Revisiting January

Last week, one of my work colleagues told me blogging was “out of style.”

It put a dull film on the days and I ended up stomping around on The Farm last weekend.

January is full of bleak hours and days.  I blogged about it years ago.

I have been out of style my whole life.  I think I’ll keep blogging.

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Under an Orange Colored Sky

Brad Paisley, a 46-year-old country music singer, apparently said “Tomorrow is the first blank page of a 365 page book.  Write a good one.”

The quote is oft-circulated at this time of year on social media.  Who doesn’t want to write a good book?  Damn, I just want to write a good blog post once a week.

Since October, I’ve been running some heavy fuel in my personal tank.  I haven’t been writing much.  Driving back and forth to the Franco Center, volunteering for more events than I can count on two hands.  Doing preliminary strategy work for the 2019 Moxie Festival.  Working at the polls.  Funerals.  Experiencing joy and sadness.  Inviting people to my house over the holidays and seeing every invitation accepted.  Cooking and cleaning like it’s 1949.  Entertaining for almost 48 hours straight over the New Year break and loving every minute of it.

Yes, I have burned some heavy fuel in the final quarter of 2018.

Heavy fuel, what’s that?  For Mark Knopfler, who wrote a song about it, heavy fuel was hamburgers, scotch, and cigarettes.  As Knopfler says, “if you want to run cool, you’ve got to run on heavy, heavy fuel.”  His fuel is not politically correct, is it?  He wrote some great rock and roll songs, though.  My fuel is a little different from Knopfler’s and hopefully a little more ladylike, but similarly post-modern.  Big salads, baked chicken, and Isagenix protein shakes.  Throw in a daily dose of anxiety and thirty trips up and down the stairs to my home office.  Oh, and a few Jeep trips to Market Basket in Biddeford with my pal Shelley to sort out the problems of the world and move faster than our feet can carry us.

Fellow writer and friend Karen Schneider brought me some orange flowers.  They are a good additive to the heavy fuel mix.

I have been unbelievably busy.  That’s how it is.  And while I do wish I had been born at a different time, it feels good to be alive here and now, writing the pages of this particular book and burning this heavy fuel.

Or maybe it’s heavenly fuel.

I got a card from one of my Junior League of Boston friends the other day.  She’s part of the JLB’s Garden Club and will be doing a flower arrangement for the “Art in Bloom” tour at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts in April.  She is so talented and excellence-oriented I know it will be magnificent.  She said “I hope they assign us a good piece of art.  So much easier to make an arrangement that compliments a rich oil painting than an austere piece of Art Deco furniture.”  I hope I have enough heavy fuel in my tank to see it.  And I do hope there are a few orange flowers in her arrangement.

2019 will be all about orange here in Lisbon Falls.  Orange flowers, orange t-shirts, orange envelopes, and orange aprons.  Orange books and blog posts.  If I follow the advice of Brad Paisley and Mark Knopfler, how can it be anything but good?

We are living under an orange colored sky.

I am making this song my theme song for 2019.  I love Moxie, my hometown, and my life in the here and now.   We’ve got a great committee of people working on this project and I think it just might be a “good book” albeit an orange colored one.

Thank you in advance for your orange colored prayers and thoughts.  Flash!  Bam!  Alakazam!

Posted in You've Got Moxie! | Tagged , , , ,

With a Stake of Holly Through My Heart

The portly gentleman in front of me at Rite Aid had a booming voice.  His shopping basket contained two large bottles of Listerine and a box of Russell Stover chocolates.

“There’s no excuse for boredom, Genevieve,” he told the petite woman at his side.

“You just need to get busy.  There’s no shortage of things to do in this world.”

I did a double-take and looked closely at the big man.  In addition to his booming voice, he was possessed of a certain savoir-faire.  Maybe it was the cut of his topcoat (cashmere?) or his meticulously clipped beard (Santa?)  Perhaps it was his voice.  In spite of the vocal volume, he spoke with a loving kindness that reminded me of Charles Dickens’ Ghost of Christmas Present in A Christmas Carol.  I fully expected him to say to his companion:

“I am the Ghost of Christmas Present…look upon me!”

Hoping for some pearls of wisdom or at least a funny blog post, I stood perfectly still with my package of L’Oréal “Voluminous” mascara in my hand.  I did not want to disturb this teachable moment.

Genevieve, similarly clad in a fashionable cloth coat, suede gloves, and a chic knit hat that approached a cloche, volleyed back at the man.

“Ted, you old fool, do tell me how to avoid this seasonal ennui.”

I looked out the Rite-Aid door and saw the night sky falling on Route 196.  I’d never seen this couple before and I wondered if they’d stopped here on the way to more sophisticated realms or I’d walked into a time-traveling snow globe.

“There are belated Christmas cards to write, year-end charitable contributions to make, and last-minute parcels to mail,” Ted said.

“Then there are all those things you always say you will do when you have time.  Why, my darling lady, you once told me you longed for retirement so you could scrub your kitchen floor with a toothbrush.  Do you remember saying this, Genevieve?”

“Oh, Ted.  I never said that.”

“Indeed, you did,” Ted said, dropping to a sotto voce speaking style.

“I’m sorry to be a killjoy, my lady, but I’ve noticed you spending far too much time with your electronic device,” Ted said.

Genevieve looked down guiltily.

Then jolly old Ted pulled out a crisp twenty-dollar bill and paid for his purchases.  In the blink of an eye, he pocketed his change and whirled towards the automatic door, his companion Genevieve trailing alongside.  Whoosh…and they were gone.

The whole experience was surreal and if someone told me I’d witness such a thing at my local Rite Aid I would have issued my own booming “Bah Humbug.”

And yet there it was.  Redemption and wisdom at the local Rite Aid.

“But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight—Happy Christmas to all, and to all good night.”

2019.  Bring it!

Posted in Just Writing | Tagged

Because of the Russians

While sitting in my idling Jeep last week, waiting to go through the car wash, a Gordon Sumner (Sting) song came on satellite radio.

“In Europe and America there’s a growing feeling of hysteria.  Conditioned to respond to all the threats in the rhetorical speeches of the Soviets…”

“Russians,” from Sting’s 1985 debut solo album The Dream of the Blue Turtles, was in heavy rotation at UMaine Orono’s radio station WMEB in November of that year.  It was my senior year of college and I played the song often.  Sting used a Prokofiev theme and the song evoked a dark winter’s day.  Admittedly, I did not listen intently to the words, just the refrain of “I hope the Russians love their children too.”

I took a picture of my dashboard computer, showing Sting and the name of the song and I texted it to a friend with the note “always the Russians.”

It’s interesting how long the Russians have been our national nemesis.  It was the leading headline in yesterday’s local paper.  And just this morning before I muted the NPR news that interrupts Maine Public Classical’s pleasant playlist at the top of the hour, I heard “investigations of Russian interference in US elections…”

Always the Russians.

I once heard a man sarcastically tell someone “It’s because of the Russians that we can’t have nice things.”

I’ve got to admit, I really liked the response and I’ve used it a few times in conversation, dropping it deadpan before a few uncomfortable moments of silence.  Followed by a smile, of course, to break the inevitable tension.

1945 is generally considered the beginning of the Cold War.  Using this as a starting date, the Russians have been interfering with life here in America for 73 years, more than my entire lifetime.  Unbelievable, isn’t it?  Maybe that’s why I find Russian president Vladimir Putin rather handsome and intriguing.

Russians or no, we are moving dangerously close to Christmas with many things undone.  My new living room carpet is still in transit and won’t be installed before Christmas.  It might as well be in Kiev.  I got tired of looking at the Cold War-era linoleum that was under the old carpet, so I went out and bought a very inexpensive (some might call it cheap) bound area rug to stage the room for the holidays.  It will work for now and Paul at the carpet store tells me the installation will be complete by New Year’s.

And then there’s Moxie…

I have not blogged about this yet, but I have been asked to “coordinate” this year’s Moxie Festival.  I’m excited about it and I had a special Moxie Santa hat made for myself.  And how about the reusable shopping bags they’re selling at Family Dollar?  I thought they fit perfectly with the “Moxie Goes Artsy” theme, all orange and pop-artsy.  Maybe in 2020 we can do a “Moxie Christmas in July” theme.  The Santa hats would probably be too hot for summer wear, so who knows.

No Russians are going to stop it; Christmas is six days away and the Moxie Festival is two hundred and five days down the road.

I’m going to heat up my samovar right now.

Posted in Weather and Seasons, You've Got Moxie! | Tagged , ,

The Mary Poppins Guide to the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

December…it’s the second most wonderful time of the year for me, second only to July and the Moxie Festival.  It’s also the season for Drew Magary’s “Annual Hater’s Guide to the William Sonoma Catalog.”  Magary, the 47-year-old staff writer of the sports news site Deadspin has written his profane critique of American consumerism every year since 2012.  Except this year.  According to a Monday, December 10 Deadspin post, “Irredeemable Vikings fan and beloved voice of Deadspin Drew Magary has been moved to the injured reserve list after an accident last week.  He is receiving the best possible care, is surrounded by his family and friends, and is doing well under the circumstances.”

His last tweet was on December 5.  He tweeted 13 times that day, including a link to his recent GQ article about the late Anthony Bourdain titled “The Last Curious Man.”  He also targeted New York Times writer Ross Douthat with unrelenting ire.  His day’s Twitter work was scatological, including his grenade at Douthat, but ended with a meek “my Dad Napping powers vanish on the road.  It ain’t right.”

The web gives and the web takes, but it’s giving up nothing on Magary.  Interestingly, his Wikipedia bio says he was a walk-in football player at Colby College in Waterville.

My own planned blog offering for today is a list of ten things you can do to make the holidays less onerous and less mediocre.  As I read them now and compare them to Magary’s past snarky missives, they are pure Mary Poppins.

I’ve been called Mary Poppins before.  Not once, not twice, but thrice.  One spring day while peddling my bicycle to the other side of town, a wandering band of children shouted some “bla bla bla” that ended with “Mary Poppins.”  My mother mentioned my resemblance to the magical nanny once, too.  And just the other day, one of my co-workers said “If Mary Poppins and Moxie had a cousin, it would be you.  The coolest member of the family.”

He’d apparently seen this image of me circulating in my very small sphere of social media.

(Photo courtesy of Tracey Steuber.)

I’m no Mary Poppins, but I’ll take the compliment.  I do prefer it to being called a Kardashian.

From here in Maine, I wish Drew Magary well.  His absence from the media cacophony creates a void I cannot fill.  Humbly, I offer up my own “Mary Poppins Guide to the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.

  1. Be as generous and as extravagant as you possibly can.
  2. Avoid orbits of mediocrity (see # 4).
  3. Drink water or herb tea instead of coffee.
  4. Do not go to the Christmas Tree Shop.
  5. Go outside, even if you must wear thermal underwear.
  6. Keep hair appointments. If you break them, send your stylist the money anyway.
  7. Tip as generously as you can without putting yourself in debt.
  8. Look your best! Exceed mediocrity (see # 2).
  9. Sleep when you’re tired.
  10. Go to cookie swaps.

We can certainly unpack some of these suggestions in the coming weeks, especially the “orbits of mediocrity” theme.

For now, Mary Poppins is off to write Christmas cards while listening to the entire Handel’s Messiah.  That would be # 11 and #12 on the list.

Hallelujah out.

Posted in You've Got Moxie! | Tagged , ,

Roll Out the Crap!

On Black Friday, I took a trip on the Amtrak Downeaster.  If you live in the vicinity of this lovely train, it behooves you to buy a ticket from time to time and ride the rails anywhere  south of Wells.  Why Wells?  Because it’s the last stop in Maine and it’s good to leave Maine occasionally even if you plan to die and be buried in this granite-strewn soil.  By taking an occasional trip south, you can say with pride “I may not get far, but I get around.”

I had a pleasant trip and a timely arrival in Haverhill.  My friend Stephanie picked me up and we motored to a “Vintage Holiday Bazaar.”  We were a few minutes early and so were herded behind some ropes in the entryway until the appointed time.  We did get a complimentary ersatz enamel ware mug from China, emblazoned with the logo of the event’s creator.  The minute I touched it I was filled with angst.  I wish I had had the wherewithal to politely say “I don’t care for ersatz shit, no thank you.”

At the appointed time, we were cut loose to roam the stalls of the bazaar and we made our rounds in less than an hour, so underwhelming were the wares.  How many paper cone wreaths do you need?  Or non-standard sized cards that will require extra postage to mail?  Or little vases with sprigs of greens.

Happily, there was a whoopie pie truck strategically parked outside the bazaar and Steph purchased a couple just in case our energy flagged at some point in the day.  Then we motored over to Newburyport and had a tasty lunch at Oregano Pizzeria and Ristorante.  It was nice to spend time away from my usual routines and also get caught up with a good friend.  After lunch we strolled the streets of the historic seaport.  It has become a tourist destination, much like Portland, Maine and I noticed some of the same stores.

As I reflected on my Black Friday experience on my train ride home, three things stood out for me.  First, the herds of shoppers were primarily women.  Second, there was a lack of quality goods in any of the stalls, bazaars, and shops.  Finally, the former were scarfing down the latter, filling bags and bags with the junk.

It made me sad.  And I’ve written about that before.  On December 18, 2012, I blogged “Melancholy is a normal feeling this time of year.  The commercials are loud and it’s hard to think rationally when so many messages tell us to ‘live for today’ and ‘spend, spend, spend.’  There is a Tee Vee image of days and seasons that is hard to shake.  It always points to some glorious $99 future; free shipping if you order today.  There’s always a suggestion that whatever might have existed in the past isn’t quite good enough for the future.”

Remind to tell you about the time I wrote an essay called “Some people don’t even know they’re eating crap” or something like that.

Until then, click here for my last visit to a Christmas Tree Shop.

Lesson learned and hopefully for the last time.

Posted in Weather and Seasons | Tagged , ,

Stirring up Some Thanksgiving Dust

The house was cold this morning when the frigid light of the nearly full moon streamed into my bedroom.  I turn off the heat before I go to bed for two reasons.  First, the clanging ducts and vents are noisy and I am a light sleeper.  Second?  Well, forced hot air furnaces are just too hot and dry for pleasant sleeping.  I set the thermostat to fifty degrees before I go to bed, thus silencing the Vulcan-like hammers and suppressing the blowing hot air.

This habit also gauges the outside temperature.  If it’s a mild evening, the house’s internal temperature rarely dips below fifty-five degrees.  A frigid morning like today?  The furnace will kick in at fifty.  Paul Cousins, my favorite weather guesser, used the term “record-shattering cold” for this year’s Thanksgiving.

With the gobble-fest being early this year, who would have thought we would have snow so soon?

I haven’t raked my leaves and finished cleaning up my gardens.  There are many things still undone.  I planted some daffodil bulbs by flashlight two weeks ago and we shall see if my garlic goes in before the ground is completely frozen.  I’m hoping next week’s predicted warming and rain might make it possible.

I’ve been busy stirring up the dust here at the old house, ripping up carpet and stair runners.  I’ve painted a few things too.  Well, that’s not quite true.  I hired Rastus to paint a few things.  “Rastus” Combs had done a lot of painting for my friend Gina Mason.  He came highly recommended by Pam and Frank Hogan too, who had done painting for me previously and were booked solid through January, 2019.  It will be tricky getting the new carpet installed before Christmas.

I love Thanksgiving and the peace and quiet her in the ripped-apart dusty living room this morning.  Rastus did a good job making things brighter.

About a month ago, someone masquerading as an interior designer visited and told me my living room looked kind of “old lady.”  I wasn’t angry or insulted.  It wasn’t the first time someone had critiqued the room.  A dear friend suggested it was too “dark.”  Can I help if it I like brown?  The pseudo-designer gave me a short list of things I could do, we swapped a few texts, and then she vanished into thin air.  After living here in this house for four years, the “old lady” assessment served as a “call to action.”  Thank goodness I am not entertaining anyone for Thanksgiving this year, what with all the dust flying.

Speaking of aging ladies, I looked over some of my older Thanksgiving posts.  I’m fond of this one.

It’s interesting to read blog posts I wrote before I moved back home.  They are filled with a melancholy longing to be in this place called “home.”

And now I’m here.

That was what I thought of this morning as the frigid light of the nearly full moon streamed into my bedroom.  Now I’m here.  I made it home.  How can I not be grateful?

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