The Road to China
Middle Son is getting married at the end of May. (Thank you.)
Middle son and his fiancee, were at Macy's filling out their greed list. Middle Son called from the store in the course of his ordeal.
"I see what you meant when you said I'd want to shoot myself in the face rather than do this," Middle Son began. Actually, I think I said I would gnaw off my right arm in order to get out of such an adventure -- a sentiment which did not endear me to Long Suffering Spouse at the time I voiced it, but there you are.
I was wondering -- why would anybody need fine china?"
I used to work in the local jewelry store, back in Boondockia, over 40 years ago now -- and, among my duties was delivering china and crystal and flatware and the occasional sterling silver tea service to local brides. I even picked up four place settings of a beautiful, but discontinued, Hutschenreuther china pattern for my own 'hope chest' during the jewelry store's sidewalk sale in my senior year of high school. My grandmother helped find four more place settings and the survivors sit, right at this very moment, in my dining room gathering dust.
I pointed out that a wedding is the last time you can ever expect anyone to buy fancy stuff like this, stuff you will have forever, stuff you could never justify buying for yourself. I told him how, in my day, buying a place setting of someone's china as a wedding gift was a really good present, covering one's plate and then some at the reception. I went on in this vein, but Middle Son kept coming back to his original question... why would anyone need this stuff?
Well, I said, you might pull it out if you invite the boss and his wife over for a fancy dinner, or when you have a real, grown-up party with your close friends, or --
Middle Son cut me off. "You've never done any of those things."
"Well, no. But I could have." If the occasion ever arose.
Which it never has.
"Yes," said Middle Son, "but why would I want all that stuff I'll never use?"
And... slowly... I think slower and slower these days, I suppose... it began to dawn on me that the boy was right: The world has become an informal place. Sixteen-ounce red cups have replaced crystal goblets, paper plates have replaced china (on state occasions, perhaps, Chinet might be used).
I don't know if that's a net gain or a net loss for the world. I miss the thought that, occasionally, even middle class people could aspire to a little glamor.
But no one, I think, misses the obligation of polishing the silver.
Curmudgeon is a self-described dinosaur -- an Ozzie and Harriet person living in an Ozzy and Sharon world. And sometimes it confuses the heck out of him. He writes a very amusing blog at Second Effort.
There’s another version of the story that begins with me sitting at the counter in this truck stop thinking about how people talk to themselves all the time. I know that I do. Who doesn’t? It’s only when people do it out loud standing in the middle of the sidewalk that we refer to them as crazy. Hang on. Just who the hell is this guy standing here staring at me?
Excuse me, is that your backpack?
Oh. Sorry. Let me move it out of your way. Whoa. Hunk alert: how’s my hair? I’ll put it under my feet. Don’t make eye contact. There.
Thanks. It’s jammed in here this morning. How’s the coffee?
Not bad, actually, but good luck with the blonde waitress.
What do you mean?
You’ll see. And here she comes now. Are we having this conversation?
Hi. I’ll have the breakfast special, please, with scrambled eggs and bacon, hash browns, sourdough toast if you have it, otherwise wheat toast will be fine. Oh, and a small glass of orange juice, thank you. Nice. Must be a rotten job working this gig. Never hurts to smile. And what have we here on my right with the backpack and torn jeans bagging on the waitress?
She likes you, that waitress.
Likes me? Oh brother, a live one. What do you mean?
What do you mean what do I mean? When she took my order she jabbered at me a mile-a-minute about the stinking weather, but with you she just stared with the teased hair and that stunned oxen look. Honestly, she was all misty-eyed by the time you got to the orange juice. She likes you.
That’s rich. She must be the only person in North Florida who cares in the slightest. I played the Holiday Inn last night to a crowd of me and the bartender.
You’re a singer?
Sort of. I write songs, and to make sure somebody out there is singing them, I play the guitar well enough to draw a crowd. Occasionally.
You’re a modern-day troubadour, free and loose on the highways of our land? Kind of like a young Willie Nelson?
Something like that. There’s only one Wille Nelson. What’s your name?
Well now, Mister Troubador, who wants to know? Careful here, girlfriend.
Sorry, I’m Harpeth Rivers. Call me Rivers. Feisty little bitch.
I’m Bitsy. Here’s your food. And don’t call me bitch.
Harpeth Rivers is a New Mexico transplant from all over who has in the last year written songs about isosceles triangles, played bass guitar in a band, and declared himself "Retro-eclectic." His novel-in-progress is entitled Last Year.
Dust Control in Costa Rica
As a country boy, I can remember the good old days when a dusty road was controlled by spraying used motor oil on it.
In eco-friendly Costa Rica, they banned this practice because all the oil eventually ends up in the rivers which lead to the oceans.
Our house sits about fifty feet above the a dirt road. As you can imagine during the dry season the few cars and trucks that do pass by can raise a pretty good cloud of dust.
This year has been unusually windy – there are seasonal “Winds of Christmas” that normally start Mid-December and end Mid-January. This year they are still blowing.
In the past, we have gutted out the inconvenience of having dust blowing in and covering everything. But this year it’s different.
When we first moved here, the contractor that build our home-addition said that they former owners put “honey” on the road.
We asked the gringos around if they had heard such a thing, and most responded like we had two heads. (Of course they all live on paved roads/streets.) Our Spanish was no where good enough to ask a Tico.
Honey. It just didn’t make sense… even though honey is sold everywhere so there must be a lot of hives, but how much honey would it take to fill a 55 gallon drum? Plus honey has some value so it just seemed silly to put it on the road.
But Molasses! Now there is the solution! Molasses made from sugar cane. Tons and tons of sugar cane is harvested this time of year.
Honey? Molasses? Sweet sticky stuff. Now we know what our contractor was talking about.
Our friend Pat found this great story about a Costa Rica town where the business pay to put honey on the streets.
One quick search on Facebook and I made contact with the woman in the story and she gave us the low-down.
And our lawn-care guy, Mario, knew just the place to find a good supply of molasses. He arrived this morning bright and early with his crew, two 55 gallon drums full of molasses and another empty drum for diluting the molasses 50/50. (In case you need a weekend DIY project.)
Mario said he brought the “postre para las vacas” (dessert for the cows.) We wondered if the cows that wander up and down our road from farm to pasture… maybe some “dulce leche” (sweet milk) will be in the offing?
They had a large bucket in which they had punched multiple holes in the bottom to make a giant sprinkling can.
In a matter of a few hours they had done the stretch of road in front of our house and the dust is gone.
We’re not sure how long it will last. Seems that in Playa Guiones the molasses is effective until the first rain. I’ll keep you posted!
Meanwhile, we already know the molasses on the road is working.
Now if we just can find a way to get rid of the dog hair!
Mark Van Patten writes a blog called Going Like Sixty and has been married to the same woman since 1968.
Who Were the Beatniks
Just Who Were The Beatniks? Literary Visionaries, Cultural Rebels, Street Thugs, or Maynard G. Krebs?
With all due respect to Greenwich Village, the epicenter of the Beat Movement was closer to Greenwich Street in San Francisco – a 20 minute jaunt to fabled North Beach. Here is where the likes of Kerouac, Ginsberg, Cassady, and Ferlinghetti roamed the streets and back alleys. City Lights was the mecca Beat book store.
In fact, “beatnik” was coined by San Francisco Examiner columnist Herb Caen. “Beat Generation” had already appeared in print and speech. Caen’s term was originally used to describe the fallout of the San Francisco Beat scene, when suburban kids began pouring in to party on the weekends. He added the Russian suffix “nik” soon after Sputnik was launched in 1957. Caen was not fond of beatniks and the name likely represented a slap at their criticism of American values. Allen Ginsberg called the term “foul.” Coincidently, it rhymes with “Howl,” first read in San Francisco.
It was here that the famous obscenity trial for Howl took place.
On March 25, 1957, Customs officials seized 520 copies of the poem imported from a London printer. No publishing house in the U.S. had dared to touch it. Soon the City Lights manager was arrested and jailed for selling Howl and Other Poems to an undercover San Francisco police officer. City Lights Publisher Lawrence Ferlinghetti was next, charged with publishing the material. At the obscenity trial, nine literary experts testified on the poem’s behalf. Ferlinghetti won the case when the California Superior Court decided that the poem was of “redeeming social importance.”
That decision led to the American publication of the previously censored Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller and D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterly’s Lover. The trial publicity brought the San Francisco Beat Movement into the national spotlight (Life Magazine was fascinated by the ordeal) and inspired many would-be poets and lifestyle seekers to make their way out to the West Coast.
The benign television face of the beatnik in the 1950s was Maynard G. Krebs: sweet (in a stinky kind of way), cute, like…even adorable.
Terry Hamburg writes the Baby Boomer Daily about the exciting and revolutionary baby boomer years.
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Leif Bratveit is a mechanical design engineer from Sveio, Norway. You can see more of his photos on flickr.