Friday, October 30, 2009

Prince Valiant and the Pumpkin

As I was sorting through piles and PILES of family photos, trying to separate them by subject, I came across these two from years ago. Of course, it's not actually Prince Valiant. It's my nephew Chris and his dad preparing his Halloween pumpkin for carving. At first, getting his hands into the slimey, slippery pumpkin guts was kinda fun. Then it started to dry on his skin and was no longer quite so fun. Chris is now a grown man, taller than his tall dad. Nevertheless, he was one cute little dude!

Halloween

Spouse has an excellent, new disguise this year. It reminds me a little of some sort of space alien gear. He started wearing it to bed recently and I'm still startled when I wake up and catch sight of him! He's not thrilled with his mask, but it might just save his life someday. For that reason, we'll both get used to it. Sleep apnea doesn't sound scary but people actually die from it! Spouse has had it for years and I finally talked him into going for a sleep-study to confirm my suspicions. Several times, every night, I would wake up to nudge him enough to start breathing again. [I wonder if all women have that 6th sense of being able to sense problems even when we're sound asleep.] Anyway, the delivery and set-up of his CPAP machine last week was quite a production. At the very end of a two-hour window of time (like the cable guy insists on) the company rep. arrived. She seemed to be high on speed, talking very rapidly and loudly. [Don't worry - I checked and her pupils were normal.] Her memorized schpiel was delivered as quickly as possible and without missing a beat. [Thank goodness for all the printed stuff she left with us!] Spouse looked positively in a fog as she rattled on and on. She then fitted the thing to his head, explained the buttons and humidifier feature then was off to lecture some other poor schlub. After she left, Spouse and I just looked at each other in bewilderment and he headed back to work. After all that I couldn't face the pile of booklets and papers that came with the machine and it's very own, stylish, zippered carrying case, so I parked myself on the balcony to decompress. We'll tackle the papers later.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Indecent Exposure vs. Nosy Neighbor

Thanks to the internet, Twitter, etc., the saga of Eric W. of Fairfax County has spread around the world. He is the guy accused of indecent exposure for being being spotted nude in his home. A 45 year-old woman, wife of a Fairfax County (VA) police officer, was walking her child to school. She claims she heard a noise then saw the naked Eric in his driveway. They reportedly kept walking and saw him again through a large window. I don't know any history of the young man and I, for one, have no reason to believe that what he did was intended to inflict harm. With that in mind, I think his arrest was uncalled for. To help you to understand my reasoning, allow me to share some personal history. All of it happened right here, in D.C. During the 70s I worked in an office in what had been an elegant old mansion on N Street, NW. Across the street, a house that had been home to Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt had been replaced by a modern apartment building. The windows in the apartments were almost floor to ceiling and wall to wall, exposing the kitchen and living room. Venetian blinds aren't terribly effective for maintaining privacy when they are pulled up to the top of the window, or slanted in a horizontal position. I can't tell you how many times I was distracted while gazing [in deep thought, of course] out my office window by a naked man or woman exercising or preparing food. At the same time, I was living in an apartment with windows mere feet across an alley facing another building. Spouse was the first to notice a naked young woman strutting about in front of a young man in an apartment across the alley. The blinds were pulled to the top of the window and every light was on. I laughed at her exhibitionism and closed our blinds tight. Another incident happened late one Spring night when we had our windows open for what little cool air we could get. A young man, wearing a sweater vest and yarmulke was groping a girl on the roof of that same apartment house, directly across from our bedroom window. He was trying to get it on while standing up. We could hear every word and whine. We thought it would have embarrassed them if we suddenly closed the windows, so we stifled laughter and tried to go back to sleep. In the same building another resident regularly stood naked at his corner window while people walked to work. Walking in the other direction, I hadn't notice him until someone pointed him out. He was nonchalantly drinking from a coffee cup looking down at us, stark naked. I don't know if children every saw these other people but, frankly, I didn't see anything lecherous about them. I think they simply enjoyed being discovered in their nudity. People like that are pathetic or intellectually challenged. Please understand, I am NOT the least bit interested in being seen naked. As a matter of fact, I'm pretty puritanical when it comes to my own body. However, when it comes to dictating how others live in their own homes, I think we should mind our own business unless anyone might be harmed. Children must be protected from predators whether or not they are nude. I also think that, in this particular case, drapes would have been more apropos than arrest. Swerving a bit away from the subject -- we live in a pet-free building because I draw the line at neighbors raising dangerous snakes or other critters that might get loose and hurt me. We'd love to have a dog or two, but sacrifices must be made to avoid living next door to something with fangs. There will always be people who love reptiles or prefer life without clothing and who either cannot imagine that they are scaring/offending others or simply don't care. To those who are offended by seeing a naked body: avert your eyes -- keep walking -- close your curtains -- get a life!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Ms Edda Kitt Speaks

My goodness! There are some very friendly people driving in the D.C. area! Night and day they honk greetings to each other. I wonder if those who honk continuously for blocks at a time are that enthusiastic about other things. Hmm? Now, the more reserved honkers are not quite as brash with their greetings. They seem to honk in Morse Code. I don't remember enough of the code to translate these folks' greetings to one another, but I'm sure they are refined and pleasant. When I personally observe these enthusiastic drivers "doing their thing", they seem particularly pleased when cars merge in front of them. Oh, the jollity of all those horns blowing . . . even from drivers several cars back! Congratulations may be in order, but perhaps they can be offered without being quite so energetic. I must have been sick the day my driver's ed teacher explained car horn etiquette. The only lesson I remember was to use it in case of imminent danger. Whenever I have done this, I frequently receive a return beep and a finger signal. Now I know what the lifted middle finger means in other circumstances, but I'm unclear on how it applies when one is driving. Surely preventing a collision does not call for rudeness. Oh -- and while I'm on the subject -- isn't it a tad rude when a driver sits in his car honking to get the attention of his date? My Dad never countenanced that! A gentleman was expected to exit the car, knock on our front door, then escort me to his car. Nowadays, how can a girl be sure the honking is for her and not a neighbor? I ask you . . . Etiquette is a marvelous thing, but in the case of the car horn I think some of us may have gotten a little carried away. Surely a cheery smile and hand-wave is adequate greeting. After all, no matter where one lives, it's more than a silly nuisance when a cranky baby, sleeping and sick folks are disturbed by our honking. Yes! I know it's hard to imagine, but it does happen. Therefore, let us all try to remember the Golden Rule: treat others as we would like to be treated. Okey Dokey?

Friday, October 23, 2009

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Wuzzhappnin?

It's October 21st and I'm sweatin' like I've been playing basketball. However, being that I do not play basketball, I cannot use that as an excuse. It's just too daggum hot today!
This time of year, we get the full, southern sun and the balcony is warmer than the rest of the apartment. Nevertheless, where I'm sitting in the living room it feels like about 90 degrees! Now, I know it's gonna cool off precipitately tomorrow and Friday, but still . . .
Summer in our neck of the woods has always had a twisted sense of humor. She sometimes arrives before Spring has a chance to show up and roasts us well into November! Autumn sometimes succeeds in pushing Summer out of the way for a few days, but soon enough Summer barges back in.
The one, redeeming grace for today is that THE LADY BUGS ARE BACK!! Since late this morning, they've been fluttering by in huge numbers. I put out a little plate of water for them, with a rock in the center so they won't drown trying to drink. [Lady bugs do drink water, don't they?] Anyway, it felt like the right thing to do.
As the sun angles down in the west, it's easier to see the little ladies swooping and sweeping through the air. I have no idea where they're headed, but they don't seem to be in much of a hurry. I hope they'll hang around for a little while. They're so cute!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Truth Can Be Scarier Than Fiction

Fear of dentistry is, of course, not unique to me. However, I'm thinking suffering from it for half a century might be. I'll explain . . . Thinking they were doing a good thing, our parents found a pediatric dentist for us kids. My first visit, with Mom sitting close by, the dentist cleaned my teeth and casually said he would take care of some cavities next time. I came away with a new toothbrush, a tiny tube of Crest toothpaste and teeth that felt like there were giant gaps between them. The next visit was nothing like the first. This guy meant business and I was it. Taking x-rays was not fun because the film had hard edges and hurt my gums and tongue. Still, it didn't prepare me for what was to come. Some people fear the white coats that doctors wear. Dr. R. wore a white jacket, but it had the same effect. When he approached me with a huge, hypodermic needle and told me to open my mouth as wide as I could all hell broke loose. He actually expected me to obediently do what he said. HA! My terrified screams probably were heard in the next town! At that point, a woman in a white dress and thick, stealthy, white shoes entered, grabbed me from the back and held me to the chair. The dentist then forced open my mouth and jabbed me with the needle, rotating it around inside my gum. By the time he withdrew it, tears were streaming down my red face, and I was breathing in heaving gasps. From then on, I was a lost soul, strenuously hoping that my life would soon end. You can figure out the rest of the story, so I won't continue the horror. Suffice it to say, this eight-year-old's trust in adults ended that day. Five years later it was time to start orthodontia. With that came the extraction of two teeth to make room for the rest. The only thing I remember about that is having my first I.V. [another BIG needle!] and bleeding through my pillow while I slept that night. Oddly enough, having braces was cool when I was a kid. Some of us even competed to see who could get all the gear on first. My orthodontist was a lovely, fatherly type of guy and understood. Though he nearly suffocated me making molds of my jaws, he was kind and patient, unlike the special, pediatric dentist. Dr. P. was the type to chuckle when, in a panic, I rode my bike to his house after being hit in the mouth with a badminton birdy. The lower torture wire that was tightened every week had sprung loose and was looping over my upper lip. Dr. P. just took me into his kitchen and snipped it off. Fast-forward to the 1970s and my D.C. dentist. I told him about my phobia and he was kind and understanding. I suffered many fillings without Novocain and I do believe it hurt him almost as much as it hurt me. Then the worst happened -- he retired and left me in the hands of his young associate. Even though I still broke out in a cold sweat in the dentist's chair and had to wipe away streams of wet mascara from my cheeks, I wasn't ready to give up on Dr. H. Dr. S. turned out to be far less patient and was easily frustrated with me. In the end, I saw him only for dire emergencies. His office was in an old, red brick building [now replaced by glass and steel] at the corner of 21st and Penn., NW. His windows overlooked the avenue. During a procedure, we heard multiple sirens coming toward us. Dr. S. and I both hung out the window to watch Nancy Reagan and her Secret Service detail go by on her way to GW Hospital to visit her recently shot husband. [There are benefits to living in D.C. -- any distraction during a dental appointment is a good thing!] After all that, I feel I must provide you with a happy ending to this story. A gentle, highly skilled and patient Dr. A. came into my life -- by shear luck! Several years ago, Spouse and I had to choose a dentist from a list provided by our insurer. We chose a practice within walking distance of home and were assigned Dr. A., a WOMAN dentist!! The heavens were merciful that day. Her empathetic grimaces when I told her my history reassured me that she would be good to me and she has been. Most of my fillings are decades old and falling apart. I've also had teeth break. Three root canals, three crowns and numerous fillings later, my dread of dentists has been assuaged. Faster drills, numbing gel before a Novocain shot all help. Now Dr. A. and I are working well together to maintain my expensive smile. [Four years of heavy orthodontics and four more in a retainer weren't cheap!] Just my luck, Dr. A. has now opened her own practice in Adams Morgan. It's not as convenient as Foggy Bottom, but I'll make the effort to go there. My sanity is worth it!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Montana -- You Surprise Me!

When I hear the name of that state, I think of wild and woolly, gun-totin' ranchers and their hardy women and children. Guns are a big factor in the state. Hopefully their use is limited to taking out foraging wolves, bison, hawks and I suppose other wildlife competing for the ranchers' stock and grazing land. Traditional protocol and etiquette didn't fit the picture I had of these folks. I was wrong! In today's "The Fed Page" in the Washington Post, staff write Walter Pincus revealed that the Montana Army National Guard is taking up the banner of etiquette in training recruits before they are sent to the Middle East. Guard members will also learn basic language skills to better communicate with the people they will encounter and depend on for assistance and information. I am totally impressed and completely approve of this initiative. I also wish it would be applied to every military unit. Protocol and etiquette are fancy words for plain, old, simple, good manners infused with cultural sensitivity. Body language is something we Americans treat very casually, but it's loaded with meaning. For example: in some countries, it is the height of disrespect to reveal the bottom of one's shoe. In another country, shaking one's head from side to side means yes rather than no. It's true! Many of us are aware that traffic lights in China indicate the opposite of what they do here. In China, red means go. Showing respect for the traditions and social customs while visiting (or in this case, trying to liberate) another country is appropriate and indeed necessary if one wants to be accepted. The NATO mission in Afghanistan might stand a chance of success if troops remember that. We Americans have too often mocked others' customs and traditions. In the process, we estrange ourselves as boors and idiots. Money and power are important currency when it comes to influencing people. Respect and good manners are equally important if we want to win friends.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Not the Life for Me

Spouse and I live across the street from a member of Pres. Obama's cabinet. He comes and goes with a security detail. Most often, I notice him coming home late in the evening nearly every day of the week. This kind of schedule is a sacrifice that I would be extremely reluctant to make. Even if I was solving the world's problems or bringing about world peace, I might wither into an incoherent lump under such pressure. My working life was rewarding and allowed me to feel that I was helping to improve the lives of others. Nonetheless I craved and truly required downtime to recharge my batteries and rebuild my enthusiasm for what I was doing. Serving those less fortunate than myself or who had been victims of dreadful events took a toll on my soul. Leisure provided temporary respite. Certainly, there are those working in the administration who love claiming their tiny piece of the action working for a world leader. They are the people who ease the president's burden by doing the grunt work for him. He lives in the most secure house in the country and travels with ease and comfort. Knowing that his security people would give their lives to save his must be comforting and troubling at the same time. I think back to when President Reagan was shot outside the Hilton. A secret service agent took a bullet that, had it hit it's intended target, could have killed Reagan. His press secretary, Jim Brady was grievously wounded, proving it can be dangerous just to be near a president. It takes an uncommon person to want to be the POTUS. Those who work with him must be of similar calibre to withstand the demands of the job. I salute them and am glad I'm not one of them. Back to the gentleman across the street: I hope you take time to read a novel, bake cookies, contemplate your navel, or whatever makes you happy. Life is too short to sacrifice every minute of it to work.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Moments ago

Gorgeous sunsets are coming back around my way now and I'm thrilled! I have to do without them for half the year, so colorful sunsets are yet another reason I look forward to Winter.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

My Week in Review

I experienced three firsts in my life this past week. One made me feel happy and frugal; another bruised my ego and the last was just embarrassing. In need of reading materials, I decided to check out the books at Goodwill. I've never bought used books before but thought that it was about time. Four, hardcover novels cost me just six bucks and change. Normally, they would have cost 10% more. I saved because the sweet, young, salesclerk considered me a senior citizen!! OUCH!! That was the first time that ever happened. I'd been thinking I looked OK for my age -- not so much now. Thursday I joined my cousin, her husband and their son at the Dirksen Senate Office Building. Mike and four others were there for confirmation hearings; three ambassadorships and two connected with the IMF and World Bank. It was the first committee hearing I've attended. Only two members of the Foreign Relations Committee were there at the beginning. One more arrived just in time to introduce a nominee he supported and then left. Lugar showed up later to say some nice things to Mike and the other career diplomat appointee. The third ambassadorial nominee embarrassed me as a woman. Hers is a political appointment. She choked-up twice during her statement and questioning. Is it any wonder some men still don't take women seriously?!

Monday, October 5, 2009

If it was possible . . .

. . . I would bottle today. Not that Monday is my favorite day -- not by a long shot. THIS Monday, however, is an exceptionally welcome day. The air is comfortably cool and dry. The sun is still warming, but assuming a lower position in the sky -- a dead give away that winter is not far off. Each season is important for it's anticipatory energy. Autumn brings with it a desire to speed up a bit following the sultry, hot days of summer. As the precursor of winter it provides the signs that people and wildlife alike need to prepare for the coming cold. Birds start migrating, mammals eat more preparing to hibernate. Other critters like snakes start scoping-out hollow logs to shelter them for winter. Lady Bugs show up in huge numbers and sun themselves on our balcony. Monarch butterflies seem to flutter aimlessly, but eventually head south. Winter around here isn't as clearly defined as it was where I grew up in Northern Illinois. There, it was extremely rare to regret putting up the storm windows after mid-October. When the cold and snow came, it stayed. Around here we're more likely to enjoy an Indian Summer. And, even during mid-winter, we can have some Spring-like weather. We seldom have a White Christmas because precipitation in D.C. is usually of the freezing rain type -- not at all useful for sledding. Spring comes early in these parts. A D.C. Spring can be truly breathtaking -- especially if one has allergies. Nevertheless, flowers and flowering trees translate into dollars as tourists flock to town to mosey around the Tidal Basin, monuments and memorials. Bus loads of school kids bring fresh excitement and awe to a city filled with stodginess and formality. It's as if the Nation's Capital breaks free from an arduous Winter with its social and business obligations and takes a big, deep breath of fresh air. Summer calls for a totally different mindset. D.C.'s usually hard-driving, highly-motivated and stressed denizens put away some of their black wardrobe and add a splash of color. Flip-flops and sandals replace knee-high stiletto-heeled boots and our ubiquitous walking shoes that New Yorkers snicker at. [I say "let 'em snicker -- who wants to develop hammer toes and bunions!"] Summer allows humans to linger and appreciate nature as well as the blessings of air conditioning. So . . . here we are on the fifth day of October 2009. The next few weeks will provide ample opportunity to open up the windows to air out our homes and our minds before we're swept into another winter with it's holiday jitters and joys. I, for one, plan to enjoy Autumn whole-heartedly and with all of my senses. I highly recommend, dear reader, that you do the same.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Throw the book at him!

Roman Polanski does not in any way, shape or form deserve the sympathetic pleas made on his behalf by fellow directors and even Whoopi Goldberg -- shame on you Whoopi!! The man drugged, raped and sodomized a 13 year old child. He then pled guilty to a lesser charge and ran away. France has sheltered this smug coward ever since and he has yet to pay for his crime. I'm glad he was cockey enough to travel to Switzerland to accept another award from his peers. I'm cheering the Swiss authorities for nabbing him. Polanski is guilty of a dreadful crime and must do the time. His victim has forgiven him. I believe that is because her own health and welfare required that she do so. [I am still trying to forgive my abuser/rapist and it's been forty years!] His age should not be a stumbling block to sentencing him for his crime, either. I hope he suffers many years behind bars. Even then, he will not understand the permanent damage he inflicted on an innocent girl. If, by some miracle, he avoids prison, I take comfort in knowing that God will dispense the ultimate punishment. Yes, I'm angry! I know far too many women whose lives have been shattered by abusive men. Some manage to tuck the memories into a far corner of their brains and get on with their lives. The big problem is that the pain of the memories never completely goes away.