Welcome to The Squeaky Pen

...where life is slow, and ripe with rural treasures

Monday, February 27, 2012

This and That

We finally got some snow. While I've been enjoying the strange warm weather, there's been a tiny (tiny) piece of me wondering what's happened to our classic snowbanks this time of year. There are little white flowers, over which I stand puzzling with hands on hips, that keep popping up near the driveway. But last weekend I was reassured that we are indeed at February's end. Snow fell and temperatures dropped and the wind whipped with such fury that I huddled in my quilts, terrified the big tree out back would be blown onto the house and its branches into and through my bedroom window to skewer me in my sleep. The tree stayed put and I concluded my feelings about classic February are misguided. 

I took a rather intense fall recently. I've never been accused of being graceful, but this incident was more stupid than clumsy. I was cutting across the lawn to my sister's house one night and slammed shin-first into a tree stump that I'd maneuvered around a hundred times. In pure Dick van Dyke flip over the hassock style, I took a header into the grass. I sat there for several seconds assessing the damage, and was pleased to find that while my shin was screaming pain, my bones were intact. I was rather proud of myself that I still had it, "it" being the ability to take a fall. Funny, how as we get older that falling isn't an embarrassment anymore. If we can catapult over a stump and walk away, that's a badge of honor. Time's marching band, beating that drum.

I was on an airplane recently and sat next to a woman who was wearing so much perfume my throat closed up. Why do some people, more frequently than not female people, think it's a good idea to douse themselves in scent, especially when they're getting on an airplane or going to a movie where they'll be in close quarters with other people? I wanted to tap her on the arm and ask that very thing, ask if she noticed my hoarse voice and that I'd been coughing and blowing my nose for three hours because of her, and how I really wanted to understand her thought process when she'd gotten dressed this morning. "Do you even give this any thought when you let loose with the atomizer, about how someone sitting next to you might respond to all that Obsession or White Diamonds or Black Pearls you're wearing? Did it for one second enter your pea brain that the reeking swirl of what you think smells good might be offensive to somebody else?" Just as I was about to launch she turned to the young man sitting next to her, patted his cheek, and said "I love you son."

So I let it go.

I think I'm ready for spring.

Friday, February 24, 2012

A Ghost Story

Let me begin by asserting that I am not a nut. I assert this because today I'm going to talk about the ghost who resides in my home.

I grew up in a house teeming with spirits, something my sister and I understood well but never discussed until we were adults. We were "spook-sensitive" so to speak, and got used to the underlying tremble of homes that seemed empty but were (we knew) not. So when I walked into this house that first day with the realtor and experienced "the shiver" it was not particularly disturbing to me. I've felt the shiver many times, the sensation that air in a certain room or hallway is somehow thicker than it should be; a feeling of being watched, causing you to turn around to look at the nothing behind you; overall, the perception that you are not alone when in fact you are.

The house I now own, once a showplace I'm told, was worn out when I bought it, with sagging ceilings and battered woodwork. On closing day I found buckshot in the walls, leaking bathtubs, cracked linoleum, and one sleeping porch that looked like it would topple onto the driveway if a strong wind kicked up. Under the damage and abuse, though, I saw beauty, and as renovations over the next year progressed, its charm and splendor re-emerged. Still, the shiver remained.

My house, from what I can deduce from old papers, was built sometime in the mid-1800s and was occupied by a family named Storrs: the parents, Hiram E. and Eunice; and three children, Hiram H., Ida, and Mary. I've come across the names of family members Eunice, Ida, and Hiram H. only recently. Since 2003 when I bought the house, the only names I'd heard were Hiram E. (the father) and Mary Storrs, the latter of whom I assumed to be Hiram E.'s wife. And from Day One, I knew without question -- and without good reason -- that the ghost who occupied my upstairs hall was Mary Storrs.

In the beginning the sensation that some spirit was lurking around in the long second-floor hallway was only that: a sensation. I would sometimes stand at the top of the front stairs and suddenly feel a presence behind me. Then little things started to happen. My nephew Thad often spent the night and remarked several times that he'd caught sight of something passing by the bedroom doorway, something like the whisper and a glimpse of a long white dress. Twice in my first months here I felt the sigh of air against my cheek, once as I lay in bed, and again while sitting on the sofa in the upstairs study. These phenomena are easily explained away by the naysayers, of course. "Paranoia. Imagination. Breeze from a cracked-open window. The vapors." I don't bother to argue with naysayers because I know what I know. I know what I feel.

Upstairs hall
Also early on, I hosted a sort of "fun" and informal seance. There were several of us here, including both of my nephews. We were seancing in the dining room with all the doors closed, lights out, candles lit and so on to create the right ambience. At one point during the seance the room grew cold and my younger nephew Nick, then in his twenties, got very upset and said there was someone in the room wearing a Civil War uniform (more on this later). Shortly thereafter there was a loud bang on the doors that connected to the living room beyond, causing all of us to spin into hysterical frenzy. Since everybody in the house was in the dining room at the time (making all of us wonder just who [or what] banged on the opposite side of that door), we put a quick end to our seance and a permanent end to ghostbusting at my lovely though spooky address.

And here's a long story short: my friend Lucy from Long Island came to visit in 2005. I stationed her in one of the front bedrooms, the one I call "the blue room." Lucy was supposed to stay a couple of days, but the morning after she arrived she bolted out of the house to her car, calling after me, "I need to get out of here. That room in haunted!" I never did find out what happened.

The Blue Room
Fast forward to 2007, when a pipe burst in an upstairs bathroom and destroyed my recently renovated kitchen. A team of insurance people came in to gut what was left of the room and remove the water-soaked plasterboard. I left them to their work and spent the night elsewhere. When I returned the following morning the team, which had also returned, was sitting around eating lunch. One of the women asked me: "Do you have a ghost in this house?" Eyebrow raised, I asked what prompted the question. It seems one of the workers -- a young man of 19 -- had seen a full-body apparition in the upstairs hall late the night before. The phantom, as explained by the ashen-faced worker, was a woman dressed in white Victorian clothes. She was standing at the far end of the hall by the street window (and outside the blue room), gazing at the highly freaked out young fellow who, I might add, left the house never to return. I responded to this story and to the "do you have a ghost" inquiry with a sly smile, because by this time I'd grown used to my ghost, and in fact rather enjoyed the notion that other life, in whatever manifestation, shared my accommodations. "Yes," I said to the questioner. "I think her name is Mary."

Finally, a year or so ago a local woman came to call. Her grandparents had lived in the house from the late 1930s through the 1980s, and she had spent a great deal of time here. We got to chatting and I mentioned my spirit. "Oh!" she said brightly. "You mean Mary Storrs?"

As a person who enjoys the idea of having those from the great beyond still hanging around their former domicile, one might think I would have pursued information about Mary Storrs sooner. However, it was just a month or so ago when I wandered into the historic society in my town and discovered a box full of diaries written by Ida Storrs Dietz, the daughter of Hiram E. and Eunice, and the sister of Mary Storrs and young Hiram H. The diaries date from 1864-1919, and are a treasure trove of information about the house, the people who lived here, and the times of their life more than a century ago: there is talk of the weather, the gardens out back, the first house downtown to be illuminated by gaslight. There is much talk of disease: consumption and small pox, and the most prevalent it seems, the "grippe" (aka, influenza). In fact, in 1893, the entire family was sick with the flu. Father Hiram, Mother Eunice, and Aunt Mary Crary, the latter of whom also lived here, all died within a three week period in December. The heartfelt diary entry by Ida on December 25, 1893, said this:

"Sad Christmas. Warm, just like spring. Doesn't seem like Christmas. Mother died two weeks ago, Aunty a corpse upstairs, and Father dying...Frank brought a diagram of West Hill Cemetery for us to look at. I combed Aunty's hair. Father weaker and did not seem as if he would live through the night."

Then, on December 27:

"Pleasant I think, only rough traveling, no snow. Father seemed to be weaker this morning, he died at eleven forenoon, did not seem conscious after about this morning. He seemed to suffer pain after that but was so weak could not groan out loud and finally died very easy. This makes three that have died in this house in less than three weeks. Who next?"

Hiram H. Storrs, Mary Storrs, Ida Storrs, 1855
I'm sorting through these rich, wonderful, and sometimes tragic writings, learning about the Storrs family and, in particular, about Ida, who married Malcolm Dietz and had a baby, Grace. Grace died at age 3, followed by Malcolm himself just 9 years later, when Ida was 36. After the Storrs parents and Aunt Mary Crary died, Ida and her sister Mary Storrs lived here together for almost 30 years. The ladies hosted visitors and visited others on a daily basis, cooked and baked, delivered breads to ailing neighbors, attended functions at the Opera House, tended the rooms -- one still called "the nursery" years after Baby Grace was gone -- collected antiques (to which Ida referred as her "relics"), and often rode the train to Binghamton to visit the orphanage to be sure the children there were being well cared for. They were generous, sending donations of clothes and money to an organization in New York City called The Home for the Friendless. Ida had hoped to donate the house to the village as a museum, and left money in her will for the indigent of town, asking trustees to buy Christmas gifts and host a holiday dinner for those less fortunate. I can see from the small number of entries I've read so far that Ida and Mary were kind, charitable women from a well-to-do, kind, and charitable family.

Ida Storrs Dietz died in 1921, at age 74. Mary Storrs, Ida's sister and my ghost, never married and lived here alone another 18 years until she died in 1938. She was 87.

L-R: Mary Storrs, Ida Storrs Dietz, with friends and frequent visitors Carrie Davis, Helen Wilcox, and Emma Walker, 1914 
I am not haunted by the spirit of Mary Storrs. Rather, I am humbled to take care of this place, the Storrs home that, after several inhabitants in between, I now call my home. I don't really know, of course, if Mary Storrs wanders my hall upstairs, drifting about in some alternate time in her white Victorian dress, gliding a pale hand across my "relics." I do know, however, that if she is here, I am honored at her presence. I think of the puff of air against my cheek when I first moved in and wonder if she was showing me gratitude, in the only way she could, for fixing crumbling plaster and planting flowers in the back garden. I like to think she watches me now, that she watches Harry prancing and my family gatherings and my visitors, who don't come and go on a daily basis like hers and Ida's did, but who are certainly here every week, socializing and appreciating a shiver of flesh that suggests others have been here before. I also like to think that the puff of air I felt nearly a decade ago, when whistling workmen with saws and paint were freshening rooms where corpses once lay on a sad Christmas in 1893, was a spirit kiss thanking me for breathing life back into these walls.

Oh yes. About the long-ago seance and my nephew Nick upset that someone wearing a military uniform was in the room with us? I discovered in my research weeks ago that Hiram H., the only brother of Ida and Mary, died in Louisiana at age 23. He died as a soldier. In the Civil War.

(In keeping with the mood of this post, I include here the link to a movie trailer that features a local aspiring actress, Anna Fagan. Good luck Anna. May the spirits be with you. http://www.indiegogo.com/The-Visitation )

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Taking A Moment to Stop and Smell the Birthday Roses

The first birthday I actually remember celebrating was when I turned six. My mother had been plotting a surprise and pulled in my dad as co-conspirator. He summoned me to go with him to the dump (in those days it wasn't a landfill; it was more of a spot where people just went ahead and "dumped" their unwanted stuff). I loved going to the dump with all of its potential treasures, and in keeping donned my dump clothes: horrible plaid pants, a mismatched striped shirt, ratty old coat and knit hat. Off we went, and upon our return I was horrified to walk into the living room, dressed like Fred Sanford, to be greeted by a dozen squealing friends in frilly party dresses. There's a photo somewhere of six-year-old me in my dump clothes looking extraordinarily ticked off.

Over the years, of course, there were other birthday celebrations. I had skating parties in high school, my birthday being in winter, and parties in general in college and beyond. Scattered throughout my belongings are pictures of me smiling with flowers at age 20, toasting with a glass of champagne at age 30, twirling in a velvet dress at age 40, and nuzzling a dolphin in Mexico at age 50. A few come to mind that were not so great, but all in all I've been lucky. My birthday, the only day of the year that is technically mine, generally has turned out to be a pretty good time.

This year's birthday, I'm happy to report, was one of the good ones. With our now dozens of ways to communicate I got emails, text messages, phone calls, flowers, cards, and visitors, not to mention a fine dinner and fireside chatting with family and a hundred or so salutations on Facebook. I feel fortunate to have so many people who care about me, something I don't really ever forget but which comes clearly into focus on this one day a year when I awake and murmur, "Another twelve months gone by. I wonder what's next?"

With all my possessions, with all my travels, and with all it seems I've accomplished in five-plus decades on this planet, there's really nothing in the world like the people who populate my life. Birthdays are good for remembering that.

This is not to say, however, that we learn much as time passes. Today when two of my friends stopped by I looked a bit like Frankenstein's bride. I wasn't wearing dump clothes, but it was close. Maybe next year I will learn, and will don a ball gown when I climb out of bed to see, at 57, what wondrous things are headed my way.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Then and Now

The News then: "There's been a storm in New York City. Forty are confirmed dead."
The News now: "This is a terrible story. Please be prepared, some of these pictures are difficult to see. You may want your children to leave the room. There's been a terrible storm in New York City...yes, that's right, I said in New York City. Forty people are dead, more are sure to die. Awful. Just awful."

Language then: "He and I went to the store.
Language now: "Me and him went to the store.

Watching TV then: "Now Beaver, you know your mother and I never fight."
Watching TV now: "I want a bleeping divorce, and I don't give a bleep about the bleeping kids or the bleeping house or your bleeping money, so bleep you!"

Driving then: Get in the car, put the kids in the back, drive away.
Driving now: Get in the car, secure the kids' car seats, insert the kids, double check security features, turn cartoons on back seat TV, click the seatbelts, lock the windows, lock the doors, insert the blue tooth, insert the CD, plug in the GPS, drive away.

Dealing with kids then: "Get your butt up and go to school, and when you finish school, get your butt out and find a job."
Dealing with kids now: "Oh honey, I know it's so hard and I know you're tired, but you really need to get out of bed and go to school, but if you really really feel like you can't get up it's okay if you take a mental health day. And don't worry about a job. Daddy and I will support you with our unconditional love and of course our unconditional money until you find a job you really really like and that you really really deserve."

Leaving the house then: Leave.
Leaving the house now: Check the back door lock, check the side door lock, check the timers, check the windows, check the motion detectors, set the alarm, triple lock the door, leave.

Communication then: "I need to make a long distance call. Can you ring me when you're off the party line?"
Communication now: "OMG! WTF? U R 2 Cool!!

Love then: See someone, wink, date, feel a tingle, fall in love.
Love now: Write and post a personal profile online (with sexiest possible photo), sift through potential love interest profiles, send an email to one, check email responses and select good-looking match with closest interests to your own, set a time to meet, set a place to meet, alert all friends and family as to where and when and who, meet, discuss similarities and differences, discuss feelings that "resonate," be sure long-term goals are on "the same page," meet again, articulate "dream vacation," articulate "dream job," articulate "dream home location," begin dating, share views on staying fit, share views on children, review financial statements and portfolios, clarify prenuptial requirements, discuss "dream retirement," and (maybe) fall in love.

Cleaning then: Mop the floor, dust the bureau, wash the dishes.
Cleaning now: Disinfect doorknobs, disinfect countertop, disinfect floor, disinfect toilet, disinfect sink, disinfect laundry, disinfect dishes, and when finished disinfect hands.

Weddings then: Go to justice of the peace, get a keg of beer, buy a cake at the grocery store, invite some friends to the house, go to Niagara Falls.
Weddings now: Hire wedding planner, select weekend, host family golf tournament on Friday afternoon, host rehearsal dinner for 200 of friends in fine restaurant on Friday evening, host wedding and reception for 500 friends in state-of-the-art venue on Saturday, host brunch in fine restaurant for 50 friends on Sunday morning, spend $75,000 on food, open bar, flowers, dresses, shoes, hair, make-up, jewelry, tuxes, gifts, band, rings, limos, cake, and go on month-long honeymoon trip to Europe.

Dealing with dogs then: They lived outside, they ate table scraps.
Dealing with dogs now: They sleep in beds, they eat heart-healthy shiny-coat-causing teeth-cleaning natural homemade whole foods in fun shapes and sizes...while wearing a sweater.

Politics then: A couple of people throw their hats into the ring, tell us what they'll do for the country, we vote and elect one.
Politics now: A dozen people spend millions of dollars berating opponets, shout each other down in televised debates, and run hundreds of ads telling us why the other socialist/communist/fascist guy is going to bring the country to the brink of ruin, all the while mugging for cameras and inspiring pundits to collect millions of dollars in advertising while shouting each other down and causing voters to collapse in apathy by the time an election rolls around.

Then had some problems for certain. But it's no wonder we're all so worn out in the Now.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Whitney: A Sad Goodbye

The first time I heard Whitney Houston sing was in 1985. I was in a car. I can't recall who was driving, where I was, or where we were going, but I remember the song coming on the radio, Saving All My Love For You, and my reaction, which was "Who is THAT?" What a voice. Hitting notes that were astonishing. Interpreting words that raised goosebumps on my arms. Her voice and the song were perfect. Beautiful. Timeless. I knew then I was listening to a star on the rise.

Fast forward a few years. I was living my life and Whitney Houston had become a part of it. Granted, not a big part. She was a voice I heard on the radio, a face I saw on award shows, in interviews. So beautiful, so much life in her eyes, such talent. She became part of the swirl of music and celebrity that surrounds us all.

Fast forward a few more years. Suddenly I'm watching, with peripheral vision, Whitney getting thin. And thinner. There is talk of drugs and of falling. A falling down of another lovely star for whom fame is too much. Too much money, too many cameras. I found myself in Spain on business one year and had a dream about Whitney. A dream that she had died. I came downstairs in the hotel and told a person with whom I was working that I was worried about Whitney Houston. Ridiculous. I should have been worrying about whether or not my clients were happy and instead I was wringing my hands over a women who did not and would never know my name. But I couldn't get past it. Yes. Ridiculous.

A few years ago I was passing through JFK and saw Ms. Houston. We were both standing on the curb outside the airport. I was waiting for a taxi, she was waiting for a limo. She was surrounded by battered silver trunks and a dozen other suitcases. There was no entourage, no photographer. A fellow passing by remarked that the silver trunks looked like they'd been traveling. I was about three feet away from her. She was skinny and bundled, a knit cap pulled over her head. She was wearing sunglasses, I guess to hide her identity as it wasn't really sunny. Not looking so good. She smiled at the guy and said "Yes, those trunks have been around." I wanted to approach her and say something. Say, "I had a dream about you." Of course I didn't. Her limo arrived as did my cab. She'd seen me staring and we exchanged a glance as my taxi pulled away. I thought about hearing that first song back in 1985. My mind whispered, seeing her thin frame grow smaller there on the curb, "Take care of yourself. I had a dream..." 

I was so...disheartened I guess...to hear that Whitney Houston had died. I wasn't crushed or devastated. For heaven sake, I didn't know the woman. Disheartened is the only word I know to use because it's disheartening to hear of another person joining the ranks of so many gifted artists who can't take the pressure of fame. They turn to drugs, illegal or otherwise, and seem unable to pull themselves far enough away to realize the money and the accolades and the rest of what comes with being known isn't, in the end, worth it. They give their gift -- and ultimately their very lives -- to the public, and we the public suck them dry. So here is this pretty girl, this mad-talented woman who through her successes and her gifts and her struggles touched the hearts of so many people, ending up dead in a hotel bath tub.

There are moments when I want to be famous. I want everyone to know my name, to talk about me as a brilliant writer. Well, okay, let's get real. I'm a decent writer, can certainly string sentences together and can spin a story better than some, not better than many. Could I be fiction-famous? Maybe. If I had the right connections and if I set aside walking the dog and socializing for 20-hour writing days...yes, perhaps fame could be mine. Would I turn to drugs if suddenly I couldn't walk outside without photographers and fans mobbing me? What if I couldn't go to WalMart without a disguise? At this stage in my life, I imagine I could endure the price of fame without Xanax or Valium or gin or heroin. But who knows? And I think of Whitney. Maybe she thought that, too, back when she was just a sweet girl singing at church, thought she could handle the massive pressure of millions of eyes watching and judging. There's no way to tell, really, what might happen to any of us if fame knocked at our door and we were there, smiling, to answer breathlessly,"Yes, here I am; take me on the grand ride."

Many people will be wringing their hands over poor Whitney for a long while I suppose. I've done my hand-wringing about her, when I was in a hotel in Spain, and again curbside at JFK. She was a remarkable person, now standing alongside other remarkable people: Michael Jackson and Heath Ledger and Billie Holliday; Elvis Presley, Amy Winehouse, Brian Jones, John Belushi; Jimi and Janice and Marilyn. And all the rest. Will these fame-induced drug deaths never end?

 All this just makes me sad.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Rotary, Spaghetti, and Splendid Americana

I went to a Rotary luncheon on Thursday. The last time I was at a Rotary lunch was about 30 years ago when I was a reporter and covered one for my paper. I don't actually remember much about the decades' ago event. The lunch this week, which I believe I'll remember for a long time, was steeped in Americana, a description I use with utmost respect.

There were maybe 30 Rotarians in a cordoned-off room at a local restaurant. Rotary insignias hung in strategic locations, insignias I was told represent visitors from other chapters. There was also draping and official name badges and a bell that was rung periodically for reasons I couldn't quite determine, but which was charming and brought forth some laughs. After lunch, the meeting was kicked off with all of us standing and saying the Pledge of Allegiance (I'm thinking the last time I said the P-of-A in a group of people was 45 years ago, with grade school classmates). We then sang God Bless America, and after bowing our heads for a short prayer were off and running.

Rotary has always been a staple in my town, a part of life here that people probably don't think about much but would surely miss if it was gone. And I learned a few things today that I didn't know. I was aware that Rotary sponsors our Music in the Park event during the summer. What I didn't realize is that Rotary has as part of its mission statement stamping out polio, which still exists in third world countries. I also learned that our Rotarians sponsor local foreign exchange students. In fact, the speaker this week was the sheriff from a neighboring county, whose daughter is in Denmark thanks to the very Rotarians with whom I was enjoying fish and salad. Before his presentation, the sheriff gave a nice report about how she's doing followed by a heartfelt thank you for Rotary's part in his daughter's continuing education in another part of the world.

I was at the Rotary lunch on Thursday as a guest, and as such was reminded how really special service organizations are to small towns like mine. These groups offer important though often behind-the-scenes contributions that we all take for granted. I can't speak for anyone else, but I'm happy to know that every week this particular group of people meets, has a bite to eat, plans projects, and takes time out of busy lives to quietly weave much-needed threads in the fabric of our community.

(By the way, Rotary is hosting a spaghetti supper soon. Their flier is below. Why not stop on down and show this fine organization some support.)

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

No Longer Waiting To Exhale

It's a strange February weather-wise. No snow, and today the thermometer read 53 degrees. I was out and about all day without a coat.

A friend from New Jersey (former hometown resident) was here visiting over the weekend. We took a drive this morning and thoroughly enjoyed the atypical sun and spring-like temperatures, the winter grasses flat and brown but still somehow beautiful. The car ride took us into the hills surrounding the valley that is now (again and finally) my home. Jackie remarked that it's interesting to look at this town with eyes that have seen many other places; eyes that started here, left, and have returned with so different a perspective. We mused about being young here and wanting nothing more than to get out to explore the world, or at least some other version of it. We both went exploring, which -- for us -- was the right choice. I don't think I ever took a drive when I was a teenager in Sherburne that didn't have the purpose of getting away from my parents' house, away from teachers, away from what I thought was a suffocating small town, away. Today's drive was a pleasure trip. We were thirsty to drink in sights that to others might be meaningless tilting fences and sagging barns. This hour-long automobile stroll was an unhurried delight.

I've lived here full-time just short of twelve months. My outside self has changed, but more stunning is my inside self: how I've quieted. I take pleasure in sweeping the porch, or in slicing an onion. Sometimes in the middle of the day I flop down on the bed and talk to the dog, looking into his eyes and noticing how intently he looks back. A few days ago I found a box of greeting cards that I've been meaning to sort for ten years and sorted them: birthday, get well, thank you, Christmas, sympathy. Yesterday Jackie and I went to a Super Bowl party and heard a fellow say his house is two ridges over from a certain location. Not two exits or two blocks, but two ridges. I've been mulling this expression all afternoon, and in fact pointed out the ridges on our drive today. Life has become astonishingly slow, and in this slowness I've again found my life. It's as though I've been inhaling for 30 years and now, at last, I'm exhaling. 

It feels...good.

Never have I so appreciated the expression that youth is wasted on the young. I wonder what I missed growing up here, although I wonder this with no regret. I observe now how I observe. I notice the way the sun slants off a certain hill, and marvel that I notice. Today I pointed out tree shadows and wished momentarily that I'd brought my camera, although while I might have captured the image, I couldn't have captured the emotion. Happily, the tenderness of those shadows lingers in my mind and is not ousted by the frantic rush to a train station. I still taste the winter portrait there, like a nice wine.

All things happen for a reason. My return home twelve months ago seemed premature. Now I realize, as I ponder ridges and deer prints in occasional front yard snow, that coming back to this place where family ghosts tug at my sleeve, where the moon and the maples and the smells are as familiar as my own voice in a quiet room, was simply meant to be.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Muppet vs. Puppet

Fox "News," which shall now until forever on this blog be referred to as "Fox" because, of course, there is precious little news on that program, has finally lost its collective mind.

On December 2, 2011, the Fox installment Follow The Money ran this segment, which lasted 7 minutes:

In response to Fox's charge that the new Muppet movie is brainwashing our children with dangerous liberal ideas about rich people being bad, the Muppets held a press conference on January 26. Yes. I just said that. The Muppets -- you know, those adorable funny fuzzy PUPPETS -- held a press conference to respond to Fox's allegations:

I have been sputtering about this all week to anyone who'll listen and somehow feel as though I've entered an LSD-inspired hallucination. Is Fox with its ultra-conservative agenda, the agenda that seems to instruct its media minions to use as frequently as possible buzzwords like "class warfare" and "liberal news bias" (the latter of which includes CBS, ABC, NBC, CNN, MSNBC, Newsweek, various wire services and The New York Times) so desperate for a palatable Republican candidate that they are now lumping Kermit and Miss Piggy in with the current administration as those to blame for the so-called impending American leftist/socialist morally corrupt totalitarian regime? I suspect the answer to that question is yes, they are that desperate, just as I suspect it's no coincidence that Fox is taking potshots at little guy vs. big guy themes because the man most likely to win the Republican nomination also happens to be very rich and more than a tad out of touch with the aforementioned little guy.

It is not news that the right has for years pointed fingers at "liberal" Hollywood, and it's also not news that creative types -- ie, writers, artists, filmmakers, actors, and the like -- lean toward liberal thinking, such thinking characterized by a desire for workable social programs as opposed to elite greed. And yes, if we look at films over the years, those aimed at kids or not, there is a common theme toward the disenfranchised fighting back against "the man." Take 101 Dalmatians (1961), featuring Anita and Roger, regular folks who own a bunch of pretty dogs vs. Cruella De Vill, the rich lady lusting for a spotted coat. We also have Snow White (1937), a common gal battling against her wealthy stepmother the Queen. And of course, can anyone forget the venom spewing forth from Mr. Potter in It's A Wonderful Life (1946)? Mr. Potter who, without interference from poverty-stricken George Bailey, would have turned bucolic Bedford Falls into Sin City? This message of little guy going up against big-and-maybe-wealthy guy is as old as time, going back as far (and probably farther) as poverty-stricken Jesus taking on the Romans. But now that we have what Fox and its kin keep insisting is a socialist in the White House, it seems it's time to take aim at a frog and a wig-wearing pig who apparently are the latest culprits twisting the minds of our ill-fated children and causing them to become lazy welfare-lovin' food-stamp-orderin' rich-folk-hatin' communists.

Maybe Fox's next target should be Charles Dickens, who in 1843 painted a rather dark portrait of a rich fella beating up on the poor, a fella named Ebenezer Scrooge. In fact, that's a great idea since the Muppet Christmas Carol features Scrooge AND Kermit AND Miss Piggy, all of them no doubt in socialist kahoots. Go for it, Fox! You can save some ammunition and take down literature and puppets in one fell swoop, though I'd be careful about getting rid of all the bobbing marionettes: you might lose your jobs.

About Me

Newspaper columnist; blogger; author of Delta Dead; author of 101 Tip$ From My Depression-Era Parents; author of Australian Fly; editor: ...And I Breathed (author, Jason Garner, former CEO of Global Music at Live Nation), "A History of the Lawrence S. Donaldson Residence"; "The Port Washington Yacht Club: A Centennial Perspective"; "The Northeastern Society of Periodontists: The First Fifty Years"; editor: NESP Bulletin; editor: PWYC Mainsail; past editorial director: The International Journal of Fertility & Women's Medicine; past editor of: Long Island Power & Sail, Respiratory Review; Medical Travelers' Advisory; School Nurse News; Clear Images; Periodontal Clinical Investigations; Community Nurse Forum