Tuesday, August 18, 2009


Yesterday I spent an hour squabbling with the phone company over our bad connection. Finally, when my voice apparently faded away completely and the woman from Verizon was saying, "Hello? Hello? Can you call me back from a different phone?" I gave up.

We live kitty-corner from the City Hall, so I walked over there to see if maybe they had a pay phone. The City Manager greeted me and said, "Hey! How are our newest residents doing! Are you all moved in?"

I laughed a little at that idea and told him I wish, but no...we're still threading our way between the boxes.

I explained my phone woe and asked if they had a pay phone at the City Hall. He said no, and asked me if pay phones still even exist...they're pretty much antiques now. The clerk offered me the use of her cell phone and I made a couple of calls, then I asked them about the local phone service.

"AT&T is the land-line provider and Verizon is the only cell service that gets a signal here.", said City Manager.

"Really? No one else has service here? Are they planning to?"

"No", he said, "You gotta have people for that. We ain't got any people."

At first I thought he meant you have to have important people who will lobby with state government and utility companies for better infrastructure and services, but after a minute it dawned on me that he really meant what he had said literally. We have no people. Cairo is a town that went from a population of thirty thousand in the 1960s to twenty five hundred today. That's a loss of more than 90% of it's population in 40 years.

We have no people. In my head, "people" is turning into a word that should be capitalized. The Holy Grail of dying small towns in the Midwest. People.

The last thing he said to me when I was leaving was, "If you know any people looking to move to a nice little town, you tell 'em to come here. We need people."

Well, People?

Monday, August 17, 2009

What Was I Thinking?

I got up this morning and thought I might work out. Then I carried 32 boxes of books out of the shed. Now I think I might lay down instead. How the mighty have fallen.

Always Thinkin'

Today we drove to Columbia, MO to deliver 7 of the ducks to their new caregiver, Fritz. I avoid the word "owner" because if you've spent any time with ducks, you know better about who owns whom.

We had a tasty housewarming breakfast/lunch with Fritz and Ann (With an "e"? I forgot to ask.), a fun but too brief conversation about politics, and then we drove home as empty nesters (heh). On the way home we were discussing our second favorite topic: how much we hate conservative talk radio nutbags and what interesting things they manage to cobble together into a conspiracy theory, such as:

Vince Foster, dead friend of Democratic President. Marilyn Monroe, dead lover of a Democratic President. BOTH DEAD. Coincidence? Could they have been killed for what they knew? Or could they actually be the SAME PERSON??

Consider this: they were both known to hobnob with people in their respective president's inner circle, yet they have never been photographed together. Why? And what of Lorena Hickok? Is it any coincidence that she's dead too?

Clearly, the Democrats have systematically worked to eliminate anyone who could expose their Communistic intentions, sometimes waiting until their victims were in their nineties to strike. We demand a Senatorial panel be convened to look into this, and articles of impeachment be drawn up for John F. Kennedy, Eleanor Roosevelt and of course the nefarious Clintons, all of whom have shown signs of Socialistic homosexual tendencies. Deceased defendants should not be shown leniency, as they would certainly be murdering your grandmother via their Death Panels if given the opportunity.

A nice paranoid conspiracy theory is essential to deflecting attention from actual issues, and instead drawing Democrats into a baffling morass of absurdity. Don't have any way to counter single-payer health care? Let's talk about the President's birth certificate.

For some reason, Democrats fall for this over and over again: whenever they're in danger of actually confronting the issues that got them elected in the first place, a well-placed Vince Foster, Monica Lewinski, Kenyan birth certificate and/or death panel can bring a policy debate to it's knees.

How can a party that's smart enough to force the Democrats onto the defensive over and over be dumb enough to propose Sarah Palin as the fresh new face of American politics? Because they think were not smart enough to pay attention to the life and death issues we'll be confronted with for the rest of our lives.

Screw the birth certificate. I don't care if he was born on the moon, if Obama can get us health care AND civil rights in his first term. If we get bogged down again and let this oportunity pass, I'll volunteer to be on the Death Panel the ends up killing Sarah Palin's grandmother myself. Its the least I can do for my country.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Adventure Begins

Well, this is it.

Today will be our last official day living in the place that's been our home since we moved to Southern Illinois three and a half years ago. I won't miss renting, and I won't miss our landlord, but I'll miss all the prettiness in our big yard and I'll miss the ducks. I won't miss Ev having to work so hard to keep the mower and weedwhacker and chainsaw running to keep it pretty, but I'll miss the bonfires; and, for at least this winter until we figure out how to convert the fireplace from a coal-burner, I'll miss the fireplace. I won't miss the nasty goddamn above-ground pool/mosquito brooder the landlord has stubbornly refused to remove, or his crappy trailer parked behind our house, or his junked truck parked in the yard, or the rutted gravel driveway he refuses to repair. In short, I won't miss paying to live in a place where we're at someone else's mercy.

I'm excited about our new house and looking forward to what comes next for us, but the whole ritual of taking apart a house, and handling and packing every item in it, is always bittersweet for me. I have several things that belonged to my parents and grandparents, so I think about them while I'm packing those things ... and then I handle all that Ev and I brought with us from other times and other relationships, and all that we've acquired together, and I think about our personal histories and our history together.

I get into a whole "circle of yife" space, which sort of inevitably leads to spending a portion of the packing time thinking about mortality, and what sums up a life, and what all this stuff I'm packing carefully against breakage is really worth in the grand sceme of things. Eventually, it will be a huge burden on our kids, to whom most of it will be yard sale fodder. I wonder what they'll hang onto? I hung onto Grandmother's crockery and a coffee cup from a Santa Fe Railroad dining car, a wooden medical kit with some syringes Grandaddy used to vaccinate his cattle, Mamaw's sugar bowl and Mother's sewing machine. My dad's ashes have been living on our bookshelf for five years now, trying to make their way back to South Padre Island. A combined 438 years of life and acquiring stuff, summed up in a box of photos and a dozen or so physical items. It gives one pause.

I woke up this morning thinking about the little blue dress my mom made for me when I was a flower girl at my cousin's wedding at the age of five. It was a beautiful little dress and my mom packed it away carefully in layers of tissue paper and saved it for nearly fifty years. She also saved many of our childhood toys ... special dolls and such ... intending for my sister and I to have them someday. When Mom got too ill to live on her own, my sister and I divided up the tasks. I took Mom to Arizona to stay with me until my sister could sell her house and bring the few remaining items to set her up in an assisted living apartment. She brought me some things from mom's house, but not the little blue dress or the baby dolls. I asked her about them and she said she threw them away. So, I woke up this morning wishing I'd been there to grab them off the discard pile and thinking that this is one of the reasons I care about all the stuff around here ... who knows what little dumb thing we haul around with us might be just the thing one of the kids treasures someday? I don't want them to wake up and wonder what ever happened to it, whatever it is.

But the overweaning thought that comes to me a hundred times a day during this process is how grateful I am for all the processes that came before it -- all the other moves, the weddings and divorces, the births and deaths, the falling in love and then crying over breakups, the things gone missing, the things kept, the people who influenced me and are no longer here, the people who are still here ... all of what brought me to this relationship, at this time in my life, on the verge of this move with Ev and the next chapter of our life together -- because this is perfect.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Diversity Training

We had an hour's worth of mandatory diversity training at my work yesterday, which was just enough time to say, "Although everyone in this room is white, you may encounter some non-white people at some time in your career. If that happens, be nice to them."

It was an exercise in PC agony. At one point the instructor asked if anyone could think of a stereotype applied to people of another culture, and the room was silent. How to repeat a racial slur without admitting you actually know a racial slur? A dilemma for sure. One woman finally started mumbling about wives who answer questions for their husbands and then trailed off, unwilling to say which wives and husbands.

So because I'm Evie and I Know Things, I finally piped up.

"Jews are cheap and Mexicans are lazy."
The guy behind me said, "Mexicans aren't lazy!"
"I know that. That's why it's a stereotype, not an actual fact!"

(He must know a Mexican. *sigh*)

Considering that my workplace is a hotbed of racial jokes, ethnic stereotypes, queer bashing and sexism, I'm going to go out on a limb and say an hour of diversity training won't be enough for a lot of folks. But it did fulfill our government-mandated quota for another year. And isn't that what really matters?

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

T-Minus 1 Week

It's the last week before moving day!

Not much to blog about unless you like stories about packing up books and kitchen utensils, sorting through old papers and broken stuff and trying to decide what to keep and what to throw away.

The only bloggable story we've had this week was a sad one. We had a houseful of family and friends on Family Sunday, and one of the guests brought his labrador retriever (Archimedes or Agamemnon or Antichrist, or whatever his name was) to play with our dogs. It was all fun and games and big dog rasslin' and yard romping until Rob came around the side of the house dangling a big lifeless bird by the legs. It was our Spanish Black turkey ... cut down in the prime of its life. This put something of a damper on Family Sunday. And, as unpleasant as it was for us, it was probably even more unpleasant for the guest whose dog did the deed. Great way to make a first impression on people you've never me ... drop by and kill their pets.

So what do you do with a murdered turkey you've raised from poult-hood, held and petted and cuddled while it napped? You do the only thing you can do. You have the ex-husband take the two twenty-something young men out back and teach them how to ... well ... you know ... turn it into food.

They were quite a bit more excited about the prospect than we were prepared for, and took to the task with what I can only call relish ... and a dull-ish axe. The inedible parts were relegated to the burn pile where we performed a ceremonial cremation later in the evening. The edible part was placed lovingly in a very small roaster, seasoned lightly and baked for an hour, and (after a few beers) the guys produced their trophies ... Jenny-O's ex-feet with tendons still attached, useful for grasping, photographing and making YouTube videos.

I admit to taking part in that last bit. Sometimes, in the immortal words of Monty Python, you have to look on the bright side of death.

Jenny-O's buddy was bereft and spent the next day and a half wandering around the yard searching and calling for her, then started hanging around the pond with the ducks trying to swim. Turkeys don't swim. I kept carrying it back home to keep it from drowning itself, and then we took it into town yesterday and gave it to one of Ev's co-workers who has a farm. She has other turkeys (not for eating), horses, chickens, ducks, pet raccoons and peacocks. When I went to get Butterball from the pond for the last time he was hanging out with the neighbor's young son, fishing from the bank. It was a regular Tom Sawyer moment.

So ... moving to town has begun. The turkeys are gone, seven of the ducks will be going to Fritz's farm in Iowa, four will be staying here with the neighbors and we're going to try taking six to town with us if we can. If not, Katie has a friend whose mother will take them.

This has been an interesting introduction to Southern Illinois for my city-bred son. The first night he was here he was introduced to the age-old sport of frog giggin'. Two days later he was butchering poultry. The next day he went for a walk in the woods and came face to face with a five foot long black racer. Welcome to rural life, kiddo.