The Shotgun at the Market

In my six months of blogging, I have never reblogged anything before. I like to do my own writing, and like to keep things light and humorous most of the times. But this blog post resonated on such a deep level with me, I feel compelled to reblog it. An excellent post about a most troubling topic.

immanentforms

I was grilling some burgers and hotdogs for my family on Thursday, and I ran up to the supermarket because I needed more buns, some potato salad, and other things that I never remember I ran out of the last time I had a cookout. I drove the three blocks to the market, hopped out of my car and was greeted by the sight of a middle-aged white man strapping a shotgun on his back and walking into the market just ahead of me. My initial reaction was irritation. Why is this guy bringing an apparently loaded firearm into the grocery store at 6pm on a Friday? Is he trying to intimidate people? Trying to make a political point? I wanted to go to the store manager and register a complaint, but I found it hard to call up my rational objections to carrying loaded guns in public places (objections…

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Ode to The Hill, Ted Drewes and Toasted Ravioli

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If you ever lived in St Louis, you understand.  If not, I feel a little bit sorry for you…

It’s 9 PM on a Saturday night and I’m into the third day of my four day visit to St. Louis.  At the moment I can’t move.  I’ve eaten too much pasta and had a bit too much wine.  Yet again.

It’s good to be back!

I wasn’t always like this.  I used to be a relatively normal woman with normal appetites and culinary desires.  Maybe a bit of a sweet tooth.  And then we moved to St. Louis.  Paris isn’t the only place that’s a moveable feast…

Seriously?  St. Louis?  Now what state is that in….?  Illinois, Arkansas, Kansas?  You know those midwest cities in those midwest states…  Can’t keep ‘em straight.  Fly over territory.  Who know and who cares?

Big mistake.

St. Louis is one of the best kept secrets in the U.S.  Not only does it have one of the best universities of the nation – Washington University – and free (yes free!) museums and a free zoo and the second largest urban park in the U.S. and amazing old school architecture and a kick ass Mardi Gras celebration and a dedication to their professional baseball team that most cities can only dream of and Clydesdale horses roaming free in the fields at Grants Farm BUT they have some of the best food in the country.

Let me explain…

I moved to St. Louis in 2010 after living in Atlanta for five years.  Big change.  But having grown up in western Pennsylvania and then lived in southern Ohio for nearly thirty years, it felt a bit like coming home.  Medium sized midwestern city with midwestern sensibilities (translation: the mantra is shut up, suck it up, deal with it and don’t give me any crap about it.)  Minimal botox big lips, sun bleached teeth, fake tans and boob jobs.

What I didn’t expect was the food.  The incredibly amazing food. Wondrous food.  And it was all no more than ten to fifteen minutes from our house.  During rush hour.  I gained five pounds in twelve months.

There’s The Hill.  This area was originally settled by Italian immigrants and was, in a much less politically correct world, referred to as Deigo Hill.  Imagine every wonderful Italian restaurant and sandwich place you have ever been to.  Then imagine they are all within a ten square block area.  Then imagine that the prices on the menu are 30% less.  That’s The Hill.  Throw in some totally authentic Italian markets (where the clerks and some of the partrons still speak Italian to each other), Italian bakeries, salumarias, and gelato places and…well…you get the picture.

Then there’s the frozen custard.  Not only is there the famous Ted Drewes on old Route 66, but a bunch of mom and pop places. Fritz’s, Mr. Wizards, Doozles, Silky’s, Spanky’s.  All selling rich, creamy frozen paradise with the option of mixing in nearly a unlimited combination of sauces, candies, fruits and nuts to create a “concrete”.  Think a DQ Blizzard on lots and lots of steroids.

Everything from local bbq and chicken joints to soul food (Oprah made Sweetie Pies famous) to restaurants that serve only locally sourced foods to wonderful microbreweries (in the heart of Budweiser land!) to elegant, formal establishments and everything else in between.  It’s all there and tastes fabulous!

But St. Louis is so modest and unassuming about it’s food.  That’s so Midwestern…  I honestly don’t think the people living there realize how good they have it.  Until they leave.

To natives who had to move away and those of us who were transplants then then yanked out, we know.  We understand.  And we eat when we come back to visit.  Oh yes – we eat.  Fried chicken at Hodak’s, char grilled oysters at The Broadway Oyster Bar, the pasta a Zia’s, toasted ravioli at Lombardo’s, the smoked duck breast at The Shaved Duck, pretzels from Gus’, cupcakes from Sweet Art, pies from Sugaree, and on and on and on…  In a very Pavlovian response, I start salivating when I catch a glimpse of the Gateway Arch from the air or driving in on I-64 through Illinois.

So I only have one more day.  And my list of places to go is far larger than one day’s worth of eating.  Something has to go.  Or maybe not…

I wonder if it’s a coincidence that Tums are made in St. Louis?

[Full disclosure – I wrote the bulk of this on Saturday night, but did some editing today when I was less under the influence of tortellini and Chianti.  Also – just so you don’t think I’m a shill of the Greater St. Louis Restaurant Association – of the food items that are indigenous to St. Louis, I do not like gooey butter cake (too sweet), provel cheese (click the link) and their cracker crust style pizza (no explanation needed.)]

The Siren Call of “Hot Now”

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I ate four doughnuts this morning. Krispy Kreme. More like inhaled them actually. Three glazed and a chocolate frosted cream – not custard – filled. The agony and the ecstasy.

I never heard of Krispy Kreme Doughnuts until fifteen or so years ago when one opened about ten miles from my home in Cincinnati. Evidently it’s been around since 1937 – like George Takei. Oh myyyyyy…

How could I have lived such a shelter life?

Krispy Kreme does not just sell doughnuts.  Oh no….  A visit to Krispy Kreme is an adventure that engages all of the senses.  Every glorious detail of the doughnut birthing process is on display behind a glass wall.  From the moment the dough gets formed into a circle to it’s journey through the fryer to the final glazing bath on the hot finished product, you get to see, hear, and smell it all.  Doughnut Disneyland. Of course the touch and taste part of the experience – the BEST part – comes at the end.  When you buy a dozen hot glazed doughnuts five minutes out of the fryer.  And eat six.  Before you leave the parking lot.  Sometimes before you leave the store.

Krispy Kreme’s Mission as stated on their website is “…to touch and enhance lives through the joy that is Krispy Kreme.”  Best. Mission. Statement. Ever.

There is a “Hot Now” sign in the window of most Krispy Kreme’s. When it’s blazing neon red, this means that doughnuts are being born. Hot, soft, sweet, yeasty doughnuts.  The kind that make you want to lick your fingers.  Several times.  The “Hot Now” sign of the Krispy Kreme close to my house is, and this is the honest truth, ALWAYS on.  Always.  Who is safe?

A few years ago, I bought a Krispy Kreme “Hot Now” ornament for our Christmas tree.  It’s red.  When you slide the tiny On switch, it flashes.  Hot Now. Hot Now, Hot Now.  This is my favorite Christmas ornament.  Not the 30+ year old Baby’s First Christmas ones for each one of my sons.  Not the one of a kind handmade ceramic Twelve Days of Christmas collectable set from a local potter, now deceased.  Not the ornaments that were on my mother’s Christmas tree some 60+ years ago that are irreplaceable.  Hot Now. Hot Now. Hot Now.

I rarely go to Krispy Kreme anymore.  I think you know why.  It all starts by admitting there is a problem…  But I had a coupon today for $3 off a dozen and it expires in a few days.  No harm in buying a dozen for the guys who are employees of a homeless ministry I volunteer for on Mondays, I reasoned.  I took the slight detour on the way downtown that brought me face to face with the blazing red “Hot Now” sign.  Always on.  Always.

Six glazed, two chocolate frosted cream filled, two chocolate frosted glazed with sprinkles, one raspberry filled and one chocolate frosted custard [yuck] filled.  Twelve doughnuts for six people.  Perfect.  Two doughnuts won’t ruin me, I thought.

When I handed the cashier my $3 coupon she said, “You know, we’re having a special today. Buy a dozen, get a dozen free.”

And that’s when the trouble started.

The Tale of Louis and Fanny

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I’m a nice person.  Most of the time.  Kinda bitchy the rest of the time.  Just ask my husband.

Wonder who will show up today?  The classic Jekyll and Hyde conundrum…

I’m fortunate to know a few people who are truly, sincerely nice. From a healthy place.  That’s important…  They are amazing; almost saintly in their compassion, care and concern for others.  It’s just not in their DNA to be mean and nasty.  Or bitchy.  I would not be one of these people.

When I’m Dr. Jekyll, I AM a nice person.  A really nice person.  But sometimes I can overdo it with the nice.  Too nice.  Doormat nice. That’s when nice is not from a healthy place.  Dysfunctional nice. Not long after we cross over doormat nice, Ms. Hyde shows up.

I’ve found that you just can’t “force” nice.  When you try to force the square peg of “nice” in the round hole of “where no nice should ever be forced to go”, you end up with a messed up peg.  A cranky, nasty peg.   At least I do.  Paging Ms. Hyde….Ms. Ubetter Hyde…..

A few months ago, author Nancy Horan was on The Diane Rehm Show on NPR.  The topic was Nancy’s latest novel Under the Wide and Starry Sky.  It’s a novel about Robert Louis Stevenson and his ten years to his senior wife, Fanny Osbourne.  Nancy said Louis, as he was called, had a horrible dream one night that inspired him to start writing a new novel.  After writing nearly nonstop for three days, he had written 30,000 words.  I can barely write 400 in week… Anyway, Louis read what he had written to Fanny.  She didn’t like it. He didn’t like it that she didn’t like it.  Fanny thought he was being too narrow, too confining with one of the character’s sins.  But she saw the potential.  Fanny told Louis that he had the opportunity to write a truly great allegory that would be timeless and apply to all humanity if he would just widen his gaze.  Louis was a smart man – he listened to his wife.  Very smart.  He burned his first manuscript and in three more days, wrote another 30,000 words that eventually became The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  And the rest, as they say, is history…

Yin and yang, light and darkness, love and hate, nice and nasty, plums and prunes.  The duality of life.  Putting two people together to make one.  Or splitting one apart to make two.  Like death, nobody escapes.

I guess even the incredibly nice people I know have their struggles with Mr./Ms. Hyde.  Maybe they’re just more successful than most in minimizing the “power of the dark side”.  Or in accepting it and thereby transforming all of that negative juju.  That’s a lesson I’m still learning.

You know the old adage you can tell how nice a person really is by how they treat a food server?

Okay, I’m feeling better about myself now.

A No Cute Cat Video Lent

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I’m not good at giving up things for Lent.  I either pick something really lame or get a start late.  Then I usually really push the boundaries of what I’ve given up.  

Last year, I gave up drinking mochas.  I love mochas.  I’m emotionally dependent on mochas.  Some days I live for my mocha. That was a pretty major thing for me to give up.  But I let myself switch to carmel lattes.  See, boundary issues…

As an adult coming to a Christian faith tradition that does the Lent “thing”, I get it.  I understand that it’s not about denying yourself just because it’s something a church says you have to do.  It’s about heightening your awareness, your senses.  Getting out of your normal cadence to a different pace.   Being present to something larger outside of you and something miraculous inside of you. Focusing on an immense hope and an overwhelming love.

This year, I started late.  Nearly two weeks late. Typical…  But I gave up a biggie – for me.  I gave up my primary mode of social interaction. Yes, I gave up Facebook.

Oh, the humanity!

No funny “Oh Myyyyy” posts from George Takei.  No clever “wine is wonderful” cartoons from Kay.  No “hiking in Arizona” pictures from Sandy.  No “Obamacare kills baby birds and causes locust plagues” posts from my Tea Party relatives.  Well – okay – I don’t really miss those…  No cute animal videos.  I guess I could go to YouTube and watch some there but, seriously, it’s not that bad…yet.

When I decided to give up Facebook, I went cold turkey.  Got rid of the FB tab from my Mac favorites bar and deleted the icon off of my smartphone.  Poof goodbye.  I haven’t signed on since.

And I’m lonely.

I’ve moved around a lot in the past 10 years.  And when you move as an empty-nester, 50+ something adult, it’s harder to connect with new people in a new city.  As a younger adult with kids, it’s easier to “fit in” – kids seem to be a natural way to connect with other folks.  As an older adult, sans kids, it’s much harder to build relationships when people already have their circle of friends and social habits well established.  Plus I can be a bit introverted around new people.  I know, hard to believe right?

So Facebook has been my best buddy these last few years.  It’s so easy now to stay in touch with far away friends and family.  Extra bonus – it’s helped me reconnect with people I had “lost” over the years.  Treasured friendships that slipped away because of the stupid neglect of youth or a “no longer at this address” written on an envelope.  Double extra bonus – I’ve also nurtured new, long distance friendships that would have never happened BF (before Facebook.)  We’re a very happy couple, Facebook and I.

So my late Lenten sacrifice this year is uncomfortable.  This is good. Whenever I have that urge to “just take a peek” at some of those Arizona hiking pictures, I remember why I said I wouldn’t.  It makes me think about my family and friends, and how much they mean to me; how much I love them.  And I think about the Great Love that holds the whole world in an embrace of goodness, mercy and healing.  I can wait a few more days until the 20th.

But remember how I said I have boundary issues?

Tweet!

The Corny Captain

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On Sunday, I saw Captain America: The Winter Soldier.  In 3D no less.  Chris Evans on a big screen in 3D – a glorious sight!  I feel a little odd saying that – I’m more than old enough to be his mother.  Hmmm…I guess there’s still some life in the old girl yet!

Aging gracefully my ass.

I like all of the movies in Marvel’s Avengers franchise.  They’re fun, fast-paced, and clever without being too graphic in any of the areas it’s possible to be too graphic in.  To me, movies are pure escapist entertainment.  I don’t want to pay $15 for a ticket to see trauma, sadness, graphic violence and chaos.  I can watch the news for that anytime.  I want to walk out of a movie theater smiling and The Avengers movies make me smile.

But the Captain America movies are special.  I find it really interesting that this second installment in the Captain America series has broken all previous April box office openings taking in something like $96 million in the first 3 days in the U.S.  Worldwide, it has taken in $330 million in 10 days. That’s a lot of movie tickets! The execs at Marvel and Disney are exceedingly happy.

Yes, Chris Evans is hot.  Did I say that already?  And Scarlett Johansson is hot.  And it has great special effects and action scenes. And everybody wants to have wings like The Falcon.  Hell yeah!  But I think there’s more…

The character of Steve Rogers (aka Captain American) is a throwback to a simpler, less complicated time and place.  A time where honesty and trustworthiness and integrity and a concern for the greater good were highly regarded values.  Remember when deals were done on a handshake and people like Jonas Salk freely shared their life-saving knowledge with the world without charging $1500 for a dosed sugar cube?

I’m not one to idealize the past.  I’m well aware of the evils and injustices that were present back in “the good old days”.  And I would never wish them back.  But I do long for the days when people kept their word, took pride in their work, and money wasn’t the only motivation for doing anything and everything.  Certainly, there were many back in the day who let greed and power corrupt them, but it wasn’t condoned, worshiped and glorified like it is now.

We have lost our way and the Cap knows it.

I believe the popularity of Captain American reflects the unconscious longing of our society to return to values that are, in a word, corny. I mean, look at how corny the Cap is…  He hasn’t really kissed a girl since 1943, he never lies, he is loyal to his friends and he believes in sacrifice for the greater good.  What a sucker!  The Marvel script writers did a wonderful job writing dialog for an “old-fashioned values” character that doesn’t come off as cartoonish or judgmental – just sincere and human.

There’s a great scene in Winter Soldier where it becomes clear to Steve that, in the world today, it’s infinitely more difficult and complex to tell the good guys from the bad guys than the world he left in 1943.  He wonders, not if he will ever fit in, but if he really wants compromise what he would need to compromise in order to even begin to try to fit in.  And of course his answer is no because, after all, he IS Captain America!

Duh…

We all long for a hero.  We all need a hero.  We want somebody to look up to who is so good and so honest and so trustworthy that they are above corruption.  Somebody to give us faith in the human race again and the assurance that goodness will win out in the end.

The bad news is that Captain America is a fictional character.

The good news is that the Cap is alive and well in digital media and old school comic books to remind us that those values are still noble and worth pursuing.  And I have hope because a whole lot of people lined up this weekend to shell out good money to get their dose of corny!

Or in my case, corny and Chris Evans…

Flying Snakes!

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I hate snakes. Oh my…it feels good to get out in the open with that.

The word “hate” is such a strong word. I try not to use it at all because it conveys such negativity, such harshness, such absolute loathing. There’s no chance of redemption in it. The word “hate” just doesn’t fit in with the mellow, sweet, laid back person I am – most of the time. Except when it comes to snakes.

If you want to torture me to get information, any information, just tie me to a chair and prop my eyelids open with toothpicks and make me watch “Snakes on a Plane” or any of the “Anaconda” movies. I’ll sing like a canary right before I pass out.

If I had been Eve, Adam and I would have NEVER gotten kicked out of the Garden of Eden for eating the forbidden fruit. I would have seen that snake wrapped around that apple tree, hightailed it in the opposite direction and just kept on running. Run Eve Run!

My husband is aware of this ophidophobia of mine. He tries to reassure me that at least snakes don’t fly. Why would he even think of such a thing? But this doesn’t reassure me. It just causes more anxiety as to the possibility of genetic mutations. You know – those crazy scientists are doing all kinds of manipulations with animal DNA just because they can. Who’s not to say a flying snake might not be on their radar. Wackos.

We just got back a few weeks ago from Australia. There are snakes in Australia. Lots of them. And most of them are poisonous.  One list I found on the Internet said that 7 of the 10 deadliest snakes in the world are found on land or in the waters of Australia. And some of them are very ill tempered, aggressive, extremely poisonous and are found all over the country – even in the urban areas. And I voluntarily went there. What the hell was I thinking?

Sitting in a friend’s living room in Adelaide, I asked, “Are all the snakes in Australia poisonous?” “Oh no,” she said smiling at me, “The pythons aren’t poisonous!”  Now I have the choice of being poisoned or swallowed whole.  Really, that makes me feel so much better…

Other friends we stayed with near Byron Bay “entertained” us with various stories about all the snakes they’ve found in and around their house. Did you know that pythons can live in people’s attics and crawl spaces during cold weather?  Charming. It took weeks for me to quit obsessing about that one.

Two years ago, I went to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in DC with my niece and her two young sons. The boys were quite excited to visit the Titanaboa exhibit. Certainly this exhibit was one of the levels of Hell in Dante’s Inferno… Have you heard of this monster? I’ve since watched the Smithsonian Channel special on the Titanaboa. The stuff of nightmares.

The rational part of my brain realizes that snakes are part of the natural world and that they have a place in the order of things. All life is noble and sacred. The irrational part wants to pump gasoline on them and set them all on fire. Like my hero, Indiana Jones, who asks the eternal question…

“Snakes….why did it have to be snakes?”

Pb to Au

“It’s all good!”  I don’t know the origin of this much beloved, contemporary phrase, but I use it all the time.  Is this a bad thing?  How can it be a bad thing if “it’s all good?”  I find this confusing.

Urban Dictionary has 16 definitions – and I use the term “definition” loosely – for “it’s all good.”  I really haven’t been exposed to Urban Dictionary very much.   Quite interesting.  Uses the “F” word a lot.

But among the interesting takes on “It’s all good” – not using the “F” word” – is this:

“ “Platitude that covers so many emotions and situations that it says little; its only real meaning is that the speaker is trying to rise above whatever problem exists, without expressing their underlying negative emotions.  (They might be angry, sad, upset, frustrated, hurt, disappointed, etc.)  Often used in a passive-aggressive way.  Rarely, used compassionately for someone else, trying to make them feel better.  A favorite of inarticulate teens; fills in the gaps between: like, dude, dudette, whatever, so, I dunno, hey, etc.

Ariel: “I’m breaking up with you.”

Campbell: “Whatever. It’s all good.” ”

I resent the fact that I am being referred to as an inarticulate teen because – yeah – that’s how I use it.  Exactly how I use it.  And I’m not inarticulate.  Or a teen.  Oh, so not a teen…

But because I don’t use “dude”, “dudette”, “so”, “I dunno”, and “hey”, should I create a new definition in Urban Dictionary?  I DO use ‘like’ and “whatever”.   I mean, like, doesn’t everybody?  Can I split hairs like that?  Whatever…

When I say “it’s all good”, it is definitely NOT all good.  And I think that’s how most people use it, right?  I mean, is it really good for you?

I decided not to go running tomorrow because it’s supposed to rain – maybe – and I’m drinking too much wine tonight.  “It’s all good!”

My husband & I bought our plane tickets to go 1000 miles to visit our son, but he discovered a conflict for the weekend so we actually can’t come to visit.  “It’s all good!

I ate a whole box of Girl Scout Thin Mint Cookies today.  “It’s all good!”

The cat just threw up all over the carpet on the steps.  “it’s all good!”

Sorry I didn’t remember your birthday.  “It’s all good!”

I really thought my life would turn out so much differently… better, more fulfilling.  “It’s all good!”

Bruce Lee is credited with saying, “As you think it, so shall you become.”  Maybe that’s why I say “it’s all good.”  I want it to be all good when it’s not.  Desperately.

Mental alchemy.  Hmmm…It might actually be easier to turn lead into gold…

The Wisdom of Archie Bunker

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I love the 1970’s sitcom All in the Family.  To this day.  Wikipedia says All in the Family “broke ground in its depiction of issues previously considered unsuitable for U.S. network television comedy, such as racism, homosexuality, women’s liberation, rape, miscarriage, abortion, breast cancer, the Vietnam War, menopause and impotence.”  It must be true – we all know that Wikipedia is always right all the time…

The main character, Archie Bunker, is a working class World War II vet who is outspokenly bigoted against anybody and everybody who isn’t a red-blooded American male heterosexual WASP.  Carroll O’Conner was brilliant in creating a complex, humorous character who was both repulsive and lovable at the same time.  Archie’s traditional way of living is being threatened by the huge cultural, political and economic upheavals occurring in American society in the 60‘s and 70‘s.  He longs for the good old days when “girls were girls and men were men” and people like him were in charge of everything.

I’m pretty sure my dad didn’t get that Archie was a stereotype of the “old guard”.  He liked Archie and the way he thought about the world.  Yep – that would be my dad.  In a way, my dad was Archie Bunker.   Minus the humor and lovability.

But in the show, no matter what happens between the main characters, they always come back together in the end because they are family.  Their bonds of love and connection allow them to overcome or at least set aside their differences.  As a young woman, I believed this could happen.  I believed that family love and affection could overcome any discord or differences.  What a naive sucker…

My brother is now in his 70’s.  He is, in many ways, like Archie Bunker.  Minus the humor and lovability.  Sound familiar?  America is again experiencing seismic cultural and political shifts.  The demographics of the country are changing dramatically.   The “old guard” is again in an uproar in the face their rapidly decreasing control and influence.  Pandora’s Box is open and there is no putting the lid back on, but don’t try to tell them that.  They want time to go backward.  It doesn’t work that way unless you have a flux capacitor and a DeLorean.

I have a different view.  I think that, on the whole, the changes represent progress.  Not perfection by any means, but steps in the right direction.  I realize that this is my opinion.  I realize that other people have different opinions.  And I respect people’s rights to have a different opinion.  Pretty shocking.   One of the strengths of the Great American Experiment has been how we handle the struggle with the diversity of opinions held by our citizens, and use that struggle to emerge as stronger nation.  Queue flag waving.

My brother disagrees.  He disagrees so vehemently that he has cut off all contact with me.  WTF?  Archie and Bonehead would argue violently but then make up in the end.  Didn’t he see that part of the show?

My brother and I haven’t really argued.  He’s tried many times to “get into it” with me, but I refuse to take the bait.  Knowing that we’ll never find common ground politically and culturally, I really wanted to focus on other aspects of our lives and relationship.  You know, the stuff that we won’t argue about which is like 80% of everything else.

This strategy worked for a while.  Then the Presidential election of 2012 came along.  Evidently I was single handedly responsible for the outcome.  Honestly, I didn’t even put the Obama sticker on my car…

But the damage was done; the die was cast.  I am officially the enemy.  Facebook became the battleground.  Seriously…  95% of my FB posts are about drinking wine, cute animals and our latest vacation.  The other 5% is “hey, you might want to think about this” stuff.  No posts with made up facts or name calling or rubbing anything in.  Just a request to think.  Clearly he feels this is subversive.

I put up with his tirades like a dutiful younger sister until he started calling my friends (who represent a broad political spectrum) unkind names because they didn’t think the reality TV show Duck Dynasty was very good.  Huh?  My multiple requests for civility didn’t go over well.  For the past 3 months, he has not reciprocated to any attempt to contact him.

This all makes me very, very sad.  Life is so incredibly short, especially at our age.  In the end, all of that other nonsense really doesn’t matter does it?  In the end, it’s the love we carry in our hearts for our family and friends, and the love that they carry for us that gives our life it’s richness and meaning.

For all of his flaws, Archie understood that.  I just wish my brother did.

 

 

 

Stalking Hobbits

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Man….  Keeping up with a blog while on vacation is tough!  Especially if you’re on a “If it’s Tuesday, this must be Belguim” type of trip.  In my case, it’s “if it’s Saturday, this must be Sydney” trip.  We are seeing as much of Australia and New Zealand as we can in 23 days so we’ve been on the move.  Like really fast.  I’m exhausted.  I know – my life is so hard…

We left New Zealand yesterday at 7 AM.  I hate early morning flights.  Especially when I get up at 4 AM and my destination is two hours behind.  So it really means I got up at 2 AM “destination time”.  Am I whining too much?   Did I mention I was tired?

I wrote the below on our 3rd day in New Zealand and I naively thought I would have some free time to finish it before we left.  Clearly that didn’t happen.

So close your eyes and pretend it’s 5 days ago…

I am officially in Middle Earth.  The Land of Hobbits, Orcs and Elves. I think the Elves are sort of creepy the way they skulk around.  The location of Mt. Doom – otherwise known as Mt. Ngauruhoe to the locals on North Island.  It’s real name doesn’t seem as scary right?   Just hard to pronounce.  Lothlorien, Isengard and Fangorn Forest.  New Zealand.

I’m a huge fan of The Lord of the Rings.  I’ve read all of the books plus seen all the movies multiple times.  Like “reciting dialogue along with the movies” multiple times.  I’ve watched all of the “special features” and “making of” parts of the extended edition LOTR DVD set.  Several times.  I wish they would’ve made three movies out of The Return of the King ala Harry Potter instead of just one.  My son has a 3D HD TV that kicks ass with The Hobbit 3D BluRay DVD.  Now I’m thinking of getting a 3D TV…   Yeah – I’m a fan.

We have a half day LOTR tour set up for our visit to Queenstown.  Some of the most dramatic scenery in New Zealand is around Queenstown.  Lots and lots of LOTR movie locations close by just waiting for me.  I’m seriously afraid that a half day might not be enough to quench my thirst for Middle Earth.

I discovered quite by accident that my NZ road atlas lists all of the LOTR filming locations in New Zealand.  Happy accident indeed!  I’m dizzy with the thoughts of tracking Bilbo, Frodo and Gandalf around New Zealand.  Is it possible to stalk a fictional character?

I had to give up Hobbiton.  Our schedule is too tight.  It was a tough call.  I regretted it as soon a our train pulled out of the Hamilton train station, the stop that’s the gateway to The Shire.  Crap.

The spectacular location for Edoras, the seat of the kingdom of Rohan, is just a bit off the main scenic route into Christchurch from Queenstown.  We are driving from Queenstown to Christchurch.  But once off the main road – any main road – in New Zealand, 4 wheel drive is a must.  Mandatory.  Or your car engine will fall out.  I saw a video from a tour company that goes out to the Edoras location and the roads were like washboards.  I think they were trying to warn off people like me. I am still wondering if the Corolla we’re renting can do it…

However, I did go to one of the most sacred sites for LOTR fans – the WETA Design/Production Studio in Wellington (queue angelic harps and singing…)  There is a shrine set up for people like me called the WETA Cave.  It has all kinds of “stuff” from the LOTR and Hobbit films.  I saw a life-sized Uruk-hai. They had King Theoden’s sword and Legolas’ bow.  For crying out loud, I had my picture taken with a huge Cave Troll.  Does it honestly get any better than that?

Maybe it could.  I’ll let you know if the Corolla’s engine falls out.