Sunday, April 24, 2011

You can go home again, but who wants to?

As much as I complain about Boulder or just about anything, I forget how beautiful it is here. Flying back to Minneapolis this past week was like going back in time to a winter in the Middle Ages or how I would imagine the Middle Ages would be if it had The Mall of America. The cold air hit my face the way my fingers would hit a slant six engine block while ratcheting out a rusted spark plug in January.

It was my mother-in-law’s eightieth birthday and we flew out to celebrate with the family. I like my mother-in-law and she happens to be a wonderful woman, but she still smokes. I became rather sensitive to cigarettes while growing up with a smoker. It has gotten to the point where I can pick out which drivers are lighting up even with the windows closed while doing seventy on the parkway.

We were staying at her place for the weekend. I was just getting out of the shower and I grabbed a clean towel lying next to the sink. But the more I dried myself the more I could smell cigarette smoke. Where was it coming from? With a look of horror I realized it was third hand smoke. Third hand smoke is the residue left behind by a smoker, and is usually trapped in fabrics. Even though the cloth may be washed several times, in this case towel, it still has remnants of tobacco in it. I was slowly coating my epidermis with a veneer of tar and nicotine. I’m such a hypochondriac I pictured myself getting skin cancer and I had to re-shower several times. It was as if I was trying out for the Meryl Streep’s role in the Broadway production of “Silkwood”. When I asked my wife for a roll of paper towels to dry off she thought I finally lost my mind. That all changed after her shower. But the worst part is I became addicted to the towels and found myself with a two and a half showers a day habit by the end of my trip. If I stayed any longer I probably would have stolen a washcloth to keep in my desk.

Italians are a rarity in Minnesota along with much of the mid-west. As such people felt like that had to serve me pasta at every meal in order to be polite hosts. It’s mid-west pasta though, which means egg noodles with white cream sauce, chicken, pork, seafood, and three types of cheese. I know I must sound like an ingrate. I don’t mean to. It was very generous and thoughtful of everyone. Between the nico-towels and the heavy sauce, however, my weight was up, my blood pressure was up and my life expectancy was down. It was a matter of survival to get out.

This past weekend my son came out for a visit from New York. I dropped him off at Denver Airport for his trip back and I headed home to finish this piece. The first thing that crossed my mind was “Thank God he doesn’t write a blog.” I could only imagine the horror stories he is telling his friends about his visit with me. I don’t think my fragile ego would handle all the public complaints with any amount of grace or dignity. Of course by next week my fears will be a dim memory and I’ll be back writing, maybe with a little more compassion. I know I start with good intentions, but by the end of the week I’m once again an apoplexic mess.

Anyway, here is the watercolor I gave the old gal for her eightieth birthday.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

New story coming next week on my recent trip to Minnesota visiting in-laws. Did that whet your appetite? Here is a recent piece for Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators contest. I titled it "Getting Rid of The Snarls".

Sunday, April 3, 2011

We recently returned from a trip to Hawaii and getting around there was a small miracle in itself. (Are you surprised I have something to curmudge concerning Hawaii? When, or maybe if, I ever get to Heaven I’m sure I’ll have a few things to correct. “You mean we can have anything we want? Great, more decisions I have to make.”) I asked a local Hawaiian woman, a large flowered moo-moo wearing with a huge smile and hair to match kind of woman, where the local beach was. You wouldn’t think it would be too hard to find a beach on an island, right? Except, the Hawaiian language, to my ignorant ears anyway, sounds as if the Gerber baby invented it.

“We have many beaches. Which one do you want?”

“I’m not sure. Which would you recommend?”

“Well, you could go to Kaopectate Kove. That’s right next to Poopoopkaki Park. But there’s a lot of flooding. Onomatopoeia is popular.”

“That has a nice ring to it. How do I get there?”

“You take Wiamea Highway that way (she points to her left) passed Wianothima, then turn that way (points to right) by Monopoly Piece. Make a right at the rock that looks like Tiki god and a left at Tiki god that looks like rock. Go straight much further until you see Hocuspocus, it’s right next to Hoipolloi, and you’re right there.”

“Can you say that in English?”

“Take Highway 19 and look for the sign.”


“You want to buy some pearls? I have the best prices around.”

“No thanks. I already filled my quota of getting ripped off this trip by staying at a hotel where the hotdogs are fourteen dollars. Maybe next time.”

We finally made it to the beach and it was spectacular. That’s my trip in a coconut shell.

Yesterday was a record 82° here in Boulder, followed by 90MPH winds, a wildfire, and today they are expecting 1-3 inches of snow. Yes, it’s springtime in the Rockies. When we got back home a miracle was waiting for us. Miracles come in all shapes and sizes, of course. Such as my wife passing up a shoe sale, or my sister picking up a check at a restaurant (sorry D.B., but when you do the writing it gives you carte blog to say what you want.). But this was a bona fide ‘face in the toast’ kind of miracle. Our two male finches, Steve and Mark, somehow were able to lay four eggs while we were away. Who says gays can’t have children? Isn’t that just lovely? While my wife and daughter were beside themselves with joy and expectations, I was looking up recipes to make the world’s smallest omelet. “Can we keep them?” my daughter asks. “Of course,” answers my wife. “And why not?” I ask. “It’s not like I enjoy a clean room, or peace and quiet,” I said to deaf ears. I think anyone who has read this blog knows how I feel about pets and all that they entail. So I am less than thrilled. Although, bar-b-que season is upon us. The only problem I see is the little fellers falling through the bars on the grill. The only problem my daughter sees is that we need a new name for Mark, our cross-featherer. Since all this happened while on our trip, I was thinking of naming them after the Hawaiian phrase for happy couple: Martini and Rossi.

Below are a few quick sketches I did while away on away of the local flora and fauna. That’s Fauna on the right.