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!
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.
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.