Sunday, July 30, 2006

News from Abroad

Well, maybe not abroad, but at least news from the Right Coast. I've been to Manhattan, picked up my eldest daughter, and headed down South to Savannah Georgia. This morning I sadly board a plane and return to NYC to pick up youngest daughter before flying home again. (In other news, we're going to definitely use the Library a little more when we get home. I think my daughter may read faster than I do. She's been gobbling books at the rate of one or two a day. Oh, my aching wallet.) Grandma says that eldest daughter, when she visited The Metropolitan Museum of Art, kept flinging her arms to the side and spinning, impersonating Maria from Sound of Music, she was so filled with glee. She told me this morning that "We never even got to see the Portraits! I have to go back!" Sure kid, if it makes you that happy, I would love to pour art all over your head until it drips from your fingertips. She's been great fun to travel with.

So far, on my trip to Savannah, I've:

Visited the Owens-Thomas house, a Regency era mansion in Historic Savannah
Explained to my daughter that when people talk about The Book in Savannah, they are not referring to the Bible.
Purchased a copy of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil for my daughter.
Lived on a Davenport horse farm for three days.
Explained to my sheltered California girl what a summer thunderstorm was.
Got rained on.
Stayed up until midnight every one of those days trading stories and laughs.
Rode a stallion, now 26, that I last saw in 1992.
Fed the stallion ice cream, which his new people-servants did not know he loves.
Helped my daughter ride him.
Rode him myself.
Giggled when he picked a fight with the younger stallions through the fence after being ridden. "I'm the King of the Castle! You're the Dirty Rascal!"
Fell in love with his children.
Had a wonderful time.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Blogging meme

Cindy tagged me:

1) When did you first start blogging and why?

2) What don't you talk about?

3) Are you and your blogging persona the same person?

4) How do you use blogging to build friendships?

5) How would you describe your writing style?

OK, I'm printing that out and working at it on the plane. This morning I leave for a trip to NYC, then a trip to Savannah, then back to NYC. (And you though I was gone already, nope, just packing.) Dear Butcher and young son are going to have a whole week just to themselves, to which the son said, "Does that mean we can sit around All DAY in our underwear?"

Be nice everybody!!

Friday, July 21, 2006


One Year.


(Well, one year next Tuesday. But I'm heading off on vacation, so I'm putting this up early)

I pulled a bunch of links together to get a sample of the stuff I've done over the past year, but now I'm sure it's all too long, or too self-referential, or...


Start over:

These are the posts I enjoyed looking back over in the past year.


Joan Wolf's The Deception from August of last year. I didn't like it.

More Than a Mistress by Mary Balogh from September of last year. Which I did like.

Black Silk by Judith Ivory which I liked, I think. I may still be unsure.

A Singular Lady by Megan Frampton, which I Really Liked.

Another one I liked, by Terri Wilhelm

The one that made me cry, sob actually, yet not a romance.


Thirteen Words which will make Suisan's head explode.

Tea with the Neighbors

The Power of a Woman


Circus, Part I The Warmup.

Circus, Part II The Rant to end all Rants. No more Circus tales for me, EVER.

With a Sword, a Mask, and a Rose for Milady


Historicals are better than Contemporaries

And I hate weddings too

King Arthur



Ha Ha, Very Funny

Grey vs gray

Pirates of the Caribbean

Proof that the Triangle doesn't exist. (Nonetheless, I'm still not convinced.)

Pirate Meeting How did I forget to put that in?


Old Man, Originally titled, A Veterinary Story.

A Proustian Bargain

A Memory That Wasn't

Injuries Sustained from Horses

Davenport horses

Edited to add: I forgot to add the link to my foaming at the mouth rant Circus, Part II. That post is never going to cooperate with me on any level.

Thursday, July 20, 2006


I saw Superman last night in IMAX 3-D. The ultimate viewing experience.

I didn't hate it.

But I was not swept away.

I just don't know what to say about it.

Except to say that Cyclops really needs his own girl, in his own movie.

And Brandon Routh even sounds like Christopher Reeve. Weird. Kind of off-putting too.

It either needed More romance/realtionship stuff or More action, but somehow I walked away thinking that neither element really carried the movie.

I hate the kid. I hope he grows up to be a villain and makes Lois and Clark hate themselves for forgetting the condom. All mopey and sad and pouty with his uncombed hair drooping greasily over his pale face. Blegh.

I liked the costume (Dear Butcher hates it.)

I liked Lex.

I'm sure I'll watch the inevitable sequel.

I just feel as if I should have a stronger response, good or bad, to the movie.

When we came home last night after hours of movies and a dinner that was WAY too late and even more driving, Dear Butcher discovered that I had left the dog in the back yard. Ohhh. I'm sorry. (He's following us everywhere today, making us trip on him.)

And then, just because, and maybe this is gross, but it made me laugh. And laugh. And made Dear Butcher laugh until his deep throaty guffaws turned into tinny squeaks from the back of his nose. I'm not convinced that it's all that funny on the retelling, but jeez, I think he, at least, hurt himself there.

Late last night Dear Butcher and I fooled around in the reclining chair a little. Afterwards, we're getting into bed and I say in a congratulatory manner, "Damn, man. You gave me the hiccups."

Quickly he replies, "Well, you should have swallowed."

OK, in retrospect, I'm not even sure why that was so funny, but good lord, it killed us last night.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The Power of a Woman

Just came off a phone call with a fellow female politician. We've decided there's a certain catharsis in saying over and over, "Dick. Dick. Dick. Dick. Dick. Dick. Dick."

And you need to say it seven times to have full effect.

She acts as a Board representative to a community advisory group. Some months ago, a member of the public came to the group and said that since it was hard for the public to come to physical meetings (cue smallest violin here: After all, you made it all the way here to complain, didn't you?), then she would like to set up a webpage where all the agendas and minutes can be posted. (That part's OK.) And she would also like to set up a chat area where members of the committee can talk freely with members of the public or with each other. (That part's NOT OK.)

My friend the Board member (female) told the Chair of the Committee (male) that such a website can be a really bad idea. It confuses the public and official agencies, for one thing, if there are official District websites and then there are personal websites with official-looking information on them. (And the request was that the official district website would link to this personal website. Bad.)

I think the Chair didn't want to deal. Basically.

Then this website designer shows up at an official open house soliciting email addresses from members of the public so that they can have access to the soon-to-be-developed site and associated Google group. (Note here—the Board rep is told that she can't have access. Wha?)

I think the Chair didn't want to deal with this either.

So the Board rep tells the Chair that he's walking down a path towards an illegal action. If the majority of the Committee ends up in that chatroom discussing ANY committee actions or opinions, then they have had a meeting which was not formally noticed nor open to the general public. Illegal. Attorneys General get a little annoyed about things like this.

I think the Chair didn't want to deal.

So Board member asks Chair to please talk to Legal Counsel if he won't believe her. So he does.

Legal Counsel tells Chair that not only is the chatroom illegal, but the entire website is illegal, if it contains the name of the District or contains its logo. The State Attorney General especially targets online groups, chatrooms, and websites in its continuing effort to make sure that all political decisions are made in public meetings. If the Chair won't shut this community member down, then Counsel will be HAPPY to write a cease and desist letter to the website designer, if only to protect the entire District and the Committee from litigation.

I think Chair STILL doesn't want to deal.

(Apparently there's some talk in here about how he doesn't want to get involved with the politics that are so harmful to the Board and the District as a whole. Umm, dude. You're working on an Advisory Committee to a Political Body discussing Community Issues. No politics? um, are you STUPID? This is right up there with people saying, "But I'm not a Poli-TI-shun, I just got elected to serve the community." Put a sock in it.)

Finally, we get to my favorite part of the story:

Chair (male) calls Board President (male) and asks him what he should do. Board President asks for the emails from Board rep (female) and Counsel (male). Reads them and says, "I agree with your Board Rep. She was on the right track all along. Even the attorney thinks so. Tell the community member what Legal Counsel said, and tell the committee that they cannot take part in this chatroom or google group."

Chair calls Board rep and says that he guesses she was right, but now he needs her help in figuring out how to "handle" the community member (who, by the way, had already set up the website in question, although it's gone today).

Board rep (female) calls me (female) to laugh at all this, and asks, "How come when I said it a month ago, it wasn't worth listening to? How come he needed not only a legal opinion but the Opinion of The Board President? Hmmm?"

"Well, my dear, "I reply. "It is simply because you don't have a dick."

"Dick. Dick. Dick. Dick."

"Dick. Dick. Dick."

I cannot tell you (or maybe I can) how many times my opinions or my tactics have had to be vetted past the only male member of the Board.

(Now, to his eternal credit, the one male Board member is unfailingly gracious and complimentary to his female colleagues. He Always says something like, "Well, I think Suisan's been saying that for a while." Or, "Why don't you talk to Suisan about that. She's already done all the legwork on it.")

But I find it so odd that the men involved in these endeavors NEED to hear Mr. Male's opinion, all the while telling me and the other female Board members that we're so intelligent, principled, hardworking, and valued. Yeah.

Dick. Dick. Dick. Dick. Dick. Dick. Dick.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Dog days of summer

I just checked on my kids' Doctor appointments. The youngest needs proof of a physical before she can enter Kindergarten, so that means everyone else is getting appointments over the summer too.

They're all scheduled the week before school starts. The first one is four weeks away


Four? As in, less than six? Ummm. OK. This summer thing is really getting away from me. (School starts August 21. Don't ask why. Really. It is the single most annoying question I get while buying cantaloupe melons at the supermarket. Yes, we start before Labor Day. We get out June 6. Deal With It.)

So far we've hung around the house, and gone to camp. This week we're taking swim classes in the afternoon at the City Pool, and then staying the entire afternoon so that Mommy can turn into some sort of gelatinous baked good. Sweaty, moist, and golden brown! Mmmm-hmmm.

Next week the complicated trips across country commence. Eldest daughter is in Manhattan with her grandparents. Next week I fly out with youngest, trade for eldest, visit some horses in Georgia, come back to NYC to pick up youngest and fly home with both. (whew.) Later on, Grandma will come out to pick up Young Son so that he too can have a week in Manhattan being spoiled by doting grandparents. (Oh hell. That means I have to put the Guest Bedroom back together for Grandma when she visits us.)

Somehow I had managed to convince myself in May that over the summer I would have time to compare and contrast two policy documents and then prepare a redlined composite version of both for Board review. Considering that each document is 4.25 inches thick when printed, and I'm spending most of my summer roasting poolside, I'm thinking that isn't going to happen easily. (See. THIS is why I need a laptop. Sigh.) Groan--I really need to pull that off though. Growl, mumble, mumble, grumble.

Somehow I had though I could Get Something Done this summer. (Idiotic expectation, that.)

Mostly, I think I need a vacation. From vacation. From my kids on vacation.

(I skimmed my archives the other day. I have written Very Little about books on this thing. I mostly moan and complain about how stressful my life is. I do READ books, and I do ENJOY books; somehow I need to make myself actually write about the ones I do enjoy. Because this was supposed to be a book-based thing. I think. Or not. Gah. I think the heat has poached my brain.)

OK--in the mode of saying something good about something I've read recently: I genuinely enjoyed Postcards from the Brain Museum by Brain Burrell. I think it took me about five months to read it, because I kept putting it down and picking it up. But it was a really neat history of the collection, study, and archiving of famous brains.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Oh Good Lord, It's Hot

I should have something much more witty and perspecacious to say, but no. All I've got now is that I've got to think of something to feed the kids, yet all I want to do is lie on the floor.

Been to the City Pool today, where I got some reading in. Except now my eyesight's all wonky from dehydration plus glare.

Have I mentioned I'm hot?

Edited to add--And apparently I'm unoriginal too: Megan thinks it's hot too, but she even threw in a little descriptive story while she was complaining. I'm such a hack.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Dim-witted broads

OK, next time you see a cute cop, THIS is not the way to get his number. (I have to read it again, but did the dispatcher send the same guy out to arrest her the second time? Because, ouch.)


And in other news, I skimmed this book because the set-up was just to crazy to be believed.

Yep. It was unbelievable all right.

Take one tatooed pirate who wears a black mask and put him on the same ship with the young stowaway heiress whom he had been planning on kidnapping in order to force the release of his identical twin brother from the British Navy. That doesn't seem like a torturous set-up, does it?

Yeah, I know. A pirate with a tatoo across his entire back, but when he shaves his beard and enters polite London Society, the young heiress doesn't recognize him because he took off his mask. The mask he wears while SLEEPING on His Own Pirate Ship.

Oh good lord. To silly, really. But there were no parrots.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Thursday Thirteen

If you fall off that horse, you've got to get right back on.

Show him who's boss.

If you work long enough around horses, you will get injured. News Flash: They are bigger than you. (Which is why, generally, you cannot muscle a horse into submission. You can "show him who's boss" with intimidating body language, or instantaneous verbal correction, but unfortunately, most people try the physical intimidation right before they get killed by their beloved equine.) Setting aside the numerous times my toes have been squished by a misplaced foot (MY FAULT. Don't put your feet where the horse will step on them, idiot.), here's a list of my thirteen most memorable bumps. Please remember that these are spread out over thirty years and over seventy-something horses.

1. Memorable only because it was the first.

My little bay Welsh pony, Rosita, disappeared right out from under me. We were getting ready to jump a 12" jump (a skip, really). I was six, she was sixteen. I lined her up and asked her to canter over it. Just as she was about to "take off" she disappeared and I fell to the ground, still in a sitting position. It's truly a bizarre feeling, to be firmly seated on an animal one moment, and then, with no anticipation of the fact, discover that you are sitting on the ground. Many years later, I now know that she was a bad little girl, but at the time butter wouldn't melt in her mouth.

2. I'm going, I'm going, we go.

There's a means of falling off which occurs after you've learned how to ride better. Instead of sailing through the air, you slowly and gently just slip right off. It is the most frustrating experience I know. Somehow you lose your balance and instead of losing contact with the horse, you just pace by pace, bit by bit, step by step, slip ever so slowly down the side of the horse. Unless your knee gets stuck on the saddle, you can even end this maneuver standing on your feet. The time I got hurt, I was on a hunt riding through a small patch of woods. Slowly drifting off the horse, trying to regain my seat I realized that well, no, I was going to end up on the ground. I decided to go for the standing landing. Achieved the landing with the first foot just as my body slammed into a tree. THEN the horse stopped. Oh, thanks.

3. My finger is not a carrot.

No, you do not have to have your hand absolutely flat when you feed a horse a treat--I don't bother anymore, because the treat invariably rolls off your palm onto the ground. However, I'm a little careful about where my fingers are, just the same. When I was ten, my new pony, Sea Misty, grabbed ahold of my ring finger one day as she was aiming for the carrot. She bit, I squealed, and she panicked. Trouble was, her panic took the form of a frozen stare as she repeated in her head, "Oh My God. Oh My God, Oh My God." She froze her jaw too, still clamped firmly on my finger. The more I shrieked, the wider her eyes became. A passing riding instructor ran up and bopped her under the chin. Her head jerked up (OW! My finger's still in there!) and then she let go. (Ow. Ow. Ow. Blood rushing back to the finger. Ow. Thanks. Ow.)

4. My head is not a stepstool.

Actually, I wasn't injured on this one, but I came reeeeeely close. Spring in New England: mud. A few horses leaning on the cross rails plus old fence posts plus two feet of mud equals flat fence.

A group of thirteen mares in the back pasture are suddenly trotting all around the fifty acre farm. Stallions are screaming, mares are grinning, trotting along with their tails over their backs. There's myself and one other human on the property. Rounding up thirteen horses is a stupidly exhausting process, and after much arm waving and racing about, we came to our senses and decided not to bother rounding the whole herd up. If we could get the one or two leaders in, the others would get bored and come home. So I'm doing the airplane thing (arms out to the side so that you "look larger") steering the lead mare back over the fence which fell over in the mud. Somehow in all my leaping, running, and arm waving, I forgot about the mud. Just as Lark is about to step over the fence, back into the pasture, she turned slightly back towards me and feinted just a little, to see if I was paying attention. I jumped forward to send her back, and landed in a mud-filled sinkhole well past my right knee. My left foot is on solid ground, knee under my chin, and the right leg is stuck in the ground. Lark stopped, measured the incredibly shrinking barn manager, and decided to show me who's boss. Walked right up to me, blew a puff of air in my face, and jumped over my head to freedom and another lap around the farm. No, she didn't step on my head, but she could have, and she would have if she had been a touch meaner.

5. Head, meet head.

Owned a Morgan from before the day he was born. He was my best buddy. He and I had been trail riding and bumming around under saddle for about a year, and we had been having a great time. He stood for grooming; when I held out the bridle, he grabbed the for the bit and dove his head into the headstall; and on the trail he slogged through mud, cantered over hills, and tiptoed over ice. He was eager and happy as long as he was making the decisions. The summer he was six, we put him in an arena and asked him to respond to leg aids, and move athletically. Nope. Not doing it. Third time I rode him in this manner I asked for a canter, at which point he threw his head back like a snake striking backwards and neatly popped me in the nose with the back of his head. Ow. Concussion. I stopped riding him for a week, and the trainer, who was very competent and patient, worked with him--he reared and tried to scrape her off on the walls of the arena. Yikes.

5. Foot, meet thigh.

Same horse, two weeks later. With careful, judicious and spare use of draw reins we had managed to convince my Morgan that popping his neck inside out to brain the rider was not a good idea. I was grooming him on the cross ties, brushing, picking feet, stuff I'd done a million times, mostly untied in his box stall. I decided to trim the tuft of hair sprouting from his ears, got the electric clippers, plugged them in, and settled myself into approved stance for turning on electrical devices when working around a green horse. Standing at the horse's shoulder, facing the rear, place one hand on the top of the horse's shoulder, remind him that you're there, hold the clippers in your other hand, and turn them on. Hand on shoulder reassures horse, standing at the shoulder ensures that the horse won't meet you if he reflexively kicks at hearing the clik-bzzzz of the clippers. But I had done this so many times, the stance was just a formality, really.

Damn horse cow-kicked and landed a solid blow right at the top of my thigh. Cows kick forward, horses tend to kick backward. But when horses cow-kick, they are deadly accurate--I've had a thermometer cow-kicked out of my hand--very fast, but not very strong. My horse hadn't aimed for the clippers, he aimed for me, and got me right below my pelvis. Ow. (I had a bruise more than a foot in diameter which swelled proud of my leg by about three inches.) I sold the horse. (Last I heard, he lives with a family who adores him, clambers all over him in the pasture, and only trail rides. I'd never trust him again, but he found his niche.)

6. My ER visit, Iteration One.

I fell off a mare one time in the indoor arena, which had a fairly deep dirt and shredded bark footing. Belly flopped to the ground, and had the wind knocked out of me. (Damn, I hate that. I fear getting the wind knocked out of me more than any bruise, sprain, or break if I fall.) I was riding alone (dumb) and figured that once I fell, the mare would stop running (dumb). Instead of meandering off to the end of the 400 foot arena and munching on the hay bales there, she kept on her prescribed course, circling the lower end of the arena. I never forgave her for this, although I should try to be less petty, but she then cantered right over my back, as I was lying on the ground trying to get my lungs to work again. The other barn rat walked into the arena just in time to see her trample me. She grabbed the mare, stuffed her in a stall, and drove me to the emergency room. When they took off my shirt I had a hoof shaped bruise developing on my left hip and on my right shoulder. The story of the bruises circulated around the ER. While I was waiting for X-rays, every nurse and resident in the hospital, it seemed, came into my room to stare at my back. "Wow. HOW did you get those?"

"A horse ran over me."



"Because it looks just like a horse DID run over you. Look at those bruises."

Oh god. Please can I go home now? Doctor? Hello? (I was fine, although my back hurt like a tooth extraction for months.)

7. My Er visit, Iteration Two.

While switching stallions one day from one pasture rotation to the other, I came across a stallion who had pawed the temporary fence and gotten a tangle of wire in between his hoofwall and the horseshoe. He was very patiently waiting for someone to come rescue him, his left foot slightly raised. I got the wire clippers and wrestled with most of the wire. The last bit was very firmly embedded in the crack between the shoe and the hoofwall, and I really didn't want him to put any weight on the wire, thereby risking a puncture to the bottom of his foot. Tugging just as hard as I could, I wrenched the last bit of wire free.

As I was walking him back to the barn, I noticed blood dripping down his leg, splattering onto my boot. I stopped him and rubbed his leg to find the injury. No injury, but his leg was a lot bloodier. Then I realized that I was the one bleeding.

With that last tug, the other end of the wire had skipped over the back of my wrist, just at the inside knob of bone, and gashed a deep cut. I hadn't felt it at all, and it still didn't hurt. I put the stallion away, rinsed the cut in cold water (Ow), Betadine surgical scrub (Ow Ow), and then poured hydrogen peroxide through the trough of the wound (Ow! Ow! Ow!). Then I bandaged the whole thing with a layer of sterile gauze, holding the edges of the wound together with a bit of strategically placed electrical tape. At the ER, I told the triage nurse what had happened and how I had treated it. She said, "Why are you here?" Huh? It never occurred to me that a nurse could even ask the question. She said that if I didn't mind a scar, then there was no need to check me in. If I wanted stitches, then she'd have to check me in, and that would cost money. Wha? (I opted not to bother with stiches. I had to get back to the farm to feed anyway. My priorities were stranger back then. And yes, I have a scar.)

8. My ER visit, Iteration Three.

This is not so much a horse injury as it is a horse-truck injury. The truck the circus used to transport horses was a (badly) converted semi-trailer truck. There were stalls made from square tubular steel, with a hay loft over them. It was all too tight, and very poorly designed. (This is what you get when you hire a coked up heroin-addicted bareback rider as your chief welder and designer.) Anyway, I was balancing on a strip of square steel tubing which was welded to the interior walls, trying to force a hay bale up into the too tight space above. As I balanced on the 2" ledge (provided only as a place to tie the horse's heads once they were loaded), I was inching my way down the length of the truck, bracing my arms against the hay rack above, pressing my body against the wall to hold me in place.

Yeah, well, there was a DOOR, an UNLATCHED door, along the exterior wall. I reached it, pushed against it with my entire body weight, the door opened, and I fell from a height of about seven feet on my back. I landed with my neck on a metal pipe, still lying on the ground from the previous day's welding. I never went to the hospital, but my neck did hurt, and I'm sure I had a concussion. About ten days later I visited my aunt in the hospital--she had just been informed that she needed her right leg amputated due to a diagnosis of cancer--and she noticed me rubbing my neck. I told her of the injury, and she made me go to the ER. Just the X-Rays were sooo painful. I was diagnosed with a cracked C4 vertebra, and was fitted with a neck collar. I returned to the circus that night, wearing the collar. Within two days I had given up wearing the collar, as it was too painful to keep my neck that straight. My priorities were stranger back then.

9. Injury to my shoes.

When a mare was about to give birth, we tried to check on her a few times every night. One night I was going out on a date, and my aunt asked me to please stop by the mare's stall when I got home, to check on her and wrap her tail. (Foaling is a messy business, tail hair gets tangled around stuff, but you don't want to keep the tail wrapped, as it can limit circulation. If it looks as if she's foaling soon, you wrap the tail in the late evening just as a precaution.) I came home from a really great date about midnight and parked up at the foaling barn. Still, obviously, wearing my fancy clothes, I walked into the mare's stall and noticed she was slightly sweaty, but neither her heart rate nor her respiration showed she was in labor. It was basically a humid night, and she was uncomfortable. I checked her udder: a few drops of colostrum, but the bag wasn't distended. I ran my hand over the top of her hip and stroked the edge of her tail. OK, she's not jumpy, so I stood directly behind her as I wrapped her tail, so that the tail wrap would not be puckered or uncomfortable. I lifted her tail to slide the wrap under the base, and the mare silently broke water: a gushing stream of warm amniotic fluid, all over my dress shoes. I guess she was waiting for me. Too funny.

10. Injury to my elbow.

My show career in a nutshell. I about fourteen, scheduled to ride an extraordinarily well-trained mare in Hunter/English Pleasure. We should have picked up a ribbon, but she decided that day that the announcer's stand was Too Terrifying Too Be Endured. (Yeah. Whatever. Evasion.) She shied from it every time we went past. No rider is supposed to discipline or "school" a horse during exhibition, and this horse knew she was getting away with murder. The judge was simply wonderful. He stopped the class, pulled the riders into the center of the ring, and came up to speak with me. He told me that I could excuse myself if I wanted to, but that he wanted to give me the chance to ride the mare past the stand. We trotted past it: whoosh, she shied. "OK," called the judge. "Circle around hard and try her again." (How amazing was this, that the judge would school my horse?) "Just when she gets to the point where she wants to shy, cue her for the canter." Tried that: whoosh. "Ok, go around again, this time in the other direction." Trot transition to canter: whoosh and a buck and another whoosh, and I'm on the ground. Damn, damn, damn. In front of eighty-odd people too.

Later on, I sent the judge a thank-you card for allowing me to school the horse. He wrote back, enclosing his judging schedule for the rest of the summer, saying that he looked forward to seeing "That Dragon properly contained." Very nice man. But my elbow still locks up from time to time if I'm carrying a heavy bag. Damn Dragon.

11. Lesson: Never wear steel toed boots.

Wear rubber muckers, wear sneakers, wear boots, wear clogs, I don't care. But never wear steel toed boots. Because the day the horse DOES step on your toe, and DOES squish the steel (even though the boot manufacturer says it can't happen), you're in for an unpleasant discovery about the relative strength of steel and toes. This never happened to me, but I count it as an injury, because I had to drive the barn rat with the bloody boot to the hospital, and I had to stay calm during the drive while I watched more and more blood seep from the top of her flat boot. She kept all of her toes, and I kept my stomach contents down, but ugh, that was a bad time.

12. Lesson: Hitting is stupid.

Hitting looks like it would work. Hey. Get off me. Slap. Should work. (Actually, poking with your index finger works a whole lot better to get him to move over.) But hang around barns long enough, and you'll come across a fair amount of hitting. I'll still slap them on the flank, or on the shoulder if they're misbehaving; it can be totally appropriate, depending on the horse and on the circumstances, but you have to know what you're doing.

(The circus horses bit, and they bit all the freaking time. They were trained with grain and were consequently incredibly persistent about grabbing with their teeth. Clothing, flesh, it didn't matter. And they bit each other: they were terrible. Bite me--get slapped on the lips. Sorry, but you do. Not hard, but, hey, lay off. After two months of daily nip, slap; nip, slap; nip, nip, pop; nip, slap; they finally quit biting me. But only me. The other grooms sometimes sported welts.)

But as in any learning curve, you reach a point where you're overconfident in your knowledge, or in the application of the technique. I once got in the middle of a dominance match between two mares (dumb place to be). I thought I could get the boss mare to lay off the weaker mare (dumb thing to think). I was working in the paddock, when the boss mare lunged at the weaker mare. I grabbed the boss mare and hit her on her face (dumb). Weaker mare skittered off, boss mare just looked at me as if I'd grown a new head on my left shoulder. My palm swelled up to the size of a small peach. Ow. Big bony head, little bony hand. Ow. What were you thinking? OK, not thinking actually. Learned a pretty elementary lesson though. Hitting doesn't work and is stupid besides.

13. A pain in the heart.

For all of that, they are big, and they get in our way, and we mostly get hurt by accident. As a rule, people do more damage to horses than they do to us. Of the ones I've known, I try to keep track of the living ones, and the ones I've tracked down are all doing well. As for the ones who've died, well, that's an injury unto itself; you were so well loved while you were here.

Canyon, Karada, Rosita, Sunstream, Hero, Big Red, Phario, Tiger, Brigade, March, Sea Misty, Val, Noah, Leonie, Reminisce, Scotia & Rotious (both mother and daughter in one barn fire), Ibn Tirf, Lark, Kataali, Rio, Bene, Dixie, Curly, Binni, Prince Hal, Lady Fair, and .... God, there are at least ten more, too many to even list.

More thirteens: Kate on proper posting etiquette
and Doug, on Cosmo
Anybody else?

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Monkeytown Money!!

In PINK! My favorite color!

It's amazing what you find on the internet!

But they don't have the 1000 nor the 1500 dollar bill. (I think because at least the 1500 had jokes so old and obscure that no one understood them.)

So I slightly misremembered some of the details, but overall, I think I did a pretty good job.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

The Compass Controversy is Settled

OK, maybe not a controversy.

But in recent discussions (see the voluminous comments) about Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, there has been some conversation about to WHOM the compass points when Elizabeth holds it in her hands.

Don't worry, this ain't a spoiler. It's in the hot dog aisle, for goodness sake.

According to the back of my daughter's Oscar Meyer Lunchable, Ham and American Cheese Stackables edition, once you fill in dots on the puzzle, the compass points to Will. (There are no dangly bits, so I'm assuming it's Will. My daughter won't let me open the box to read the answer for myself.)

Obviously, Oscar Meyer is never wrong. But, because I am Just That Contrary, I still insist on seeing a triangle. Or an Attraction, or a Plot Device.

Side Note---my scanner will NOT COOPERATE! Humph. I'll post a picture later. Fat lot of good it'll do me. Mummble, grumble, mmutter, mmph. I fought heroically with the scanner until it conceded the match. Results above.

Second side note--I'm aware that in paragraph one, the correct adjective would be numerous, not voluminous. However, I prefer the sound of vol-OOO-min-us, so I'm keeping it. Poetic expression, so sue me.

I'm number one on Google

Do a search for "Joshua Aristide" in quotes.

This blog pops up first.

Course it doesn't point you to the post in question, but still. To be number one. Sigh.

People who find my blog through searches find me either by looking for dear Joshua, by looking for Debbie's Petland, or by looking for evidence of that ever so intriguing sexual practice.

Pets, Scammers, and Contortionists. What a group.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Memories of Monkeytown

I not sure I can do justice to the sea swell of memories that crash about in my head after I simply say the name of the summer camp I attended from 1975 through 1982.

Eight years.

Eight years every summer for four weeks at Camp Quinebarge in New Hampshire.

Eight years of begging my parents to Please, OH PLEASE let me stay for the full eight-week session. Eight years of Friday Dinner: a letter home was your ticket to eat. Sunday visits when the parents were Required to take me and my friend-of-the-moment to Hart's Turkey Farm for turkey croquettes and gravy. (Damn. Just visited the website--They SELL the Carrot Relish in the gift shop. How do I explain this sudden need for pickled carrots to Dear Butcher?)

Eight years of mosquitoes, archery, cabins, more mosquitoes, bonfires, songs, rivalries, horses, boats, pine trees, swimming, cold cereal, cabin plaques, cold, wet bathing suits at 8am, Skins vs. Shirts, Phineas T. Moneygrubber and Monkeytown.

I hoarded Monkeytown Money under the bed all year long, carefully sorted and wrapped in multiple rubber bands. One year I returned to camp with an entire overnight bag stuffed with Monkeytown Money I had scored off the dimwitted first-year campers from the season before. Monkeytown Mayoral elections. Monkeytown Mayoral platforms based on the trade-in value of last year's Monkeytown Money. (Oh, and that year I just raked it in. Pounds of Thousand Dollar Bills. Ten very rare Fifteen Hundred Dollar Bills. Ha!) And sightings of Phineas T. Moneygrubber. The year he "kidnapped" Tom Ritchie and demanded ransom. The year he missed the Mayoral debates because he had been locked in the Ice Cream freezer at the concession stand at the base of Mt. Washington. (IS there an ice cream stand at the base of Mt. Washington? I'm thinking not.)

Monkeytown. What a concept.

But wait, more memories: The older campers roaring "JU! JU! BEE! JU! JU! BEE!" at the end of every meal as Bill Dold stood up to announce evening activity. (JuJuBee was an all-camp Capture-The-Flag-meets-Rugby game so violent it had been banned, but we still insisted that it was The Best Game Ever, pounding the tables, hollering its name, demanding that it be brought back. Surely this terrified the younger campers, but hey, we were the Old Guard, and we had to prove that we knew the secret rituals of our camp. What are some torn shirts between friends?)

Mr. Zimmerman leading us all in a rousing rendition of "The Titanic" with plenty of verve and arm pumping. "It was sad. (So! Sad!) It was sad. (So! Sad!) It was sad when the Great Ship went down, to the bottom of the Sea, sea, sea (Uncles and Aunts! Little Children lost their pants!) It was sad when the Great Ship went down." (What were we thinking? We LOVED that song!)

I heard a great radio essay a few years ago about the mystique of summer camp, that in some way the whole season is an exercise in convincing you to love the camp so much that you'll come back the next year. By the end of your first season, you've realized that it's loads better if you return: you'll know all the songs, know the codes, be in the crowd who knows not to take swim lessons first thing in the morning, and you'll fantasize about it all winter. When you're counting your Monkeytown Money, for example.

But I guess I should explain Monkeytown. And Phineas.

Quinebarge...{"Here's to our Quinebarge, we sing to thee. Fairest of all the camps, give her a one, two, three. (Four! Five! Six!) Ever we praise thee, love and adore. Here's to our Quinebarge for ever more.....ra ra ra. 1,2,3,4. We want some Mooore, of that Q!U!I!N!E!B!A!R!G!E!" OK, no more camp songs, or at least I'll not type them out anymore. Instead I'll just stop for a minute, sing them out at the computer (which causes the dog a very slight distress) and get back to typing without interruption. Maybe I'll just list them all at the end. Now, where was I? Oh yes. Ahem.}

Quinebarge was originally a boy's camp, started in the mid-thirties. It was on about seventy acres of mostly wooded land right on the shores of Kanasatka, part of the Lake Winnipesaukee system in New Hampshire. There had been a sister camp too, but it closed in the early 70's.* The first year I attended, the few girls stayed in two smaller boys cabins. Over time, girls' cabins were built (all named after Indian tribes, as were the boys'), eventually a rec hall was added, and the whole place was upgraded. But there were still flourishes of the older 1930's ambiance here and there.**

The dining hall walls sported all the cabin plaques ever made, from the first year of Quinebarge. And the carved wooden turtle over the fireplace with the red K for Kanasatka on its back. Every cabin, every year, made a cabin plaque--it not only listed the names of the campers, but in some way was supposed to represent the campers' experiences of that year. The older ones were shaped like tennis racquets, some like canoes, one in particular which fascinated me, the baseball scoreboard, all were carved from wood, and on some you could see the faint images of young boys wearing white shorts and V-necked sweaters. Young boys who are now older than my children's grandparents.***

If you walked past Wood Shop, down the path past the Nature Hut, where Balboa the constrictor lived, you'd end up on a winding wooded path towards Monkeytown.

Monkeytown was a collection of treehouses, huge treehouses, which had been built over the years. There were two storey tree-houses, three story tree-houses, tree-houses with rope swings, tree-houses with fireman poles to slide down. (Ouch, splinters) One tree-house was set back from the others and you had to cross a little wooden bridge to get to it. The floors were made from rough lumber, but all the railings, the steps and flourishes, all those were made from sap-laden pine branches. Sap oozed from every nail head, encrusting your knuckles and clothes, marking your shorts with life-long proof that you had climbed up into Monkeytown.

We were not allowed to play in Monkeytown; it was considered too dangerous. Maybe the winter winds had loosened the nails or a tree had died. But we could walk through it and plan for the Monkeytown Carnival, where the Monkeytown Mayor would preside, tossing Monkeytown Money into the air for us to scramble over.

I wish I still had Monkeytown Money. Rumor was that Tom Ritchie, the red-haired college kid who always hung around and did odd jobs in the years he wasn't a counselor, had designed it. Whoever did, it was a great job of teenaged obsessive attention to detail. Denominations started at Fifty Monkeytown Dollars and progressed in rapid succession up to Fifteen Hundred Dollars. The most common bill was the One Hundred Dollar.

Each bill looked generally like currency, ovals and swoops and a portrait in the center. Each bill had a theme, with little jokes and asides hidden in the swirls. The bills were mimeographed every year onto a new color paper. My favorite years were the pink years. So festive, purple ink on bright pink bills. White bills weren't so fun, but they were easier to collect at the close of the season from unsuspecting first-year campers, because they didn't Feel as if they were worth so much. (Monkeytown Mayors were able to propose the trade-in value for previous year's colors. Usually one current dollar for one thousand older dollars. But if you came back with enough, you could start the year rich as Croesus.) Monkeytown Money was gifted as a prize for having the cleanest cabin, for wining the kayak race, for winning Capture the Flag (approved version), for passing a swim test.

At the close of the season, each cabin took part in the Monkeytown auction, to bid on concessions to sell during the Monkeytown Carnival. Each cabin was assigned a Monkeytown Treehouse, which we spent Saturday afternoons renovating, and each cabin had to develop a game (Wheel of Fortune, Chicken Run) as well as sell a concession (Bid High for Bug Juice. Don't bother bidding on the popcorn, no one buys it). We prepared for Monkeytown for weeks. Build the game, practice the game, collect money for the auction, campaign for a mayor, dream about Monkeytown, plan some more, teach the littlest girl in the cabin to tread water so she can pass her swim test and bring the cabin pot more money, raid the neighbor cabin and steal their Monkeytown Money. Monkeytown, Monkeytown, Monkeytown.

Phineas T. Moneygrubber, whose elegant profile, complete with high collar and monocle, graced the center of the Five Hundred Dollar bill, was the Counselor's Candidate. His appearance at camp events was always eagerly anticipated, but bad weather or a broken-down limousine invariably prevented his arrival. The counselors would read statements from Phineas every so often, explaining his political platform. If he were made Monkeytown Mayor, he would ensure that the campers had All-Bran every morning for breakfast. After which, they would feed counselors breakfast in bed, ham and eggs, toast and coffee. He promised that campers would be chained to their beds every evening, and instead of archery, crafts, ceramics, or wood shop, the campers would, under Phineas' rule, partake of dredging the leech-infested slime from the lake bed during the day. I think Phineas may have been Count Olaf's cousin. He was deliciously nasty.

Nine years is a long time to spend anywhere, and I have a bunch of bad memories of Quinebarge too. Or maybe they're just those awkward adolescent gaffes which happen anywhere, regardless of summer camp. Towards the end there, it was getting pretty run down, or maybe the glow was dimming under too much familiarity. It's now under new ownership, a former counselor, actually, and apparently still going strong.

I think about Monkeytown every summer, every summer when I start looking for a camp for my kids. They don't make summer camps like this anymore. Certainly in California, there's almost no longterm overnight camps. Mostly it's a week here, a week there. And the camps are themed: soccer camp, drama camp, computer camp, band camp. But if it hadn't been for the open ended schedule of summer camp at Quinebarge, I never would have known that I enjoy woodcarving, or basketweaving, or that I'm a pretty good archer. Or at least, I was. The only swim lessons I ever had were in that lake. The lake with the leeches. Ew.

I never progressed very far in swimming, just to Intermediate Swimmer, which allowed me to take the Blue Jay sailboat out on the lake by myself. (Although I remember quite clearly NOT wanting to become an Intermediate Swimmer, because I enjoyed sailing with Mr. Zimmerman, who had to accompany those campers who hadn't passed their swim test.) When are my kids ever going to sit around a bonfire at Piney Point, watching silly cabin skits**** and singing mournful songs over a still lake? When will they have the opportunity to learn how to sail a boat, kayak, tell ghost stories, raid cabins, or steal kisses from another Junior Counselor under a pine tree while the sap glues your hair to the back of your neck as evidence of your moral crimes?

I miss summer camp. Pass the Bug Juice.

* Summer, we're all together,/ Here at camp, and later on./ Quinebarge we will remember/ throughout the years to come./ In the forest below the stars/ moments of magic have been ours./ Our fears have been forgotten,/ we sleep in peace./ Quinebarge, our home./ Forever young, Forever old./ Our dreams have been (da da da)/ we (da da da).

** Bo Bo Ski Watten Dattle! Waad Atten Shoo! OO!
Bo Bo Ski Watten Dattle! Waad Atten Shoo! OO!
Itten Bitten Fowten Hattle!
Itny Bitny De'Howten Taddle!
Bo Bo Ski Watten Dattle! Waad Atten Shoo!

***Children go where I send thee.
How shall I send Thee?
Well I'm gonna send thee ten by ten,
Ten for the saints who went back again
Nine for the nine who dressed so fine
Eight for the eight who stood at the gate
Seven for the se'en who ne'er got to hev'n
Six for six who never got fixed
Five for the five who stayed alive
Four for the four who stood at the door
Three for the (clap) Hebrew Children
Two for (clap) Paul and Silas
One for the Itty Bitty Baby
Who was Born, Born, Born in Bethlehem
(I still have no real idea what any of this means...)

****"What a nice dress!"
"I got it from Jordan Marsh!" (A Boston Department store)
"What nice shoes!"
"I got it from Jordan Marsh!"
Et Cetera
(Girl runs past wearing a towel.)
"What Happened?!"

Evil Auntie Peril has a lesson for us

Now that we've dissected Jack, Will, Norrington, Elizabeth, and the undead monkey in excruciating detail, take a little breather. Pop over to Evil Auntie Peril's House and pick up a few tips on proper emotive technique.

Then come back and tell me what you think of "Attentive." If I had a Boss looking at me that way while I worked, I'd seriously worry for his health. Well, the same holds true for "Joyful" too, now that I think about it.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

I have seen it!

Last night Dear Butcher took me out for a fancy dinner and then we (YES!) saw Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest. What a nice anniversary!

I'm not sure of everything which happened on screen, because we were sitting two rows from the front, in what seemed to be the Middle School section of the theatre. But I know I enjoyed it. Arrr!

It's definitely the second in a trilogy--lots of sequel building and foreshadowing--and I thought (gasp) it was a little long. (Again, this may be because I'm old. The movie got out at 1:00am. I started fading about midnight.)

Jack was as deliciously piratical as one would expect. He and Elizabeth have a few little 'shippy conversations which are yummy. Will furrows his brows a lot and yells orders at greasy shipmates. And the Davy Jones special effects are fantastic!

Here's how I know I liked the movie--I'm still thinking about the love triangle after I left the movie. (And I'd like to go back and see it when I don't have to lie on my back to see the top of the screen.) But I'm a little troubled by Will Turner. Which makes me think that I may not like POTCIII.

At the end of POTCI, it looked as if Will, wearing his dashing hat and cape, and Elizabeth, lover of all thing piratical, would sail off into the sea together. Which would be nice.

For the second movie, they set up a love triangle, which is cool because Jack is just so fun to watch, especially when he's courting. Loved this bit, but my problem is now with Will. Is it possible to have a pirate who never commands his own ship? Is there any way to butch up Orlando Bloom? Will he ever do anything except moon after Elizabeth? How can Elizabeth end up with a partner who's done nothing but silently adore her since she was ten? Will is set up as being entirely honorable; he may break the law in the process of fulfilling some vow, but he's not sneaky or eager to plunder and profit. So how can he end up as a pirate?

OK, I'll think more on that later.

But for now, I'm turning on the TV and crawling back into bed. Late nights, no matter how enjoyable, are no fun the next morning.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Spotted Today at the Mall

I have a hard time figuring out vanity plates, and there are a lot of them in California. But this was on a car parked next to me at the mall this morning:


Can totally relate.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Summer camp

Both my younger kids just came back from their first day of summer camp. Summer camp held at the local amusement park. It was a roaring success.

I'm so relieved.

AND they had the chance to feed and pet a sea lion.

I'm so jealous. I want to be eight, and I want to go to summer camp where there are rides and a sea lion!

(This week the theme is sea mammals. Next week the theme is land animals. If they get a chance to pet a tiger, I'll be beside myself.)

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Happy Holidays!

Happy Independence Day!

Barbequing for the Fourth? Going somewhere, or staying home?

Happy 200th post for this blog! (Well, that was yesterday, but we're celebrating the one-day anniversary of the blessed event.) I was Soo looking forward to doing some big retrospective thing, but then the vampire-authors freaked me out a little. (Thanks, Angie, for calming me down.) Maybe I'll go for the one year date thingamabob.

Anyway, Happy Holiday Weekend. (Four days? Wow.)


I used to get superbly annoyed at people who ruined every holiday by bringing up some ghastly event the damn thing reminded them of. (Well, Grandma died the day the Titanic sank; some things can hardly be helped.) But I can't seem to kick the habit myself.

My aunt died when she was 46. I'll be 40 next year. Soon I will eclispe her, which is just bizarre. My great-grandmother (Nana) was widowed suddenly when my grandmother was nine years old. For the rest of Nana's life, and then Grandma's, there was a picture on the dresser of a dashing young coronet player in a sepia suit. How odd for Grandma, to be decades older than her father.

My aunt got married the day before her fortieth birthday--she didn't want anyone to celebrate it, and she didn't want anyone commenting on how old she was at her wedding, "Forty years! What took so long?"

Today would have been her twentieth wedding anniversary. Tomorrow she would have been sixty.

When she was a little girl, her birthday and Independence Day got all muddled up in her head. She was pretty sure that the parade was for the Fourth, but that the fireworks were for her. Grandma cooked everyone their favorite dinner on their birthday. My aunt's was turkey and all the fixings: Thanksgiving in July.

I can't see fireworks without tasting turkey gravy at the edge of my tongue. (I also taste peas when I hear Walter Cronkite's voice--too many dinners watching the evening news, I guess.) I'm all muddled up too. I don't know how to celebrate the Fourth without mourning my aunt's death.

Today we're heading back to the old neighborhood in Berkeley to take part in a block party that's been going on for twenty years. This evening come home and go downtown in my little town, try to get as far down First Street as we can, so that the explosions are right overhead.

And when the first ones go off in the grey twilight sky, exploding over the strait, I'll be the one lying on the curb on the blue blanket, surrounded by my family. I'll lean down over my littlest, one arm pointing to the rose in the clouds, curl my head into her shoulder, pretending to whisper, so I can swallow that burst of fatty, salty, rich memory teasing my tongue. I'll hide my tears in her hair for a moment, just a few tears and sniffle, before I decide it's silly to cry in public and shake it off. This is their holiday, my kids', and I don't want to smother it with someone else's faded picture of a coronet player.

But I really miss you, Joyce. I hate that you've never met my kids, never given them some badly carved but highly polished piece of jade with a special message written by you on a piece of velvet. I hate that the magic you brought to my life has not been brought into theirs. I hate knowing that if you had lived, I would have had children, you would have had none, and that you would have been jealous of mine, and then nasty to me. You were capable of it--I knew you very well. I know I wouldn't have shared Independence Days with you, if you were alive; it would have been a burden to schlepp my children to the relatives' to eat warm turkey. And now that you're dead, the fantasies of your warmth, and the loss of your coarse hugs, fill up this holiday until it's something else entirely.

We eat hamburgers, hot dogs, and sausage, none of which I ate as a kid. We reminisce with neighbors we once had. And in the evening, the booming of the explosions thump my chest until I cry again at the finale. It's a false memory of what kids do on holidays which we are trying to recreate, and it's a memory of someone else's impression of what fireworks meant to her.

Monday, July 03, 2006


Who's Shelly Laurenston, and why are members of her Yahoo group emailing each other to visit my post on Dark Lover?

Paranoia plus vampires equals whimper.

OK, shake that off. Go enter Kate's Snark Contest instead.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

My inbox

Well, Thank God he's still alive, and he thought to write to ME!

-----Original Message-----
From: []
Sent: Saturday, July 01, 2006 7:54 AM

Good Day,

I wish to introduce myself to you. I am Col. Joshua Aristide (rtd).I am the
brother to the exiled President of Haiti. Due to the revolution against the
goverment of my brother caused by our political opponents in Haiti, we had
to flee the Country for the Safety of our lives. My wife, children and I
managed to enter a red cross airplane that was evacuating foreigners and
we are presently in Channel Islands On the English Coast.

We wish to invest in properties and other viable investments in your
country with your assistance and cooperation.If you are in a good position
to help my family,please send an e-mail to the e-mail address below indicating
desire to help my family invest this funds in your country and beyond.

I urgently await your e-mail letter.

best regards and hope to meet you soon.

God bless,

Col. Joshua Aristide (Rtd)

Nejlevnější ADSL na trhu. Již od 333 Kč za měsíc.

I can't wait to meet him either! I wonder if he's interested in making an investment in MY property. Because my front fence is leaning, the back shed has a leaking roof, I could use an upgrade on the hot tub, and I need to have both the font and back yards landscaped. Think of the acclaim I could bring to my little town if I were able to convince the brother of Aristide to come live here!

So Excited!!!!