Welcome to The Squeaky Pen

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

Friday, April 27, 2012

Slippers and Donuts and Aluminum Poles

I went to bed with a headache last night, which is unusual because I'm not the headache type. Today I'm thinking the pain in my head was actually dreams trying to get out. And they succeeded. 

One dream was that I adopted a baby boy, a rolly-poly thing with bright green eyes. He was about six months old and at one point he walked across the room wearing pink slippers, announcing loudly "Pink is my favorite color!"

My brain segued into what I like to call my meeting management dreams, aka stress dreams. It was time for the local art show, which I'm currently organizing, and my house began to fill with friends I haven't seen in a long time, one of whom arrived with two fat kittens and a dog. My home was transformed into an animal menagerie, and just when the toilet in the laundry room tipped over (I don't have a toilet in my laundry room) the local diner owner arrived with 8 large frosting-covered donuts to contribute to the art show. She advised, "Sell them for five dollars apiece!" and then marched off. As I watched her vanish through the back fence, it began to snow. In June. 

Finally, just before I woke up, my dream transported me to Long Island where I was sitting in my SUV. A man approached the driver's side and asked me to open the door, told me he thought I was driving his car. I rolled down the window and told him this was my car, at which point he shoved a long aluminum pole through the window into my chest and growled "Give me all your money mother#@*%$#!" Then my eyes popped open to see a small fuzzy dog staring at me, whining to go outside.

My headache is gone, it remains gloomy outside, and tonight I take some aspirin...and maybe a sleeping pill.


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Old Minds Think Best

I was napping on the sofa the other day, TV murmuring in the background. When I opened my eyes I focused on something across the room, something dangling from the lamp.

A spider.

There was a time when I would have leapt to my feet and swatted such a bold beast who clearly didn't understand my time-honored arachnid rules: stay out of my sight and live happily, I shall not hunt you down; appear before me and take your chances.

This time, though, maybe because I was still half asleep, I pondered the thing. It was a small spider, tan in color with long legs, a living miracle in minature. I watched it drift down from the lamp on its fiber, appendages networking the air. Then I watched as the little fellow settled on the window seat and traveled west in no hurry, finally reaching the mountainous television (mountainous, at least, to him), which was scaled with determination and purpose. The spider then crossed the top of the box and disappeared, maybe back to a warm lamp home, maybe up the curtain and to parts known only to creatures with four sets of legs.

I lay there thinking about how many spiders I've murdered over the years, tiny Charlottes who for all I know had a treasury of babies waiting somewhere for mother's return. I thought about the spider's province: the lamp a skyscraper, the family room a country, the back yard a galaxy. Maybe there in spider world exist governments and holidays and deities and all other manner of civilization about which I have been callous, I the lumbering human who on my way to bed crushes without thought an important member of eight-legged society. The woolgathering made me almost misty and I heard a tiny voice whisper, "These are old people thoughts, introspections of those whose brains have had too many years of thinking." I drifted back to sleep.

The spider reappeared the following day. I looked up and he was clinging there on the ceiling above, his form now quite clear on the white paint. A student of life, I reached for the computer to identify him and was surprised to see so many spider variations, dozens with names like Wolf and Garage and Trapdoor, Ladybird and Florida and Orb-weaver. I then stumbled onto an image of a Brown Recluse, which many claim inhabit these parts. Scowling, I looked at the ceiling and back at the computer screen, then back at the ceiling. Could it be?

After some descriptive paragraphs about the Brown Recluse and its bite, paragraphs containing words like white blisters, itching, nausea, vomiting, fever, chills, shock, ache, skin deterioration, scarring, necrosis, and long painful recovery, not to mention photographs of large oozing lesions that made my eyes bug out cartoon style, I clicked my computer off, folded a newspaper, and smacked the hell out of Mr. Living Miracle Ceiling Crawler. Don't know for sure if it was a Brown Recluse. Don't care.

Beware the vacuum cleaner, o universe of spiders. On spring cleaning day my long years of brain activity will not reveal compassion toward your kind. Whether Loxosceles reclusa or not, I will launch a preemptive strike against the air-breathing arthropods who inhabit my home. 

So much for tender-hearted reverie, which I've decided to save for when I really am old.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Tomorrow Had Better Be Another Day

It's been a challenging 24 hours. Last night while strolling from my family room to kitchen, I slammed full-on into the leg of my sofa with my right middle toe, breaking it nicely (the toe, not the sofa leg). Said toe is currently the color of an over-ripe eggplant.

I drove to New York City today and made a phone call while on the George Washington Bridge, causing me to miss my exit onto the Henry Hudson Parkway. I rerouted myself through questionable neighborhoods, got lost, and after driving down a one way street the wrong way, which was accompanied by frantic gesticulating from a dozen or so  bicycle riders, I finally arrived at my hotel an hour late. I scrambled to prepare for dinner, which was a lovely experience until I visited the rest room and dipped part of my outfit into the toilet bowl.

I'm now in a room high above Broadway, my throbbing purple toe elevated, my dripping outfit rinsed and dangling from the shower rod. I am too weary to write more and can only hope for a better day ahead. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Girl-On-Girl Crime

The stupidity of politics never ceases to amaze me. The latest hubbub, over Republican Ann Romney chattering about America's economic problems and Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen firing back that Mrs. Romney, a stay-at-home mom, has never worked a day in her life and therefore isn't qualified to comment about economic strife, is a prime example. Because, folks, this isn't really about how Democrats or Republicans feel. It's about the reigniting of an endless and absurd war in which women have been engaged since the feminist movement propelled millions of us into the work force, a war with the heading "Who's better? Mothers who work outside of the house or moms who stay home with the kids?"

Post Rosie the Riveter back in the 1940s, cultural tales lead us to believe that women stepped lightly into the fifties in heels and belted pastels, lived in saltbox houses in flowered neighborhoods, drove station wagons, and tousled the heads of Beaver Cleaver types who skipped off to school after a fine mommy-prepared breakfast. Then, the story continues, came the uncertain sixties, which brought with them bra burning and rebellion "against the family." The seventies and ensuing decades supposedly featured women clawing their way up corporate ladders and leaving latchkey kiddies behind to fend for themselves. Today, at the apex of this family-destroying female phenomenon, conservative pundits wring their hands over offspring destruction in the wake of working mothers while liberal counterparts insist moms who work are smarter and send well-rounded, independent progeny into the world.

It seems to me it's time for a reality check. Indeed, there was many a suburban mom who waited with cookies and milk for fifties tots returning from school, not to mention plenty of scorched bras, ladder climbers, and latchkey kids in the decades to follow. But where is the proof that children of stay-at-home moms turn out better and that working moms have troubled kids? Or vice versa? Or that raising children is "the hardest job in the world?" And who started this debate in the first place? Probably not mothers. More than likely, this girl on girl crime was kicked off by political candidates and clever statisticians who set conservative and liberal moms against each other in a rabid lust for the "female" vote.

Speaking from my own experience, I had a working mom. She didn't have the luxury of staying at home because she, along with my dad, needed to put food on the table. My sister and I didn't go on a crime spree because the lady of the house was putting time in at a local factory. We went about our business, attended school, did our homework, cooked some meals, and picked up the slack in household chores. Mothers of some of my friends also worked...as secretaries, grocery store clerks, nurses, farmers' wives, and teachers...and other mothers didn't. In the end whether or not our mothers had outside jobs didn't seem to matter a bit as to how we turned out, and never, not once, do I recall any of these hardworking women pointing a finger at another mom because they went out to work, or because they stayed home. Furthermore, with all due respect to Mrs. Romney, all jobs are hard, whether it's raising kids or milking cows or running a company or lifting 50 pound bags of dog food eight hours a day, the latter of which my mother did while raising two kids, keeping a home, tending a husband, and caring for an elderly mother who lived upstairs. Ms. Rosen saying Mrs. Romney never worked a day in her life was also inappropriate. I'm sure Mrs. Romney worked plenty hard raising five boys. And if she did work hard...so what? We all make choices in the work we do. To argue about who does what better and who works harder and that stay-at-home moms don't understand economics and that working moms are doing a disservice to their kids is, in the end, asinine. Cultural legend aside, women have been toting that barge, lifting that bale, and raising that kid for millennia. 

It's high time women stopped fighting about how hard it is to be a stay-at-home mom versus how hard it is to raise kids with a full-time out-of-the-house job. It's time instead to turn the fists away from each other and aim at the appropriate target: the slinking politicians -- not to mention inflammatory cable TV talking heads --who are pitting women against each other to shape an election.


Friday, April 13, 2012

April Observations

Not too long ago in these parts -- back in March when the mercury touched 85 -- we were fretting about global warming. Be careful what you wish for. It snowed yesterday, not that any of it stuck, and a chill in the air has caused fires to be lit in my back room every night. The buds on the trees outside my windows seem stuck. They poked heads out around St. Patrick's Day and now are paralyzed like the rest of us, wondering what's next.

Titanic sank 100 years ago April 15, yet another tragic example of making pronouncements to the void and asking for trouble, pronouncements like this ship is unsinkable. Listeners inhabiting the void, those ultimate karma generators, apparently remarked, "Let's find out." 

My friend Jackie is here this week. We took a drive today, as we often do on her visits. After some time spent on country roads, where we spied wild turkeys and Canada geese on take-off, we stopped at Henry's Cafe in Earlville. Henry Moore, an old pal and former classmate, has opened a corner place featuring coffee and pizza and wraps along with other culinary treats. Henry has lively eyes and deft hands, the latter of which he used to construct a delectable calzone that became my supper. Well done, old friend, Earlville is lucky to have you.

Big excitement on American Idol. Jessica Sanchez, the tiny girl with a big pipes, was America's bottom choice on Thursday. Maybe it's just my cynical mind but something seemed a bit contrived about this drama. On Wednesday the judges waggled their fingers and threatened voters that not calling in could result in their favorite singer being eliminated. And sure enough, the results were the predicted "shocker." Of course the judges used their one save on the diminutive Ms. Sanchez and all is right in Idol World. My own prediction: Jessica will not be in the bottom three next week, but will instead have made a crowd-stomping comeback, all thanks to Randy and J-Lo and Steven imploring viewers to save this diva-in-waiting. Or maybe I'm just more suspicious late at night.

Harry was subjected to a bath this evening. He remains fluffed up like a feather duster and smelling, as promised on the label of his doggie shampoo, "clean and fresh." My puffy pet will have been my roommate two years in May. I ponder that my boy has in canine time aged 14 years since arriving at my doorstep. What must that feel like, to age so fast?

I am ready for golf.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Where The Brightest Lights Shine

There are so many things to love about a city. The hustle. The twinkling lights. The theater and restaurants. The anticipation of possibilities. In a city you're a wee frog in a big pond, but there's always a chance -- no matter how small -- that if you really want to, if you take a stand and really believe, you can make a difference.

I'm crazy about cities. These days, though, I'm a bit crazier about small towns. There's a simple richness in small towns that big places, as wonderful as they may be, are lacking. 

In cities you have traffic jams. In small towns you just have jams, the strawberry or raspberry kind, homemade by a friend and dropped off on your porch.

In cities you're a dog with a bone, pawing your way to the top. In small towns there are dogs, too, of course; like the neighbor dogs, all of whom have barks you recognize. There's also the lady at the bank who, when you exit the drive-through and she sees your pup in the car, includes a milk bone with your deposit receipt.

In New York City there's the Garden, where the Knicks play. In my small-town garden there are no Knicks. Only flowers and a raggedy patch of chives.

Folks ride bikes in cities, speeding past wearing latex suits and stern expressions. In small towns bike riders are usually kids in a different style of suit -- that for swimming -- their towels flapping casually behind as they head for the eastside pool.

I've hovered high above many a city, gliding down toward the runway and taking in the breathtaking landscape of a million lights. Nowadays, now that time has marched on, it's the rising sun over the edge of a nearby hill that does my heart good, a glow of light that promises the possibilities of a new day in a little place where I've known the man who owns the grocery store since he was 13 and where the smiling face of the woman at the post office is the same smiling face of the girl I stood next to at my high school graduation. We don't have skyscrapers here. We don't have a subway or a Broadway or fancy coffee in Internet cafes. We just have each other, and a feeling that, if you really want to, if you take a stand and really believe, there's always a chance you can make a difference.  

Friday, April 6, 2012

Sneakers, Heels, Stilettos, Stilts...The Sky's The Limit

I know a number of people who believe nothing they see on so-called nonfictional television, whether we're talking about the news, or shows featuring talk, variety, or reality. This fact, that various people in my circle believe everything on TV is staged or contrived, is irrelevant to me. What is relevant to me is that there's something I don't believe when I flip the TV channels: I don't believe what's going on with women's shoes.

For some time now, and I can't really say how long ago I noticed this trend, girls and women on all sorts of programs are teetering into view in shoes with 4-inch, 5-inch, even 6-inch heels. Somewhere along the way shoe designers decided to test the waters to see just how high they could go before celebrity women -- or celebrity wannabes -- would say okay, that's enough. We're not falling for this fashionista nonsense, these things hurt our feet and are downright dangerous, so stop with the sky-high heels already. Thus far that doesn't seem to have happened.

Forget for a minute the sheer peril of clomping around on stilettos as tall as a good sized pepper mill. This type of lofty footwear cancels out the point of wearing heels in the first place. Heels make a woman feel confident and sexy. While flats are sensible and easy on the arches, they don't do anything for the female figure. Heels, even modest ones of an inch or two, add a curve to the leg and a pop to the butt. The idea of the heel is to improve the looks, or so I always thought.

Like so many times when a good idea goes too far, pleasant-looking high heel shoes have jumped the shark into clown territory. Women wearing heels that high don't look better, they look ridiculous; yet for some reason, because a designer adds some rhinestones and a big price tag, the ladies atop twinkling daggers and shaky ankles think they look fabulous. On shows like American Idol innocent country girls now wobble onto the stage like toe-pointing ballerinas, and heaven forbid producers suggest they make their entrance down a flight of stairs. Instead of striding confidently into a performance, gentler sex singers clutch the railing with darting eyes, imagining that at any moment their most important appearance on live TV will be spent launching forward from pitchfork tines and catapulting face-first onto Randy Jackson's lap.

How high -- and half-baked -- will shoe heels go? That's up to our celebrity pals, I guess. Sooner or later after a Beverly Hills Housewife or the next American Idol topples over and shatters a leg, the trend will likely return to less fanciful footwear. Until then we can only hope the mother ship of this shoe invasion -- Lady Gaga -- will continue to use good sense by hiring a fellow to guide her see-sawing self along, highlighting the image of octogenarian on icy sidewalks. Her grand entrance may not be pretty, but by god, it's fashionable!


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Tuesday, April 3, 2012

It's Only Money, Honey

Some of the conversations I've had in the last two weeks about the lottery:

At the Bank
I withdrew a couple of hundred bucks. The teller advised: "Don't spend all that on lottery tickets, although if you do that'll be okay with me because I'm going to win and quit this job!"

With The Family
When the lottery was at $80 million, my sister said if she won she'd give me five million. I became annoyed. Only five million?? She said her plan was to dole out five million dollars to various family members, then give a million dollars each to 50 others to change their lives. I continued to be put out that I was only getting five while my cousin -- who was also slated to receive the same as I --  purred "I'll be happy if you only give me a million, Pat." Things became heated and finger pointing ensued, pointing that implied I was no good and greedy, which, in the context of this conversation, I was. My ridiculous family and I were arguing about lotto winnings my sister had not and probably would never receive.

From The Friends
I've mentioned my friends Gloria and Ed on this blog before. Gloria and Ed seem to be quite fearful of winning the lottery, which begs the question why they would even buy a ticket in the first place. But Ed did buy one when the lottery got up to $380 million or whatever the number was this week. Then they started wringing their hands and sharing concerns: 

"We'll have to move! Everyone will know who we are and where we live!"
"We'll need to hire security."
"People will want to borrow money."
"How could we possibly spend all that money?"
"What would we buy?"
"We'd have to hire financial planners, and how would we know whom to trust?"

It's funny how lottery fever sweeps over people, causing agony and arguments and optimism in those who haven't even won, and in some who didn't even play. I guess the money would be nice, and I like my sister's idea about changing people's lives (of course I wasn't serious about five million not being enough to suit me). I also appreciate the worry that comes with having so much cash in the bank, and speaking of the bank...yeah, not having to work anymore seems appealing. Still, I didn't bother to buy a ticket this week. When I look around at where I've been and where I'm going and the people I've been lucky enough to have pass through my life I feel, corny as it sounds, that I already won the lottery a long time ago. 

About Me

Newspaper columnist; blogger; author of Delta Dead; author of 101 Tip$ From My Depression-Era Parents; author of Australian Fly; editor: "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