Sunday, November 30, 2008


Against my usual wont, I dropped by Koehler's Drugstore on Twenty-fifth Street.

The store was a small stucco building, old, overstocked, and underserviced. The few times I had been in the store, Mr. Koehler had looked at me as though I was a spy who had slipped through the Confederate lines. He would probably have barred the door if he had known I was the Yankee girl who supported integrated schools and equal opportunity employment, the one who had been involved in a battle-to-the-death debate with his son in our high school American history class. In the early sixties, those were radical concepts in Waco, where old ways died hard.

But changes were in the air. I had grown up with the the idea that one's agemates, no matter if they were in the nursery or teetering on the edge of the grave, were all referred to as either "boy" or "girl." But Black Pride and the Women's Movement were insisting that we all, black and white, were grown-ups, "men" and "women."

The change was necessary because "boy" was a term used not just for agemates, but also for any black man, no matter his age. In fact, "uncle" was the most respectful term of address a black man would ever hear in Waco, and that was when he was old, crippled, and harmless.

I was moving methodically up and down the rows of the drug store looking for nail polish remover while Mr.Koehler, his pasty-faced sales clerk, and the delivery "boy," a broad-shouldered black man, lounged at the pharmacist's counter, authoritatively discussing the Baylor Bears' chances of making it to the Cotton Bowl that year. Becoming more and more irritated, I kept shooting narrow-eyed glances at the three idling sportsmen.

Suddenly the heavy glass door swung open and a wave of eyeball-baking Texas summer heat burst in along with a sweaty stranger rattling a city map. He spotted the three men huddled together at the back of the store and lumbered toward them like a substitute with a message from the coach.

I had a straight-shot, fifty-yard-line view of the whole scene down the center aisle.

Focusing on the black man, the stranger barked "Hey, boy, where's Fulkes Ave at?

The three sportsmen stared at the intruder. His greeting hung in the air like a forward pass with no down-field receiver.

The delivery man looked startled for only a moment. Then black came into his eyes and his broad shoulders sagged. It was common knowledge that colored people knew where every street in town was, just as naturally as they ate watermelon and kept good rhythm.

He took a deep breath and opened his mouth to answer, but Randy Koehler was quicker. "Three streets to the north and turn left, sir," he cut in, flashing a quick professional smile.

"Thanks, buddy," the stranger said, a little confused by the unexpected interception, but gamely shifting his attention to the white man. With another whoosh of the automatic door, the traveler departed.

The sportsmen turned to each other and resumed their conversation.

I waited respectfully until they finished to be rung up.

Saturday, November 29, 2008


Fiorella, the mighty writing machine,
Eats up rainforests by the ream--
Fiorella is kind, Fiorella is keen,
Sometimes she's blue, but never green.

Friday, November 28, 2008

The High Road

Despite having been VP candidate on Al Gore's losing ticket--or maybe because of it-- Joe Lieberman declared himself an Independent Democrat and cozied up to the party that did win. Cozied up so close that reportedly he was McCain's first choice for VP.

The Republican "core" insisted on Palin, but, nevertheless, Lieberman, wily and smiley, was a featured speaker at the nominating convention in Minnesota.

So it was no surprise that the new Democratic majority wanted to dump him from his chairmanship of the powerful Senate Homeland Security committee. What was a surprise was that President-elect Obama decided he should stay.

What a contrast to the Bush administration's firing of federal prosecutors who didn't toe the party line.

Obama took the political high road. If that isn't change in Washington, I don't know what is. Another thing to be thankful for this weekend.

Thursday, November 27, 2008


I am thankful for cold weather because our forest clears out and its beautiful bare bones show.

I am thankful for cold weather because we get to have a fire in the fireplace.

I am thankful for cold weather because then I can snuggle up next to my honey at night without sweating like a pig.

I am thankful for cold weather because it invigorates my soul.


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Rainy Day

Under a green umbrella,
Just we two--
Laughing and giggling,
Me and you.

You're my brother, Billy,
I'm your sister, Jay;
And we're under a green umbrella
Because it's a rainy day.

The rain goes "splash"
On the umbrella top
Which protects us from
Each tiny drop.

But still we each
Are a little wet
'Cause two under an umbrella
Is mighty hard to get.


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Better and Better

If you've followed Fiorella from the beginning, you might have figured out that that several published blogs have been adjusted post-publishing, sometimes for typos, sometimes for style, sometimes because notes were inadvertantly included.

Fio is a constant editor. Nothing is ever finished with her. She is always readjusting what she has written, what she has painted, what she has said.

She also readjusts herself. Yes, Fio is a work in progress.

And so is Jeanell.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Dreams of Snow

I love it when the weather turns and the restaurants start planting pansies in their flower beds. Then I know it isn't long till I'll be able to see my breath in front of my face.

My breeding is not appropriate to constant sunshine, I think. I freckle easily and sunburn at the drop of a hat--quite literally. My body longs for cooler climes, northeastern Europe, to be exact. Emotionally, I long for real seasons, anywhere that it actually snows.

Of course, I have a romanticized notion of snow gleaned from TV, movies, and childhood memories of Ohio. To me, it's that fluffy white stuff that falls as manna from heaven while Bing Crosby sings "White Christmas." That stuff that I used to roll into snowmen when I was six. But to my father, laboring with the heavy shovel to clean the front walk, I think snow was something less benign.

All the same, I don't understand people who retire to places like Florida and South Texas. My ideal would be Iceland.

I never did forgive daughter for breaking up with the guy whose family owned a ski lodge in Vail.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Where My Money Goes

HEB is taking over the universe, at least in Texas--and where else matters? It ran A&P out of state years ago, and is in the process of beating down Randall's and Albertson's.

In the process, HEB has moved from being a mere grocery store to a department store. In fact, I'm thinking of having my paycheck sent directly to its corporate headquarters and cutting myself out as the middleman.

Husband and I shop at one of the super-stores, and it sells everything from clothes to electronics to furniture to medical care. If we want to get fancy, we can always drive into Austin to shop at HEB's upscale Central Market, which features every exotic fruit and vegetable I never knew existed, a wonderful bakery, meat and fish to die for, an amazing spread of prepared food, and even cooking lessons.

I'm planning on being buried out of HEB. Surely one of those smiling, red-aproned employees is selling coffins out of the back room.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Glitz Glut

I guess it's time for Fiorella to weigh in on the economy since everyone else has. Fio doesn't have any solutions yet, but she does have a historical perspective.

She thinks it all goes back to the Reagan era, when Hollywood went to Washington. Jimmy Carter had ideals and values, but he also seemed a bit dorky. Reagan, on the other hand, had glamor--and the rest of us decided we wanted that too. All we had to do was use our credit cards. We deserved that bigger house, those snazzy duds, that car one step up from our neighbor's. We aspired to jobs we actually enjoyed, and the feel-good gurus told us all things were reachable. All we had to do was believe.

"Updating" was the name of the game as we eased ourselves into the HGTV world, in which perfectly good kitchen appliances are tossed in favor of more stylish stainless steel, perfectly good counters tossed in favor of more stylish granite.

Fiorella would like to tell you she hung back and said "Fie upon you and your false values," but she has always known she deserved to be a princess. That's why her appliances are stainless steel and her counters are granite and she's a little panicked about the future.

Oh well, Fio and Husband can always live off the land. Already they're harvesting lemons from the little trees on their back porch and gathering firewood from their acreage. Hmmm--maybe they can develop a taste for venison too.

Friday, November 21, 2008


It's snapped back.

Yes, the girdle has returned, but now it's called a "shaper." You've seen them all over television and the tabloids--various sorts of elasticized fabric undergarments that supposedly reduce you by two sizes. Even plastic surgeon Robert Rey is hawking them.

First there were corsets, then there were girdles; then, in the '60s, we tossed our girdles into the fire with our bras and let our fat flab free. The bras were sheepishly retrieved within the decade, but the girdles remained in the ash bin till just this year. (Probably some kind of space technology development.)

Myself? Call me retro, but the last thing I want to do on a hot summer day is encase myself in a skin-tight sausage wrapping.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Canine Gourmet

Wendy, Wendy, in the woods,
Eating acorns by the score--
Wendy, Wendy, in the house,
Vomiting upon the floor--
Wendy, Wendy, I implore,
Don't eat acorns any more.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Heart of Gold

How nice to glance at the front page of Monday's Wall Street Journal and learn that the top execs of at least one financial institution are taking the high road, and at their own cost. Yes, the seven top officers of Goldman Sachs are forgoing their annual multi-million dollar bonuses this year. Other investment firms, please take note.

It's more than a grand gesture--it's a small readjustment of the playing field. The millions that those executives are not squirreling away in their own private bank accounts will show up in other places, not just in money that is available, but in money that is not being drained from the economy. Okay, I'll say it--it's a spreading of the wealth, which the country needs, given the increasing gap between the haves and have-nots.

But don't discount the gesture. It also means that the plutocrats are aware that there are other people in the world, people not as--literally--fortunate as they are, people whose pain should be respected and, as much as possible, alleviated. We're all in this together, guys.

And while I'm on the subject, I want to report that Husband was given a commendation and a cute little lapel pin for being one of the top contributors to the office charity drive this year. We're doing our part too.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Hello, World!

Fiorella has her mojo back!

Being of unsound mind and body, Fio periodically goes down, down, down. A searing critique of her latest novel did her in. She struggled with it for a while by throwing herself into intense and unaccustomed physical labor (translation: cleaning the house), then switched gears completely and started working on other stuff she had stockpiled for "later."

As of yesterday, Fiorella is completely recovered. She finished off two poems that had been hanging fire for a couple of years--a Christmas villanelle and a sonnet about mother-daughter relationships. And today she answered all her old e-mails, redid an old painting, and found a pretty rock in her driveway. And she's been getting herself organized again. Up and at'em, Fiorelle!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Retail Relations

Thursday night Husband and I went to Home Depot, where we had lately been receiving very good customer service, to look over bookshelves. We decided on unassembled six-footers, three of them, costing almost $100 apiece. No sales people were anywhere in evidence so we started calling out for assistance. Another couple, also standing around waiting for help, joined our yodel.

Finally a smiling, aproned employee arrived, answered our inquiries, loaded the heavy boxes onto a cart, and towed them up to the front of the store for us. We were very grateful.

As our sedan's trunk is not built to accommodate six-foot lengths, we got in the line to sign up for delivery. It would cost more than $50, we were informed, and the store would tell us the day but not the time. Okay, we said, planning to set a date when I could stay home all day.

Then came the rub. Explaining that big flatbeds can't negotiate our long, winding, narrow driveway, I asked about the vehicle that would be used. We were then told that Home Depot's deliveries are only to the curb, which meant our bookshelves would be off-loaded on the road, at the entrance to our driveway. Husband and I would have to figure out a way to get them the 100 or so yards to the house ourselves.

I balked, Husband balked, and we departed, leaving the bookshelves still on the cart beside the check-out.

We won't lose out. We can find the same shelves somewhere else with better delivery services. But Home Depot did lose out, not only a quick $300 sale, but our good will.

It's no wonder retailers are going under.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Living off the Land

True bliss is sitting in front of a fire made from wood which we've cut ourselves. Husband and I now have more than half a cord stored on circular iron racks in front of our house, and I often go to the door to look at the fruits of our labor in wonder and awe. It's a big deal to this city girl who thought firewood grew out of plastic wrappers stacked in front of HEB.

Right now we're working on a downed oak that was probably struck by lightning a couple of years ago. It's huge, so we'll have our racks completely full after another couple days'labor. Maybe we'll even have to buy a third rack.

And just think of all the money we'll save--next year. This year we still have to justify the cost of two (or three) $25 racks, a $65 electric chain saw, and extra blades at $5 apiece.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Missed It

In all the flurry of Suzy's car trouble, I forgot to visit my father Thursday morning. And I didn't make it up in the afternoon.

I don't think Dad knows whether I am there or not--or cares. To him I am just someone who drops in twice a week, shouts at him, and hauls his wheelchair around.

I will go to see Dad tomorrow. Husband accompanies me on Sundays, which makes everything a little easier.

Friday, November 14, 2008


Yesterday, my initial engagement of the morning was with friend Suzy.

Her car broke down before we could meet at Dan's for breakfast so I drove to where she was marooned on Guadalupe and 45th, then made a trip to Dan's to pick up breakfast to go for both of us, stayed with her till the tow truck came, followed the tow truck to the garage, then tripped off with her to Jason's Deli, where we spent a pleasant half hour bringing each other up to date on our lives. It was not only a nice visit, but an adventure--although nothing compared to when my heart started beating too fast in Dan's a couple of years ago and Suzy hauled me off to the hospital and stayed with me till I was in the clear.

But that's the sort of thing friends do.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Snippets Again

Just when I think I have have everything figured out, everything changes.
That congestion I have every morning could be just my brain leaking out.
All in all, I thought old age would be more interesting.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Five More Things

My desk has never been as neat and tidy as my mother's was. On the other hand:

1) I have written poetry, short stories, novels, and plays
2) I have edited newsletters and literary publications
3) I have published in local newspapers and magazines
4) I have composed songs and a children's opera
5) I have established Fiorella on line

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Gone Tomorrow

Fiorella doesn't know whether or not she and Husband are going to renew their Austin Lyric Opera season tickets next year. Now that they live out in the sticks, it's something of a pain to spend forty-five minutes driving into Austin, sometimes in heavy traffic, then another forty-five driving home through the rural darkness.

Besides, despite shelling out for the orchestra section every year, and lately sweetening the deal with a yearly $250 donation, Fio and Husband have not been happy with their seats ever since the ALO moved from Bass Hall to the Long Center. First they were stuck front row center, which gave them a riveting view of the sweat beads sparkling on the back of conductor Richard Buckley's head. After Fio complained in her own inimitable style, she and Husband were moved to more acceptable seats, although they would have preferred being a little closer to the stage. This season, Fio et spouse were moved further down front, but to one side, which they do not like.

Fiorella thinks that the basic problem is the Long Center itself. The front row of seats is too near the orchestra pit, and slant of the floor is wrong, not rising until about row six. Also, the rows are placed so close together that it is hard for audience members to pass each other to reach their seats, and six-foot tall Husband can't stretch out his legs during the performance. Besides, the chairs are too small-- and not cushiony enough for Fio's tender derriere.

Other amenities Fiorella and her spouse had grown accustomed to at ALO's former venue are missing, such as the large couches in the enclosed loggia. And where are those neato golf carts that transported people to and from?

Fio and Husband adored their old seats at Bass, fourth row center, and assumed they'd have comparable seats at Long, but such was not to be. Oh well, judging from the unusually large flocks of tuxedo-clad men a and black-gowned women in evidence at Cenerentola, red-dressed Fiorella and her money will not be missed if she disappears into the night.

Let them have their convention of crows. Fio will stay home, put on her comfy crimson robe and listen to the stereo.

Monday, November 10, 2008


Fiorella has a nostalgic fondness for Rossini's Cenerentola (Cinderella)because years ago she participated in an excerpt from it. Besides, Rossini's battiness has always appealed to Fio, who has something of a batty streak herself.

Fiorella and Husband thoroughly enjoyed Saturday night's Austin Lyric Opera performance. Because Rossini's music is so frenetic and the libretto is so sparse (the same phrases repeated about fifty times, building and building and building), constant inventive action is a must. Yes, it's comic romp.

The voices were first rate. They had to be, to handle Rossini's exuberance, yet keep up the pace. Agility was the name of the game. Top-notch was Sandra Piques Eddy as Cinderella, a true mezzo with deep, plummy tones, not a soprano singing down because she couldn't make the cut. Every syllable, every pitch in every wiggly melody line was clearly articulated, The tenor hero, Ramiro (Michele Angelini), was also quite good, with beautiful high notes, although stage miking or something lost him every now and then. Baritone John Boehr, playing Dandini, a Figaro kind of role, was also great, although not quite as articulate. The audience's favorite was probably the bombastic bass Magnifico (Steven Condy), who provided a wonderfully bravura comic performance. Almost sinister, bass Alidoro (Kritsopher Irmiter) anchored the cast with what struck Fio as overtones of Zauberflote's Sarastro.

Before the opera started, the audience was asked to stand and sing the national anthem, which Fio thinks was a common practice at movie theaters during the '30s. As you can imagine with a theater full of music-conscious people, it sounded good. Not like at office birthday parties, where half the staff can't carry a tune. A few brave soprano voices even went up the decorative octave on "land of the free-ee".

During the overture, the cast presented a mime show that was supposed to establish the back story. Husband thought it worked great, but it just confused Fiorella. The opera was reset into 1930's Hollywood, which, again, Husband liked and Fio didn't.

All in all, the sheer stamina of the singers overwhelmed Fiorella. So much intensive coloratura crammed into so little time.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Time Off

Fio has a lot to say,
And she says it every day,
But most of all she likes to play--

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Passive Aggressive

Years ago, when I took singing lessons, the instructor tried to teach me the proper stance. I stood up straight, arranged my feet just so, relaxed my knees, tucked in my bottom, stretched my waist, raised and expanded my chest, clasped my hands out in front of me, lifted my chin--and fell over.

It was a millipede-who-couldn't-walk-once-he-was-questioned-about-how-he-did-it moment.

I think something of the same sort is happening in the world of romance novelists right now. Fifteen years ago, the question that defined the worth of your story was whether it was "character-driven" or "plot-driven," and your answer had darn well better be "character-driven."

Now there are more questions, like whether you know your characters' GMCs, which I always fleetingly think refers to gross national product. Then there's the story arc dealie. And eliminating all adverbs. And restricting dialogue tags to "said." And the business of sticking like glue to a limited third person viewpoint.

Some of the above are helpful. Others are downright silly. It's all a way of trying to capture a will-o'-the wisp--success--in a bottle. But a brief perusal of works by popular authors will show that they feel no such compunctions.

So I think I'll just lock myself in my tower room and write the stories I want to write the way I want to write them. Maybe lightning will strike and I'll get published; maybe it won't. But at least I won't fall over.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Commitment Blues

Marriage: while homosexuals rush towards it, heterosexuals rush away from it--in droves. Fiorella doesn't understand the couples who, surrounded by a houseful of bouncing babes, explain they are not yet ready for marriage.

Daughter sees the situation this way, that while women are looking for THE one, men are looking for ANYone. And, as previously mentioned, someone better might be right around the corner.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Save the Republicans!

I am still puzzling over the hijacking of the Republican party.

I remember when Democrats were considered the wascally wabbits, and Republicans, in contrast, were seen as--uh--wespectable--maybe a bit staid, but educated and reliable. Now the party's base seems to consist of hate-mongers and religious zealots.

What happened? My Aunt Julie, who voted straight Republican until she died at age 95, would never have recognized today's GOP. And neither would Abraham Lincoln.

Ditch Sarah Palin.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Reality Check

Possible reasons why Cheney endorsed McCain so publicly last week:

1) He wanted McCain to lose.

2) He was trying to pull in the misanthrope vote.

3) Sarah is a better shot.

Or maybe it just never dawned on him that he is even more unpopular than his boss.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


Traditional marriage was no bed of roses. Couples married in the first throes of lust, discovered they'd married real people, and, for the most part, made the best of it, getting to know their spouses as human beings rather than plastic figures on top of a wedding cake. It was a matter of commitment, of fulfilling a vow. Sometimes it took a lot of work.

Then came the sexual revolution, with women becoming as sexually active as men, sometimes moreso. And, with sex so easily available, who wanted marriage anymore? After all, there might be someone even better around the corner.

We're gonna end up with a bunch of old people with no partners. Turning forty all alone is no fun.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Political Snippets

Modern communications have redefined politics. McCain and Palin will be the first national candidates defeated by television comedy. Yes, Letterman and Fey did the job.
The Palin family's $150K clothing haul was nothing compared to Cindy McCain's $300K Marie Antoinette outfit for the Republican convention. Again, whatever happened to Pat Nixon's good cloth coat?
Since when did the Republican Party become the choice of the ignorant and intolerant? My parents, life-long Republicans, were neither. Friends of mine who call themselves Republican aren't that way either. But, according to the party's own pundits, the "base" is redneck. That's why Palin, anti-science and quick on the draw, was selected for the vice-presidential slot.
On the topic of tolerance, how odd it is that tolerant people bend over backwards to protect the rights of the intolerant, then get slammed when the intolerant achieve power. Of course, the intolerant, by definition, cannot tolerate the tolerant.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Paternal Roles

Dad tried on several roles after Mother died. He invented a few things, like paper sandals to wear indoors, and he wrote a story about going to heaven after he died and reuniting with his parents, who assured him he had been a good son. He also tried his hand at being the beneficent paterfamilias, mailing Husband a totally unappreciated list of procedures to follow when buying a new car and giving Mother's elderly cousin totally unappreciated advice on how to handle her personal relationships.

I wish I had been more accepting of his geriatric foibles, but they just irritated me. He kept repeating the same stories over and over, as if on a recording. He embarrassed me by discussing personal matters in a carrying voice in public places. And when I tried to do nice things for him, like tote a huge pumpkin into his room at the retirement residence and carve it into a jack-o-lantern, he sneered.

Sometimes he made me very angry. All I wanted him to do was to be like he used to be, before he grew old.

Saturday, November 1, 2008


Paper plates or napkins, yes,
Cardboard boxes, I confess--
Kleenex, papered hangers too,
Toilet paper in the loo,
Paper towels, their rolls, junk mail,
Advertisements of a sale,
Newspapers, deposit slips,
Lists of dues and memberships,
Candy wrappers in my purse,
Bulletins when I'm in church.
No paper scrap is safe from me--
I'll write on anything I see.