UNCLE WHO?

Calling Uncle Bob – Have you ever faced a difficult situation when you had to choose between sorting it out yourself, or asking someone else for an easy fix? What did you choose — and would you make the same choice today?


I do not have an uncle named Bob. I had Uncles called Jack, Abe, Herman, Louis, Mickey, and Sam. I still have an Uncle Sam, come to think of it, but I’m pretty sure he’s not related by blood.

I cannot imagine under what circumstances I would have called any of these uncles to help me with anything at any point in my life, not even when they were still alive. Their current lack of aliveness makes them even less likely to be helpful in a crisis than formerly. It’s hard for me to picture big, bluff Uncle Abe, the guy who used to toss me in the air to make me giggle and scream, giving me advice on Men, Marriage, Career … or how to fix a computer.

uncle-sam

Or even asking him to read something I wrote to see if he liked it.

He wouldn’t have liked it. None of them would have liked it. Or understood it. Their brows would have furrowed and I am sure they would have found my interest in Such Matters perturbing and disturbing. At the very least.

So here’s the scenario.

Ring. Ring. Ring.

“Hello?”

“Uncle Herman, hi. It’s Marilyn.”

“Who?”

“Marilyn. Dorothy’s daughter.”

“Oh, Dorothy. How is she? Is she coming to visit? I haven’t seem my little sister since … ” Long pause.

“Last month,” I offer helpfully. I’m nothing if not helpful.

“Yes,” he agrees.

“Uncle Herman, I have a problem. My laptop screen seems to have an intermittent connection to the keyboard and I can’t figure out how to fix it. Can I bring it over and have you take a look?”

“Sure Bubbala. Your Aunt just made a big batch of the jello you like so much.”

I really did love the jello Aunt Ethel made. It was never too hard or too soft — always perfect. And she used bunny rabbit-shaped molds so the jello wriggled and jiggled, as jello should. The taste of family.

Jello notwithstanding, I cannot imagine a positive outcome to this encounter. Although in his day, Uncle Herman was good with machines, especially sewing machines (he was a cutter and tailor, as were most of the men in my mother’s family in that generation), computers were … well … not his thing.

He could give it a good whack, which might cure the problem or finish off the computer forever. A simple, fast, and permanent fix. Not exactly what I had in mind, but a fix, nonetheless.

Or they could have served me jello and we would talk about this and that, forgetting the reason for the visit because seriously, when you have a problem, do you call your family to help you out? Really?

And as a final note of caution, quick fixes are rarely good fixes. Just an observation.

THE STRANGE CASE OF THE FROZEN SIRLOIN

It started the other day. I reached for my sandwich and encountered a frozen sirloin steak. On my desk. Where my sandwich ought to be. I picked up the frozen beef, took it to the kitchen, and showed it to Garry.

“Why,” I asked him, “Do I have a frozen steak to my office?”

Camera bags in their natural habitat.

Camera bags in their natural habitat.

“I have no idea,” he said, “Offhand? I’d guess you took it out of the freezer and put it there yourself. Or the pixies are at it again. Maybe the dogs did it. They look guilty to me.”

“I think they are trying to sucker you out of another round of treats,” I commented. But that was a safe bet as they are always on the prowl.

I never got to the bottom of the steak mystery. Usually if something odd appears someplace odder, it’s because I meant to grab one thing, but instead, grabbed another. In this case, I also carried my drink and my sandwich, so the odd thing was one more thing. A frozen sirloin is not the sort of thing I have lying around, so I would have had to make a special effort to get it. Which is to say I’d have had to extract the slab of beef from the freezer.

I assume — unless someone out there has a better explanation — I was intending to put it in the fridge to defrost, but I got distracted. However, I don’t remember taking it out of the freezer and thus have no idea what (if anything) I had in mind (what mind?). Perhaps I was planning to eat it frozen and raw. Anything is possible.

It is not difficult to distract me these days. Truth be known, forgetfulness is my constant companion. It just gets worse.

We are planning another visit to friends. It won’t be until after the holidays, but the days are whizzing by. I’m trying to get things organized in hopes I’ll remember to bring everything. I’m passing along my oldest, favorite camera, an Olympus PEN PL-1, the first of my now numerous mirrorless cameras. I have long-since upgraded to newer Olympus PEN cameras. It will go to live with my best friend, so I can visit it often.

Garry silly with dogs 30

That’s background. Here’s where it starts getting complicated.

During a pre-Black Friday sale (or Advance Cyber Monday) sale, I bought a pair of super fast SD memory cards. The camera I’m giving away has a good, premium chip in it, but after I replaced the card in one camera, I found myself with a spare card. One more than the number of slots in my card case.

Are you following me?

I thought “Okay, I’ll give her this one as a spare. I don’t need it anyhow. It’s not super fast, but neither is the PL-1.”

I put the chip on my desk in front of the monitor while I searched I-don’t-know-how-many camera bags for one of those little plastic cases in which to put the card. Not long ago, all these memory cards came in plastic cases, but no more. Today you have to buy them. Talk about a rip-off. Seriously, how much do they save by not giving you a case? A penny? Less?

Anyhow, somewhere along the way in my search, I unearthed a couple of empty plastic cases.

I turned around to get the card to put into one of the new-found cases, then realized I had to take the cases out of the bag. I wheeled my chair around, but couldn’t remember in which bag I’d found the cases. I looked where I thought I’d seen them, but they weren’t there. I rotated again. The card had vanished.

During this exercise, my butt never left my desk chair. I never stood up. No one else was in the room, even briefly. But somehow, I had lost the cases and misplaced the card. It eliminated my problem since I no longer needed a case, having lost the card. On the other hand, it left me with one more mystery.

Nothing is lost. Just temporarily misplaced. The cases are in one of the bags and the card is somewhere in my office. I’m sure of it.

But what about the frozen steak?

WHAT DOGS KNOW ABOUT WOMEN

Marilyn Armstrong:

Today’s a perfect day to reblog this one. It made me laugh. It made me laugh a lot and I have to admit, it did not make Garry laugh nearly as much.

Sometimes I think there is only one husband in the world. He comes in a variety of packaging options — size, color, age, ethnicity — but underneath, it’s the same guy.

Originally posted on Stuff my dog taught me:

woman and dogThe other night I had an argument with the husband so I harrumphed up the stairs and went to bed early.  (Actually, I harrumphed up then back down then back up, since I had forgotten the ipad in the living room.  This took away a fair bit of the effect from my initial harrumph but it also allowed me to watch a new season of The Vampire Diaries in bed, so…).

Buster the Schnauzer did not have even a moment of angst over what to do in such a situation.  Without hesitation, my loyal friend followed me up the stairs, AND back down, AND back up.  As I settled under the covers, he sat upright on the bottom of the bed with a look that clearly said, “You are everything wonderful and perfect in the world and HE is an ass.” (Buster has a very expressive face).  As we shared…

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ON NOT BEING A CULTURE SNOB

I read a post about how dreadful (yet gripping) romance novels can be. It’s true. They are the potato chips of the literary world. Bet you can’t consume just one! Even if you don’t like them (and mostly, I don’t, much), they grab you and won’t let you go, even though you know in advance exactly what is going to happen, pretty much from the opening page.

That’s not the point of these books. If as a girl, you read the back of cereal boxes, romance novels are the next step up. I’m not sure what the literary equivalent is for guys, but I’m sure there is one.

netflix for books

As the former editor of the Doubleday Romance Library, I can tell you our research showed readers of romance novels to be far better educated than average readers. Many have advanced degrees in the sciences. They read romance novels exactly because they are mindless pulp. They aren’t looking to be informed or improved, to have their world expanded, reading-level or awareness raised. They want a book they can pick up, read, put down. If life gets in the way, they can just forget them without regret.

I read each 3-book volume, one per month. It contained three romances: 2 modern with a Gothic sandwiched between. Every novel had the same plot, the same outcome. They sold gangbusters.

Regardless of what we, as writers, would like, people don’t necessarily read books because they are good. Me? I often avoid “good” books. I don’t want to go where the book would take me. I’m not stupid or lacking in culture. I just don’t want to read it.

Why? Too depressing, too intense, too serious, too ugly, too educational. Too real. I read for the same reasons I watch TV and movies. To be entertained. I am not seeking enlightenment. Perhaps I should rephrase that. I am no longer seeking enlightenment. If I ain’t enlightened by now, I’m pretty sure it won’t happen in this lifetime.

The wondrous thing about the world of books is there are so many books. Enough genres, themes, and styles for anyone. Everyone. An infinity of literature so no matter what your taste –low-brow, high-brow, middle-brow, no-brow — there are thousands of books waiting for you. That’s good. I’d rather see someone reading a bad book than no book.

I’m not a culture snob. I think reading crappy novels is fine if you like them. Watching bad TV is fine too. Snobs take the fun out of reading. While I’m not a fan of romance novels, if you are, that’s fine. Since I love reading about vampires and witches, I’d be a hypocrite to act like your taste is somehow inferior to mine.

These days, I’m rarely in the mood for serious literature. Tastes change with the years. Mine has changed more than most. Life has been a very serious business for me. When I read, watch TV, or see a movie, I am happy to escape from reality.

Finally, my favorite professor at university — a man I believe was profound and wise in every way that counted — was a big fan of Mickey Spillane. He said there was a much truth in his books. I believe for him, there was.

ODDLY INDEED

Cee’s Odd Ball Photo Challenge: Week 39

72-hello-studio-Turk_075

Of all of the photos I had lying around my files, these are among the oddest, fitting in nowhere, having been taken between here and there while at a fundraising party for a movie which so far, remains a great idea.

There was a party going on, but I was not there. I was … elsewhere.

ONCE UPON A TIME

Spinning Yarns — What makes a good storyteller, in your opinion? Are your favorite storytellers people you know or writers you admire?


Fear According to Savage Chickens

Last night I dreamed about chickens. After a tooth-grinding review of how badly mistreated we have been by past employers — Garry’s and mine — somehow I slid sideways into an old house in the country.

It looked a lot like it does around here. A bit hilly and lots of trees. There was a movie star living in the house. She was supposed to be young, but her skin looked like the bottom of an old leather suitcase and was a trifle orange. She was going back to California where she seemed to believe she would be better off.

That left me with 200 chickens. The fowl were arriving (shortly) by truck. Healthy, young, hens and roosters. Enough to start a nice little chicken farm. Except I didn’t want to be a chicken farmer and I was pretty sure, neither did Garry. I couldn’t just leave the chickens to die of hunger, thirst, and cold. I’m a responsible person and I love animals. Even chickens.

I was still baffled over the whole chicken conundrum when I finally gave up, opened my eyes, and began my day. Coffee would banish chickens. Garry says it’s from “Yankee Doodle Dandy” and I was just caught in an old movie loop.

Sometimes, the absolutely best storyteller in the world has got to be my subconscious. I would never even consider creating a story involving me and chickens.

Author Gordon Winter, Garry and chickens

Author Gordon Winter, Garry and chickens

Not counting authors since this prompt doesn’t concern that … who tells great stories? Garry tells wonderful stories. He has me mesmerized from the first word to the last and that includes when I’ve heard the story before. Our friend Tom is also a terrific storyteller. He makes us laugh. I don’t know if the story is true or maybe just a little true, but whatever, it is great entertainment.

At my best, I tell a good story. I run on too long and I’m not good at wrapping it up and finishing before the audience needs another drink, but I’m good for the yarn’s first three-quarters.

Story-telling is the glue that makes friends want to hang out with each other.

It’s not booze, movies, or video games. Certainly not texting. It’s stories. The tales of our experiences, things we remember, times and places and people we’ve known.

I keep wondering what young people will do when they realize you can’t live forever with just a cell phone for company? They don’t seem to have a clue about having conversations or telling stories to each other. From whence will their stories emerge?

Our stories are our personal mythology. Will our children and grandchildren have stories? Or anyone to tell them?

It worries me. It really does.