Tuesday, September 30, 2008

What Jimmy Neville Was Like

Somewhere along the line, it became stylish to beat up Jimmy Neville. I think it was Darrell Coates who started it all, but Jimmy deserved it. Everyone knew what Jimmy Neville was like.

There was just something irritating about Jimmy--the way he laughed, the way he talked, the way he looked at you. Yeah, he could make people mad just by looking at them so he deserved whatever he got.

Jimmy tried to fight back at first, but then just gave up and took it. I mean, even Jimmy knew he deserved it. And it's not like anybody was gonna kill him or anything.

His mother whined to the principal, but Mr. Embry told her it would be better to let Jimmy fight his own battles himself.

Darrell was really good at playing jokes on Jimmy, like writing "FAG" all over his locker and telling everyone Jimmy was molesting his little sister, which was funny because Jimmy was an only child. We all played jokes on Jimmy. He deserved it.

Jimmy had a girlfriend for a couple of weeks. We were pretty sure he wasn't banging her so Darrell and a couple of his buddies took her out to the park one evening and showed her what real men were like. Her family moved out of town right afterwards. Served them right for letting her hanging out with Jimmy.

Yeah, Jimmy Neville was just plain irritating, like a dog you take out in the backyard and shoot because you're so tired of seeing him around.

Except Darrell took Jimmy out in the woods.

At one time or another, almost everyone in school came out to see Jimmy. He had never been so popular. I thought it was pretty funny, the bugs crawling all over Jimmy's face and everything and him not even moving. Finally, when he began to stink, someone--probably one of the girls--called the cops.

Darrell was arrested, but he'll never be convicted. After all, everyone knows what Jimmy Neville was like.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Why I Am Voting Democratic

1) In just eight short years, the Republicans brought the country from a balanced budget to the brink of bankruptcy.

2) Cindy Bush's yellow outfit at the convention cost $300,000, a slap in the face to people who have been foreclosed on for $150,000 mortgages and a far cry from Pat Nixon's "good cloth coat."

3) Sarah Palin

Sunday, September 28, 2008

New Outlook

What a surprise!
You would not believe
The size of my eyes.
What a view--
And eyelashes too!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Dinner for Wendy Dog

Sit, dog Wendy, sit and stay!
You will get your food today--
Just hunker down and keep away
Until you hear me say "okay"
Then, refueled, go bark and play
And keep marauding squirrels at bay.

Friday, September 26, 2008

The Stepford Fruit

I'm always disconcerted to see piles of pumpkins in front of the supermarket when it isn't even October yet. I don't want to buy a pumpkin too early for fear of rot, but I'm afraid to wait till later because all the good ones will be taken.

Or will they? I look more closely. All the pumpkins look good, every single one of them. There are no bad ones--none misshapen or lopsided. In fact, the pumpkins are so uniform that they have no individual character whatsoever.

I go inside the store and look over the strawberries. I've been eating a lot of them this summer, and they've all tasted good, uniformly sweet--every single one of them. Not a sourball in the bunch.

I choose a couple of potatoes to add to my shopping cart and I don't even consider adding an extra one in case one of my picks is rotten inside. I haven't seen a rotten potato in years. They just don't make them any more

What's going on here? Produce shopping is no longer the crapshoot it used to be. Are potatoes being cloned in that mysterious back room with the "employees only" sign on it? Has the genetic engineering of strawberries sneaked past Prince Charles into HEB? Have whole fields of pumpkins been dehydrated, then reconstituted in identical molds?

And if so, would you please do something about the bitter apples I seem be bringing home lately?

Thursday, September 25, 2008


The darkness of the night draws close about
And midnight voices whisper in my ear--
A rushing rumble swells into a shout--
The race is almost won, the mark is near.
The running is the winning of the race
And every lane unequal from the start--
I will not stumble, will not slow my pace
Or let the course defeat my faltering heart.
Fettered by commitment, I race free--
Million-crowded, yet I race alone--
Flicked by minutes, I race timelessly--
The day eclipses just beyond my zone.
Before my sun is swallowed by the night
I must - do - what - is - right .

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Eyelid Snippets

Fifth day out: As autumn leaves turn to gold, the red on my lids is fading to yellow, nicely contrasting with the blue-colored stitches, which, until yesterday, I thought were black.
As I check myself out in the bathroom mirror for the umpteenth time today, I remember that old saying--a watched eyelid never heals.
I cannot help but wonder if eyelid surgery is a gateway drug--in the distance I hear the siren song of a browlift.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


Literally and figuratively, Fiorella has a new outlook.

First the literal new outlook:
At some time in the future Fio assumes she will be LOOKING more like Eternal Springtime than Bride of Dracula, but right now she is just thrilled to be SEEING so much better. At first it was somewhat frightening--all that light assaulting her from every side. In fact, Fiorella wondered if she had made a big mistake because her world was so vastly enlarged from the day before and the colors were almost painfully bright. But then, during her first solo driving expedition since the surgery, Fiorella realized she was more aware of the traffic around her than before. And when going through her wardrobe, she discovered a dress she had previously thought was black-checked was actually blue-checked. So now Fio, who prefers reality--and safety--to disaster-ridden shadowy fantasy, is more than reconciled to her choice.

Now the figurative new outlook:
Fio has been converted to plastic surgery. She is thrilled that the sagging flesh above her eyes is gone and, when her ship comes in, is planning other procedures. Nothing drastic--just a full body make-over. Also, Fio is so pleased with the possibilities of her new look, her second chance, that she has decided to live up to it by losing weight. Nothing like looking in the mirror for inspiration.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Big and Little

We have taken control of many aspects of our world, but two that keep giving us trouble are very basic--weather and disease.

Weather is a big sort of thing--hurricanes, droughts, blizzards, and the like. We can try to prepare for these natural devestations, but there is really nothing we can do to vitiate them. They control us rather than the other way around. In fact, some people theorize that the Ice Age was what finally did in the Neanderthals.

Disease, on the other hand, is a little sort of thing--microbes and germs and fleas on rats. We develop vaccinations and treatments, but it seems that as soon as we polish off one of these little devils, another one, even more deadly, pops up. Considering how deadly chickenpox and measles were to the American Indians, I'm wonder if a disease carried by CroMagnons might have been what killed off the Neanderthals.

And if the Neanderthals could be eliminated by either weather or disease, what about us?

Sunday, September 21, 2008


Fiorella leaps out of bed every morning with brilliant ideas which she jots down on a tablet on the bathroom counter. She is just hopping to start writing on her new novel. But her ardor cools as she brushes her teeth, fixes her hair, dresses, and makes the bed.

Downstairs, there's the newspaper, which includes the daily crossword and the jumble, to which Fio is addicted. Then breakfast. Then she looks at her desk for communications that need to be handled immediately, which she proceeds to do. Finally she opens up her laptop and checks out the weather, the latest news, and her e-mail. Then she goes to her blog to proof and edit whatever is coming up. Sometimes she writes a new piece--or two or three if she's really rolling, like today.

Meanwhile the dog needs in and out every time a squirrel runs down the back fence, and sometimes there are phone calls to make or receive. And there's usually some kitchen clean-up too, which Fio does bit by bit as she fetches herself a Kleenex or indulges in her mid-morning orange juice.

By then it's almost eleven and she decides to take a break and read a little in Dearly Devoted Dexter or whatever else she has at hand. Finally, about 11:15 she goes to Documents and pulls up the file generically titled New Story. She works on it for four hours without blinking, which is the reason she procrastinates so shamelessly: writing captures Fio, compels her, sucks her in, and she is not a girl who enjoys being controlled.

But now Chapter One is finally straightened out, the Styrofoam peanut bomb having been disposed of so the story can actually lead in the direction Fio wants it to go. She can rest on her laurels for today.

You can tell why Fio projects her top book-length output for the year will be just three 80K-word manuscripts.

Not all writers are as good at procrastinating as Fio. She knows of some who turn out virtually a book a month. She suspects they do it by never getting up in the morning, just lying in bed all day and writing, writing, writing-- like Colette, but without the threatening husband.

Maybe Fiorella should try that some time--nawh, she'd just go back to sleep.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Update on Uplift

My Name's Jeanell, I look like hell,
But I can't resist the urge to tell--
My lids are red, my eyes are green
The scariest Christmas you've ever seen--
In fact, I look like Halloween!
So I can hardly wait till I am healed
And my new look will be revealed.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Dexter Dreams Delightfully

Fiorella has been reading again, reading and writing rather than keeping up the house. Her mother would have been strongly disapproving.

Fio's mother would have preferred her to be more like Dexter Morgan, who is very neat and tidy. Of course, Dexter also happens to be a serial killer, but we'll let that little personality glitch pass us by because his victims, as our Arnold claimed for his character in True Lies, are "all bad." Besides, Dexter's creator, Jeff Lindsay, is a marvelous writer. Not only is the main character skillfully drawn and the plot tight, but the words just seem to trip off Lindsay's tongue. The prose is beautiful, poetic even.

Younger Son alerted me to Dexter on television last year and I peek-a-booed a couple of episodes--which means I flipped channels whenever stuff got too gory, then came back a few minutes later to find out what had happened. Now that I've read one of the books, I am amazed at how well the whole idea transferred to the tube.

Anyway, I highly recommend Darkly Dreaming Dexter, and Husband and I plan to further enrich the overflowing coffers of Barnes and Noble by purchasing the rest of the series.

The housekeeping will just have to wait. Sorry, Mom. At least I don't litter the place with severed limbs and headless torsos.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Naming Characters

Fiorella puts a fair amount of time and thought into naming the characters in her literary endeavors. Unlike new mothers, she knows what her characters are going to be like as adults, and she can name them accordingly. That's a perk that writers have.

In "The Cask of Amontillado," Poe used his characters' names as a kind of shorthand to tip us off as to their--well--characteristics. Fortunato, the antagonist, has money and luck. Montresor ("my treasure"), the protagonist, contends that everything Fortunato has should have been his. Since Montresor is a wascally wabbit, Fortunato's name becomes ironic, thus adding to Poe's gallows humor.

In Roth's "The Conversion of the Jews," the protagonist's name is Freedman, an obvious choice for a young adolescent who challenges closed-mindedness. His rambunctious best friend's name is Lieberman, which a German exchange student told me is sort of like "homey." Ozzie Freedman's inhibiting rabbi is named Binder. Seems obvious, but I taught this story for two semesters before I caught on.

In "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge," Bierce doubles back on us by giving his protagonist a name promising Tara-type romance--Peyton Farquhar. It's a hero's name, the name of someone who wins every battle and the girl besides. Then Bierce turns the tables on us.

This is the parade in which Fiorella marches. After all, how do you think she herself was named?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Vanity, Thy Name Is Fiorella

Fio has finally come of age--of a certain age that is. She keeps a perm in her hair and gets it streaked regularly. She paints on nail strengthener and has actually had a manicure for the first time in her life. She rubs Hydroquinone on three tannish spots on the back of her left hand. And her eyelid surgery is scheduled for tomorrow.

All day she has been looking in the mirror and lifting the skin in front of her ears and wondering.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


I have a dog
Whose name is Frog--
He can hip
And he can hop--
He can do
The Dirty Bop,
Or any other
Dance required
That darn dog
Is really wired.
That is why
I wrote this blog--
To tell you about
My Frog-named dog.

(Except I admit
It's all a lie
Manufactured by
My fevered brain
To amuse, confound,
And entertain.) Fiorella

Monday, September 15, 2008

Glittered As She Walked

I would have given my right arm to be Micki Greene, which would have completely invalidated my purpose because Micki Greene lacked for nothing.

Eighteen-year-olds aren't mature enough to be called beautiful, but Mickey was headed that way. Her eyes were blue slate, her short, coiffed hair riotously blonde, and her complexion clear. She had the most adorable way of talking, in excited, almost lisping bursts that absolutely entranced me. There was something vulnerable and charmingly confused about Mickey. Pehaps she cultivated it, but it worked.

It was the first time I had encountered an actual person named Michaela, although nowadays, of course, the name is fairly common. But her name was not the only thing that made Micki unique. One way or another, she could always make everyone aware of her. I remember how we all laughed when Micki sneezed thirty-one times in a row from the upper back side of the auditorium during a particularly boring philosophy lecture. The teacher called her down, saying she was deliberately disturbing class, but we knew it was just Micki.

It was a wonder that this magical creature and I both lived in Cranfill, the oldest women's residence on campus, but I was there for economy while Micki was there for tradition. Her family was prominent and her father was rich. She wore pearls in her pierced lobes when no one else was even wearing earrings. She pledged Pi Phi and zoomed around in a powder blue MG sports car--illegally, of course, since only upperclasmen were allowed to have automobiles, which only added to the legend. Her handsome father regularly appeared to escort her and her roommate to dinner, and she talked casually of visiting her mother in places like Monaco and Madrid.

Micki may have acted confused, but she was no dummy. She was in the liberal arts honors program, although everyone knew she wasn't destined for Phi Beta Kappa. This was the era when prizes like Micki considered their college time well spent when they left after their sophomore year to marry up-and-coming young lawyers.

I think I ran into Micki on campus once more after our Cranfill stint, and she was as gracious and charming as ever, almost remembering my name.

Oddly enough, I was the one who married following my sophomore year, although, after getting my ears pierced for pearls, I did stick around long enough to pick up a history degree, magna cum laude, thank you very much. Somewhere between the laundry and the senior thesis, I have a dim memeory of reading in the newspaper society section that Micki had married an up-and-coming young lawyer in a lavish ceremony worthy of her.

My husband, who had gone to high school with her, said she was crazy.

Ten years later, my next bit of information about Micki came from a friend telling me about a total stanger, a woman named Micki, who had sat next to her during thir children's swim class and poured out her breaking heart about her cheating and abusive husband. Micki told my friend she had hired a lawyer out of Houstion who would cut her husband's balls off.

My friend's husband, who had known Micki's mild-mannered spouse since childhood, said Micki was crazy.

Ten years further down the line, when my oldest was in high school, I saw Micki again, at a high school football game. Her daughter was a cheerleader and my son warmed the bench. Micki entered the bleachers two rows ahead of my husband and me, and I recognized her immediately. Her short silver-blonde bob was now a long pewter-blonde braid, and her slender teen-age shape had rounded out into womanly curves. She was beautiful now, with that same charming aura of fragilty and confusion. Going with the current fashion, her skirt was romantically ethnic and she had topped her embroidered Mexican blouse with a long, trailing scarf.

Micki didn't have anyone to sit with at the game because by then she was divorced from her second husband too. I knew this from my friend, who passed on all the lawyer gossip, and because the year before I had seen a newspaper feature on Micki and her daughter--hard to tell which was which, of course--and Micki's house in a stylishly gentrified area of the city. The photographer and writer were ovbviously as entranced by Micki as I had been.

She picked her way down the row and finally set her stadium seat down beside some people she knew, expensive people with whom she could make references to old friends and old times. I caught a thread of their conversation now and then, but the couple seemes to tire of her and their replies became shorter and shorter. Finally they ceased altogether. At halftime the couple moved three rows down and across.

Micki, all alone, rocked herself back and forth on her stadium seat, lisping softly to herself as she played with her long, trailing scarf.

Micki was crazy.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Cheeky Business

Fio has a black stitch in her cheek that looks like a stray whisker.

Fio feels like an idiot. She came home late from an RWA meeting Tuesday night, walked upstairs in the dark, and tripped on a pair of rolled rugs she had forgotten were in the hall. Down she went, landing on the Bowflex, puncturing her cheek.

What if she bled out? What if something vital had been damaged? She needed to go to the Emergency Room fast!

Husband had already taken his evening pills and couldn't wake up, so Fio, ever resourceful, taped a multiply-folded paper towel across her wound and drove herself to the hospital.
A tetanus shot, a quick stitch, miles of paperwork to fill out, and she was home within two hours. The stitch comes out tomorrow.

Uh--you do understand that the cheek she is referring to is on her face, don't you?

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Ode to Rain

Rain, rain, come and play,
Slake the summer's thirst today--
Refill the sinking watershed,
With a well-placed thunderhead.

But play nice, rain, and do not rage
Across my tender acreage--
Just soak the ground and save my lawn
Then pack your toys and move right on.

Friday, September 12, 2008


Perhaps you didn't know, my dear,
That Fio has a well-trained ear--
Which can clasp pencils, if need be,
One or two, or even three.

Lately Fiorella's brain
Seems to have slipped right down the drain--
She thinks she knows what's happened here:
Her mojo's leaked into her ear.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Fio Gets Deep

I say that I don't believe there is any such thing as an absolute vacuum because it would collapse in on itself. But then I wonder, if the space between the atoms isn't collapsing in on itself, what is it that is holding them apart?

Is this where the theory of parallel universes comes in?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Linguistics Will Yet Save the World

I once knew a college teacher who took points off if a student began a sentence with a preposition. In other words, this very sentence would have cost some poor kid five points. An elementary school teacher once told me one shouldn't begin a sentence with "so," to which I, being a smart-ass, responded: "So many people came to the meeting that extra chairs had to be provided." A fellow writer once informed me that I shouldn't use adjectives when I write. Another inveighed against any adverb ending in "-ly."

People get strange ideas about grammar and style. Some of the ideas are left-over old-fashioned ditcta based on Latin grammatical analysis, but others are just plain screwy. I think that basically people are seeking an easy way out, an iron-clad list of '"do nots." But rather than crucify the language, I think people should embrace it. They should learn how it actually works, the system of it, which is really quite rational.

But then, you've already figured me out. I'm a linguist through and through.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

My Name, Myself

A person's name is magic. That's why some cultures do not reveal a person's true name. That's why our christening ceremonies are religious. That's why people get new names in secret societies. That's why Harry Dresden has been able to barter part of his name for greater power, but refuses to divulge his full name, which would give even greater power to the possessor of it.

If someone calls out my name, he commands my attention, if only for a moment. If someone remembers my name, I am well disposed toward him. When I was teaching, I tried to memorize every student's name within the first week, and I called roll religiously. I also regularly called on each student by name for class participation. My theory was that every student deserved to hear his teacher say aloud his name on a daily basis. It showed I knew he was alive.

Our names can outlive us. Centuries ago, a man named Herostratus set fire to the temple of Diana at Ephesus so his name would always be remembered. And it has.

Fiorella isn't willing to go that far, but she is writing a blog every day with which she hopes to set her own small world on fire. Such is eternity.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Convent Capers

Husband, Daughter, and I attended a local production of Nunsense recently. The show is pure farce, a series of songs, dances, and gags, all loosely held together by a meager plot. Its construction is similar to that of Cats, except Cats is more serious and its plot is even less substantial (I remember being totally surprised when Grizelda's resurrection drama occurred at the end).

For all its silliness, Nunsense is an ambitious undertaking for a small town civic theater group. It's a tour de force featuring five women whose roles require they all be singing, dancing, and running around at a gallop the entire time.

The performance wasn't perfect. The Reverend Mother kept flubbing her lines and there were some pitch problems on a few songs, but those gals kept on hoofin' and woofin' and spoofin'.
Husband and Daughter were not impressed. Husband, it seems, prefers plots, and Daughter is not turned on by idiocy.

But I loved every stupid minute of it. Life is hard-- I want my entertainment light and easy.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Yawn and Dream

I have not been sleeping well of late. Instead of my usual seven hours solid, I have been having semi-sleep, mostly dominated by murky remembrances of past stupidities and current worries. Yes, I am a world-class fretter, especially about things I can't do anything about.

I had extreme night fears as a child and teen-ager--my bedroom was located in the front of the house, away from the others, the windows were usually wide open, and the nighttime breezes would gently billow the lightweight curtains out toward my bed like unwinding gravesheets. Yes, my imagination worked overtime. To distract it, I told myself stories.

Obviously, if I ever want to sleep well, again, I must get started on that new romance plot.

Gotta get cracking on the new plot,
And when Fio writes romance, she writes hot--
To knock those ghosts right out of her head,
She's gotta think of sex instead.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Linguistic Lady Speaks UP

You've heard it before. Never use a preposition to end a sentence with.

Where did that rule come from? Probably from an analysis of Lain, which prescriptive grammarians put a lot of faith in. I like Latin, which I almost majored in. However, Latin is Latin and English is English--I could go on and on. In Latin, one can't end a sentence with a preposition because prepositions are heavily tied to their noun cases, which they must appear in front of. English doesn't have much of a case system so we let that old "rule" slide by. There might be stylistic reasons for seeking another way to kill off that sentence-final preposition, but grammatically speaking, let it live on.

An old joke told me by Friend Carol is what I'll end with. A Texas lady turned turned to a couple sitting near her at a conference and said "Where y'all from?"

"A place where we don't end our sentences with prepositions," the woman replied.

Not at all fazed, the Texanne countered with "Well, where y'all from, bitch?"

Friday, September 5, 2008


Has anyone out there read the Precious Ramotswe books besides me? Tears of the Giraffe, The Kalahari Typing School for Men, etc?

Precious Ramotswe is a "traditionally built" Botswanian woman who founded the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency and has been the leading character in eight or so books by Alexander McCall Smith. I love Precious Ramotswe. She's older and less physical than Stephanie Plum, but she's also wiser and more caring.

The books are more than detective stories. They are paeans to Africa, or at least to Botswana, a poor, AIDS-ridden, politically stable country on the edge of the Kalahari. I've learned a lot about traditional African life from the series, and about the philosophies and attitudes of the people. Mma Ramotswe makes me want to visit Botswana someday.

How about you?

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Snippets from Real Life

It's the style now--pregnant women wear clothes so tight that their belly buttons show, and non-pregos wear what look like old-fashioned hatching jackets.
Logically, there is no such thing as an absolute vacuum. By definition, it would collapse in on itself.
I think I have an oral fixation. I am happiest when I am singing or eating--or kissing.
Even the best nursing homes are places where residents lose their belts, wallets, hearing aids, glasses, teeth, mobility, dignity, and minds. Old age is a relentless thief.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Extracurricular Navicular

Fiorella has an extracurricular navicular, known to podiatrists as an accessory navicular. Or at least that is how she has diagnosed herself from her perusal of the web.

In other words, her foot hurts.

It turns out that not all God's children have the same number of bones in their feet. Some of them, usually women, have an extra bone in the instep, an accessory navicular, which can separate from the full-time navicular and lead to trouble.

Whatever the problem turns out to be,
Let's hope that it won't require sur-ger-y.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Hillary's Teeth

To many of us, Hillary Clinton represents every woman who thought she had a chance and got kicked in the teeth for her efforts.

I remember when I was in undergraduate school and was turned down for a scholarship despite good references and a high GPA. When I inquired, Mr. Carpenter, the scholarship director, said, "You're married. You'll just get pregnant and drop out."

Well, I didn't get pregnant and drop out. In fact, I made Phi Beta Kappa and earned a Ph.D. in linguistics. Meanwhile Mr. Carpenter embezzled the scholarship funds and fled to Pennsylvania.

I have always wondered about that--why Pennsylvania? Did he think it was a foreign country? Had he, perhaps, confused it with Transylvania?

His feet may have been good for kicking, but his brain was good for nothing.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Naked Chests and Coy Backs

Have you noticed how many paperback romance novels have naked-chested men on them lately? Actually, not the whole man--no head or legs, just the chest, which looks so pumped with steroids that it might burst open any moment. I have a theory that it's the same chest on every book, and, like the anecdotal Christmas fruitcake, just keeps moving from cover to cover.

Their chests are as hairless as their jaws, a big switch from a decade or so ago, when the leading men were all deliciously hairy-chested beasts who often sported long hair and five o-clock shadows. Many were even bearded. And a decade before that, mustaches were all the rage.

I notice that female cover illustration is running to coy full-length rear views, preferably with dress fastenings half-undone. Well, at least it's an improvement over every other cover featuring a stiletto heel.

What's next? Who knows. Just so nobody brings back Fabio.