratic ballots there was one ballot with one big X beside Natalie’s name. Nothing else checked and we figured we knew whose it was. I’m gonna have to introduce him to Natalie just so he can see how pretty she really is. He’ll be glad he voted how he did.
I figured it out!
Y’all! I figured out how to make this whole email thing work again! And it only took two months and somebody else to do it! But I finally did it, if you don’t count somebody else doing it as not me!
Since selling Elmer’s I’ve been working back-to-back festivals and then wrote the signs for the Cummington Fair, but the last few days have been a whole new world – similar to my whole old world before I bought Elmer’s but very different with time (thirteen years later,) place (every moment of my time in Ashfield until now was spent either buying Elmer’s, developing Elmer’s or working at Elmer’s) and back to time, the shortage of a day now that wasn’t then.
Remember how back, thirteen years ago, in a day you could fit several days in, and by night you’d gotten so much done that your bed barely seemed like the same place you’d left it, just 14 hours before? It don’t go like that anymore. And I’m trying to figure out why.
But here’s the main thing I’m trying to figure out:
You know how, when you’re driving to Shelburne Falls from Ashfield down Route 116 and you pass that barn on the left that has the cows on the right (I’m thinking they’re related) and half of the barn is red, and half of it’s kind of gold? Well, 78 out of 100 times you pass it there is some kind of bird noise surrounding it, loud – either scary bird noise or sweet bird noise, but always very loud. And always very similar. And almost always there.
Now, you know I am not a farmer, so I don’t know what the story is. The story I have in my mind is that those are bird recordings set up to be an avian scarecrow. The scary noises would be Alfred Hitchcock zombie birds that eat crows and the sweet bird noises would be to say, “No, we didn’t do that, crows; why do you think we would? It’s all fine.” And then the crows relax and come back, thinking there’s nothing odd going on that should be ignored. Then they (the farmers, not the crows) turn on the scary bird noises to scare them away again. Because crows are smart and they would recognize an unrelenting, unchanging scary bird recording and figure out a way to break in and turn it off. But what I really wonder is, don’t all of those loud bird noises all day long annoy the bejesus out of the cows and is that why they stay across the street all the time and never come home?
I always want to stop and ask but I’m scared of the loud zombie birds just in case they’re real.
Want to read a story? I wrote it back in the year about 2000 or so, when I lived in New Orleans, on Solomon Street, three houses down from my friend Tracy, who you may remember came up from New Orleans with me back all those years ago when I first showed up. It’s relevant to the situation or I wouldn’t tell it to you at all. Here it is.
Rock, Paper, Scissors, No Phone
The good thing was that, of the three, it was the wolf who liked me.
The wolf, whose duty it was to protect me as we marched around a two-block rectangle nightly was neither an Alpha nor an Omega; she was kind of a Theta wolf, neither leader nor follower, but old and fat and rather on the lazy side of the wolf kingdom anymore. In her youth she lay in the cool, cool bathtub and growled at anyone with a need to Go, which made them Go faster, if they dared go at all, or Stay if they didn’t. Now she no longer cared to crawl into the tub and so instead reclined spread-legged on the tile bathroom floor like a wolf rug one might still carefully step around on the way to Going.
But it was she who liked me now and it was she who howled her greeting howl (as opposed to her ambulance howl or her “Little Dog Mikey needs me! I must go to him!” howl) when I let myself into Tracy’s house to take her wolf for a walk. Tracy works a lot and long, and so I return favors in advance of needing them by walking the wolf while Tracy works. And there I was, howled at by the wolf as I gathered her leash and a plastic bag on Sunday night last.
There was no adventure in the walking. We trotted around two blocks and smellt many places dogs had Gone before, saw the Black Dog Who Loves Her, But Whom She Spurns for Mikey, and three guys in a Sewerage and Water Board truck, for whom we crossed the street and we didn’t eat them as we once would have. She would have. I would have had to watch, as I don’t like to get between animals and their dinners any more. Portention gathered.
We skittered up the back steps, two flights and I opened the back door with the hidden key, gave the wolf her dry dinner and a pat on the head and turned to leave when I saw the bird dressed in green feathers doing a little soft shoe dance just inside the back door.
I knew that bird and I knew that bird would bite me like a wolf on a city employee if I tried to go near it. His name was Luka and he entertains Tracy well, while scaring the crap out of me. I knew he belonged in his cage, but I also knew he was safe from the wolf, who, like me, seemed a little respectful of him and his beak. So I cut a wide path and opened the door to leave and the cat ran in. Whose cat? The old neighbor’s cat. Tracy’s inherited cat, the cat who demanded – and got - food from me from time to time. But not my cat. I thought it was my cat once until I picked him up to put him outside and he buried his claws so deeply in my face they got stuck and I had to remove them finger by finger while I wore him around my house for a hat. Now the cat was inside the kitchen and the bird was still tapping around on the floor.
As far as my feelings for the wolf, the bird and for the cat ran, it seemed that nature and its natural course could be justified. The mean-spirited bird would be eaten by the evil cat who would be disemboweled by the pleasant and deserving wolf and I could go home and watch The Sopranos. Except that Tracy would probably eventually come home from work and not want to do me any more favors. Could I stage it to look like an accident? Probably, except that the cat could have only gotten in the house through me and so my linkage to the incident would be undeniable, and most likely, unforgivable by Those Who Cared.
I looked for the phone and found it, dead as a banana on the dresser. I put it back on the charger but knew by its laconic attitude that it would not support a whole cry of help for at least an hour. And Sopranos would have started by then.
I paced, thinking there should be another phone between the cat in her corner and the bird on his floor.
“Fly!” I yelled at Luka. “There - is - a - cat!” using simple words loudly as if he were a foreigner. But he didn’t care and mocked me with a shrill whistle and a desultory laugh.
I looked for another phone in the bedroom and when I came back, the cat had assumed the feeding-tiger position, low and staking. Nothing in my reptilian brain moved me to lay hands on that cat – or the dancing bird as I remembered the gorges inflicted upon my self by each of them earlier in their lives, but I could clap my hands and shout, “Git!” to the cat, which worked, immediately, anyway.
I tested the phone and found a feeble dial tone. Quickly I dialed the first two numbers of Tracy’s cell phone and it went dead again; the clock slouched toward The Sopranos with the closest HBO hook-up four houses away.
“The wolf ate the cat and the cat ate the bird all up;
Would you like some butter from the cow for your bread?”
It would have made a good AA Milne poem, but it was getting dark and in the airy house designed for freedom and light, there were no doors to close between any of the animals, I noticed. I noticed around some more and finally found a computer! A computer hooked up to the Internet! And . . . it . . . was . . . a . . . . Macintosh!
How do you turn these things on?
I used to have a Mac, where is the button? Press any button? No. The button! Oh for crying out loud, why DON’T you have Windows XP that boots up rather quickly I now come to realize compared to Mac OS version 9.5? First we have the Happy Mac, then we have a long, long, time of booting in which time the cat may have eaten the bird, I’ll be right back – CLAP! Stay away from that bird!
I scampered back to the study and watched a blue screen do nothing and ran back to the kitchen where the bird was into a disco trot, shockingly unaware of the cat sliding across the floor in his bobbing direction. I slapped the air again and the cat retreated angrily. Sullenly. Bullying. Snarling cat, snarling at me.
At great length, the little Happy Mac smiled upon me. Oh WHERE is the INTERNET on a MACINTOSH! They didn’t even have the Internet outside Redmond, Washington the last time I owned a Macintosh.
How do you say, “Programs” in Macintosh?
Yes! And she has Earthlink . . . . how do you say “AOL” in Earthlink? Oh wait – run back to the kitchen to wave at the cat and the waltzing bird and run back to find Internet Explorer and click on it just as the boulder is rolling down the cliff right in my direction. Earthlink suddenly yawned and recognized AOL thank you Baby Jesus, so I raced through the log-in, my name, my password, “Are you sure you have the right password? Please re-enter” and “What would you like to see? Mail? Stocks? My AOL page?”
No! I would like to see some form of communication in the 21st century work before the laws of Darwin take over and there is only a big, fat wolf left in the house!
AOL finally permitted me to WRITE AN E-MAIL MESSAGE and so I did, in large bold letters that wouldn’t catch her eye unless she actually opened it, titled, “SAVE ME!” so she would for the love of God read the thing:
Help! I am trapped inside your house!
The bird is out, the cat is in and I can not leave until you come home and save us from each other!
And sent it. And then remembered she, being of stout heart might not realize my extreme urgency, so I sent another one:
And I am scared to pick up the cat or the bird!
And then I ran out to save the bird who was by this time doing the Pony. I panted back and forth to refresh my e-mail in the study and then save the bird in the kitchen, watched through one eye by the wolf in the bathroom who, full of dry food and exhaustion, wasn’t much interested in any of us. –But who could decide that an unsupervised cat would be perfect (and deserving) dessert.
Refresh! No reply. Refresh! No reply. Stay away you murderous cat! Refresh! No reply.
By the time Tracy got home, The Sopranos were over, the cat was in the front room and I was tapping the bird on each shoulder with a stick I had found in an orchid pot to make him look, which he did, over and over and never saw it coming even though I had turned on the light to give him a fighting chance. Stupid bird.
The cat was tossed outside without any dinner, the bird was lifted to his cage without any biting, and I was walked home by Tracy and the Wolf without any fanfare, a little of which, I believe I was due. And so I wrote this epic: Ode to me as Protectorate of the little animals, who probably don’t even care what could have happened had it not been for me, Saint Nannie of Solomon Street.
The other thing I want to know is why your fingernails change as you get older.
But I don’t have any stories to tell you about that.
I'm finally fashionable!
I’m finally fashionable!
It appears that the new BIG THING IN THE FASHION MARKET is to go without make-up! WHAT an idea! I remember a friend of mine asking me sometime about in my 20s if I owned any make-up at all. Yes, I said, “I have some mascara.” She said she thought I was the only woman she’d ever met who didn’t own any make-up. (I did! I owned mascara! But that, apparently wasn’t enough!) So if any of you young’uns want any fashion beauty tips, come to me. I’ve been practicing them for a long, long time.
Here’s an interview with me about it. I’m also the interviewer.
I: So, Nan, have you ever worn make-up?
Me: Yes. I remember back in the 7th grade I wore white lipstick. That was the thing then, so I did. Then I realized it made me look like I was dead, so I
I: Is that the only time?
Me: I have worn lots of make-up at Mardi Gras of course. And then once on Halloween I wore the best make-up ever!
I: What was that?
Me: I got VERY dressed up in an extremely fancy dress, did my hair and my make-up really, really well (I had learned by watching others) and then I glued a dead big-ass cockroach I’d been keeping for about a week, for that very occasion, to my cheek. I kept that part of my face kind of concealed and then when people said, “Wow! I’ve never seen you look so ---AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!”
It was great.
I: You’re weird as crap. What are you going to do if you ever win an Academy Award? How are you going to go up on stage and pick up your award with no make-up?
Me: That’s the ONE thing that worries me.
I: What are you going to do?
Me: I think I’ll send my niece to be the on-TV picker-upper of the award. She knows how to wear make-up and she looks really nice.
I: Which one?
Me: Either Micki or Elyse. They’re both outstanding at make-up.
I: Does this mean you’re embarrassed that you don’t wear make-up?
Me: No, but I don’t want the fact that I’m not wearing any make-up to overshadow the script I was winning an Academy Award for.
I: Why don’t you just wear make-up for that one night?
Me: Because that would be too weird.
I: Do you think you’re weird?
Me: No, I think I’m fashionable. I don’t wear make-up. I expect to appear make-up-less on the cover of Vanity Fair ANY DAY.
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