Saturday, February 3, 2018

Ground Hog Day Mea Culpa



The lambs are born now in the cold and snow. The days begin to lengthen. Light candles for Her, Mother Earth is tilting us in the northern hemisphere toward  the sun once again.  


It's cold as hell today--not so much the temperature, but the wind chill, a howl out of the west. The birds motor through my offerings of black oil sunflower seed and I had to go outside with wet hair to refill their feeders and scatter more on the ground. 

The squirrels are (mostly) in hiding today, but another tree is being taken down in the neighborhood, and that's not good for the local wildlife. I'm still guilty as hell about the big silver maple we cut in autumn, as the wreckage of furry and feathered lives was visible (and audible, with squirrel on squirrel violence) all around. Precious housing units were abruptly gone and there were bloody fights over what remained. Humans don't realize what we do when we cut a tree--all that food, all that shelter, all that flood control--is instantly lost.



We worried that the dead branches that this kind of tree produces continually--silver maples of any age seem to be constantly in a state of semi-decay, with debris-filled holes and marching ants--would land on our roof or solar panels.  It's the second tree we've cut in the 30+ years we've lived here, but still it felt as if a giant hole had been punched in the canopy of green life with which we've surrounded ourselves. We love the trees and all that co-exists in their sheltering arms, so this removal was a tough decision.





Juliet Waldron



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Sunday, November 5, 2017

"PC"





The Plumber came the other day, and my husband, as old folks will, followed him and talked. Our plumber is sufficiently gregarious (I think, by nature) to be agreeable.

Somehow, they began to talk Hershey back in the day—this is a place people don’t seem to leave—born here, die here—so we, as outsiders, ones who have lived here for 33 years now, have a perspective to offer. “How much things have changed” is always a reliable conversation starter. You say “why, I remember when we got here, in 1982” and they nod and then tell you about how it was when they were kids two decades earlier.

We always listen with interest to tales of yore in our small German Electorate. Inside a big family network is another way of being from the manner in which my husband and I were raised, as travelers. We're both water signs and neither of us liked to have the surface of the liquid disturbed. He got jerked around far more often than I did--sometimes yearly--but I got jerked into other cultures.

As young marrieds, we used to compete over whose experience of childhood misery was the greater, but with age comes The Buddha and we have learned compassion for everyone involved.  Nevertheless, the corner of any room is now our preferred habitat, where we watch and learn from the well-connected others, all talking and cheerfully milling about together in the center.   


“So what brought you to this area?” The plumber asked.

Without much thought, Chris says, “Oh to work on PCs at Hershey.”

(Lo, in the former age, not every office desk had a PC. Yes, during that great leap forward in our civilization’s production of reams of paper, there were careers built on Information Technology. Whole new departments appeared inside all the large corporations.)

However, the Plumber, a younger man, probably younger than our kids, looked puzzled, as if “PC” meant nothing to him.

After a pause, he said, “Um--what’s PC?”  

“Oh, that’s Personal Computers,” Chris said. “The big roll out in the 80's when management in all these corporations decided that everyone’s desk—not just the secretary’s—needed one.”

The Plumber looked relieved. “Oh, man! The only thing I could come up with for “PC” was “Political Correctness.”

It was a funny moment,  a “time passes” lesson, where you suddenly see that everyday language has moved on and left you and your now antique meaning behind. 

   

~~Juliet Waldron



http://www.julietwaldron.com
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Saturday, October 14, 2017

Two Old Wimmen go to see NORMA



My friend and I went to the movies to see Met @ The Movies first offering of the season NORMA by Bellini. My friend went to NYC sixty years ago to be an actress. She was an actress, too, and has terrific stories about performers like and then taught in city schools, because that's often the way "careers" in the Arts go--your chosen professional becomes a hobby, or you starve. She's verbal, sophisticated, and she Got Experience, as we were all instructed to do we young adults of the '60's.  She is, in the language of grand opera Tesoro mio (think that's right--except maybe in the feminine).  She's got first hand stories from those days, a few about actors of the calibre of Albert Finney, who she met back when he'd just played Tom Jones (!!!)   I'm just chuffed to know her, a lovely person in my town who also shares a love of opera. When she returned home to finish up her days--NYC is no place for the old unless they are also, very much, The Very Rich--there was mutual celebration when we discovered one another. 

Neither of us had ever seen NORMA before and were unfamiliar with the story, although we vaguely knew it was Druids v. Romans. We both love the operatic style "Bel Canto," which was brought back to the stage by great divas like Ponselle, Sutherland, and Callas.  Bel Canto means "beautiful singing" which really doesn't give you much information when the subject is opera. Lots of "too many notes" if you're like the Emperor in Amadeus, but let's face it, that's basically so clueless that only an Emperor could get away with saying such a thing and go blithely unchallenged.




If you know any Rossini, you get the drift of how Norma sounds, although I think Bellini is far more entrancing, with his long lyrical lines. My friend and I were just knocked over by both the singing and the production by Sir David McVicar, whose Druids looked like--well, Druids--in a dark forest with the monster stub of an dying oak decked in skulls and swords and shields as the lurking focal point. The singers were stellar, as we Met @ the Movies folk have come to expect. Joyce DiDonato and Sonya Radvanovsky sang with balance, craft, and beauty. Both women can act and handled their closeups well. The tenor who played the point of the love triangle, the super-male Roman commander who thinks he can discard wife#1 without consequence, was played by a charming--in his actual self--Joseph Calleja.  We noted that while he played the villain, he seemed determined, in his interview, to express his personal dislike for the behavior of  male Chauvanist pig he played. 




For a libretto crafted in 1831 in Italy, the story came amazingly close to being a feminist shout out. When the two women, one older and one younger and both priestesses, discover that they are both in love with the same man, they draw together instead of fighting one another. Of course, the older woman has to sacrifice herself for the "greater good" in the end, so we can't give it full marks on liberation, however, my friend was sufficiently amazed to burst out "that's how women should treat one another." 

We could barely get back on our feet when it was over, because we'd stayed where we were during the intermission, which was filled with another fascinating look backstage at workers and machinery at this grandest of all grand opera venues. All those hours later, I was bent like 97 years and grasping the handrail all the way down the stairs from our seating. 

~~Juliet Waldron

P.S.  And is it obligatory that all movie theaters (and Casinos) have those "Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas" carpets? 





http://amzn.to/24EUxiC  Nightingale ISBN:  B00D8MEL8E



Saturday, September 23, 2017

The Songs of Norfolk Southern


We live on the wrong side of the tracks—or at least, too close to them. Our local rail line used to be  sleepy underfunded Amtrak, finally starved to death by the geniuses in Congress who don’t think passenger trains are necessary anymore—now that they all have their big black SUVs, air travel at the taxpayer's expense, and lifetime employment, all guaranteed by black bag lobbyists--plus a little attentive gerrymandering.

Now, I do like trains, and have spent a fair amount of my life living in close proximity to tracks. (Draw your own conclusions.)  I’m a believer, as far as transport goes, in these efficient movers of both freight and people.  I'd like to see the US recommit to railways again.

Despite all this friendly feeling, I must report that in the middle of the night my local Norfolk Southern regularly awakens me by conducting loud conversations. Their wee-hour prehistoric hoots, grunts, snorts, wails, and shrieks could put T Rex and all the rest of his ancient super-sized kinfolk to shame.






Around 2:30 a.m. and off and on for the next 24 hours,   ;)   I hear what I believe is signaling, perhaps when an eastbound train sidetracks, waiting for the westbound to pass. These communications eventually morph into a noisy, complex composition I'm dubbing Jet Engine Metal.



 I think I’m even getting to know the engineers too, in a way. Some of them must surely be frustrated musicians. At least that’s the conclusion I’d draw from all the back and forth, the rattle-the-windows staccato rending the air in an apparently endless series of short blasts, as if the engine suffers from a terminal cough. There are sustained hoots, followed by sudden roaring discords, as if someone has lowered a gigantic fanny onto an electronic keyboard and depressed all the keys at once. 

Finally, while I lie listening, the sound at last begins to die away in a bluesy Doppler effect. Cretaceous vocalizations diminish to pianissimo as the freight lugs another load on its way East, toward The Big City.



~~Juliet Waldron

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Friday, September 15, 2017

The Fuller Brush Saga



Those Were The Days, 1970


I’ve brushed my hair with this model -nylon handle, hard nylon bristles—since the 50’s. Over the years, I’ve bought replacements from Fuller local distributors--in Connecticut, in Tennessee and later, in Pennsylvania. The last Old Reliable came from The Vermont Country Store catalog. This, however, should have given me a clue that the unthinkable which was about to happen. 

A few weeks ago, when I went to order a new brush from Vermont folks, I found that they were no longer pictured in the personal care section of their catalog. I called them—no dice. They had my old 520 Half Round Brush, but when I inquired further, I learned that this 520 ain't the same as the old one. Now the only available "Model 520" has a wooden handle and soft boar bristles.  That sort of thing won’t even go through my hair. I may be old, but I still have hair. 

 L

To clean a hair brush it must be soaked in a hot soapy solution and then combed out, rinsed and sun dried. The old time boar bristles could stand up to such treatment, but the new cheap-o ones go from soft to softer—my balding husband has one of the wood + bristle versions, so I know. Moreover, you shouldn't soak wood. If you do, results will be dire. 

So now the search begins--either for Old Faithful--which may be waiting for me in a dusty warehouse somewhere, or in the remainder stock of some disgruntled Fuller Brush distributor I've yet to locate. I hope to get lucky and find one, but the chances, even with the 'net, are slim.



I've learned in my searches that Fuller has been sold, or more like "sold out." The industrious distributors, some of whom spent their whole lives working for the company, have been shucked off without the recompense they were originally offered.  Now they are just another set of victims of our steal your way to the top culture.






Sorry to digress into an oldster's gloom-and-doom rant about nowadays, but, damn, I'll sure miss having a good hairbrush. The current one is now beginning to lose bristles, and I dread the day when it finally has to be retired for good and all.



~Juliet Waldron

All my novels, all available publishers & formats:

Mozart's Wife
A Master Passion
Genesee
Roan Rose
Black Magic
and many others

Fly Away Snow Goose, a story set partly in the Canadian Residential Indian Schools, is a December 2017 release from Books We Love, Canadian Brides 




  

Friday, June 9, 2017

Untrainable




The old people stand in the kitchen, arms around one another, side by side, and regard the tiger cat. He sits erect, tail neatly curled around his tiger legs. They stand on the yellow linoleum beside the fridge. The cat is at rest now, but he has been swirling. and, with a nasal meow, asking for something which remains undefined. 

The old people are stymied.




The cat’s lamp eyes have exclamation points standing at attention in the center of each round green pupil. His eyes are a laser, lightly glazed with disdain for the poor mental capacity of the old people.

The woman addresses him.

 “We, your self-assigned caretakers and healthcare providers, continue, every day, to strive to serve you better. How may we help you today?”

“Yeah, cat. What do you want?” The man, annoyed because both treats and a lick of cream have been rejected, gets straight to the point.

The cat continues to stare. He’s unimpressed by monkey noises, all those different vocalizations they make.

He would like to see some action. As usual, Meow #24, though clearly enunciated, means nothing to them. Even after all these years.

Sourly, the cat thinks that the human species is, very nearly, untrainable.







Juliet Waldron
http://www.julietwaldron.com

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Enter the Smartphone




Okay! Here I am, like Constanze Mozart, making an embarassing confession. I must be one among the last people in the US to switch to a smartphone. On a trip to Atlanta to see a stellar grand-girl graduate High School, I was overwhelmed by family, both kids and grandkids, demanding that I get a "better" phone. So—I caved at last, regaled with all the storied delights that awaited me once I owned such a device.




I returned home with said smartphone tucked inside a pair of socks. We had been too busy with visiting back and forth from one side of Atlanta to the other and hanging out, or attending various graduation festivities to go searching for a case through the always mind-boggling traffic.   I'd figured this would be a good time to make the big change, as there  I’d have two sons, two DILs and a grand girl to instruct me in at least some of the Major Arcana.




I was once considered a tech savvy person, but those days are loooong gone. There’s a certain Luddite pride in still using a genuine IBM keyboard from the 80’s, hitched to 2004's computer. It is, however, getting to be more difficult to lag behind than to “get with the program,” as software (and hardware too) endlessly morph. IMHO, (as I learned to say on AIM) I suspect that all the “updating” is simply an excuse to wring more $$ from us hapless consumers. 

One of my friends has a terrific notion about a kind heart software firm (!) who would build MS65, a program guaranteed to run without chronic episodes of illogic/insanity (could I perhaps be alluding to MS 10??) and not to change or alter in any way for a decade. That’s about the right amount of time for many of us less sophisticated cotton-tops to learn new software.



I’m under no illusions, though, I’ll soon be scrapped and dissembled for the metal value of my components, along with my beloved Wang PC which still crouches sadly in the back of a closet.  Stability is not what software developers are into these days—the more things fail to work properly, I guess, the better it is for IT, or something. Anyway, while I’m griping, what’s with the penchant for hiding the most commonly used operations three or four—or five--pull downs deep? Is it so we have to humiliate ourselves and buy the latest copy of “…For Dummies”? And what’s with that “Search” that leads you into Alice in Wonderland conversations with "Cortana." (And, hell, I'm not fooled. It's just that g-d paperclip tarted up and back in our faces again.   Couldn’t "search" have just searched, as the word indicates that it does?

This morning, I awoke to the sound of chimes—my new phone, of course. I’d set the alarm, hitched it to the wall socket and left it wakeful. Now, I leapt out of bed, and attempted to turn the alarm off without first putting on my glasses. Next thing I knew, I’d taken four blurry pictures of myself--nothing you want to keep, especially those taken first thing in the morning. It took a few minutes before I managed to figure out how to put the camera back to sleep and delete the alarm. 




How did I, whose first and foremost mental image of “phone” remains the graceful black candlestick apparatus in my grandparent’s living room, enter a world where a small slim box in my hand can deposit checks, take pictures, tell time, and connect me to the internet and thence conduct me into untold wonders of consumption?  




~~Juliet Waldron, who just keeps getting older...