Thursday, September 27, 2012

Poem (of sorts) for Bern while she was away

Where are you?

I keep listening for you moving around
in the TV room,
walking downstairs to smoke,
making noise somewhere.

I know you're gone to West Virginia.
I took you to the airport,
for goodness sake.

Yet, I keep listening for you
moving around in our house,
so used to you being there.

I guess I'll take the Puli
out to pee,
and check on the Yankee score,
and have a snack
or just go to bed
and lay there
waiting for you to come, wondering
where you are,
missing you in my space
more than I imagined I would.

Bird and Bach

OK, I think I've gotten some of the nonsense of the new and unimproved down. Maybe I can write about something besides how upset I am with the new and ridiculous home page for Blogger.

Our bird, a parakeet named Maggie, loves classical music. So we keep WSHU--the last classical music NPR station we can receive--on by her cage all day.

I haven't done a scientific study (Lord knows I couldn't do a 'scientific' study given the NFP ending of my Meyers-Briggs scale) but I've noticed some things.

Like that organ music makes her lean against her cage on the side where the radio is and not move.

Bach, in any form, seems to have the same effect.

She dances back and forth to most of the Romantic stuff.

She sings along with Mozart.

It gives me faith in music to watch her.

It has similar impact on me. I really miss the great McManis organ at St. John's. I'd just lean into the side of my cage and be joyfully still.

I'm so frustrated....

So, I'm not even sure how to view what I've posted. The terms have changed--'publish' instead of 'post' is, I think, how to send stuff. In place of a spell check click, there is an ABC click with a line through it which simply puts a line through the word you want to know if you spelled correctly or not. And nowhere I have found, is their a 'view posts' tab. I'm sure no one--out of the 12-15 people that might read "Under the Castor Oil Tree" wants to read my rants about But until I figure it out, that's all you'll get. IF I can figure it out.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

OK, before I even get started....

OK, before I even get started. I noticed just now two things, it's getting harder and harder for me to get to this place a write a blog. spent 5 minutes tonight trying to tell me how they've made my blogging easier, better, more fun before I could get HERE and actually write a blog!!! Also, I've noticed my new, improved, easier, better, funner blogs are being written out without acknowledging my paragraphs. Their fault, not mine.... Being an English major, I write in paragraphs--on old typewriters there was even a symbol on the upper row of the keys that stood for 'paragraph'. It was a capital P with an extra leg. Who knows where that went. And typewriters had a key called "Return" which on computers is called "Enter". For my taste, "Return" trumps "Enter" every time. I'm going to 'publish' this and then view it to see if my careful use of pagination has been changed. I HATE CHANGE....

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Dinner list

I have lots of files on my computer--hundreds and hundreds--and sometimes I glance through them to see what all I have. I found one tonight called 'dinner list'. What it is, I think, though I don't remember writing it or when--is a list of rules for children when going to another person's house for dinner. Surely I didn't write it so long ago as when our children needed such a list. I didn't have a computer back then. I suspect I went to what I expected was going to be an adult dinner party and sat next to a child too young to come to an adult dinner party. Who knows. At any rate, I share it with you tonight... DINNER LIST 1.You will not take off any of your clothes during dinner, lest you die. 2.You will not wipe your hand on your clothes after shaking hands with our hosts, lest you die. 3.YOU WILL SHAKE HANDS LIKE NORMAL PEOPLE…..Lest you die. 4.If our hosts have any pets, you will not twist their legs or ears or tails or otherwise annoy them lest you die. 5.You will take your napkin and put it in your lap. There it will stay, verily, throughout your meal. 6.You will accept anything passed to you in way of food—no matter how icky it is—and take only the smallest amount of the most icky things and not scream about how icky they are, lest you die. 7.You will not spit food on your sister/brother or on your plate or on the dinner table, lest you die. 8.If you must—lest you die—spit food at all, it will be into your napkin on your lap. 9.You will not comment on any body part of our hosts either to your sister/brother, or your parents or anyone else lest you die. 10.You will not say any of those 14 words we all know you know but have agreed you will not say, lest you die. 11.You will not—under any circumstances—tell any stories about your siblings or parents that will humiliate and mortify them…lest you die. 12.You will stay at the table throughout dinner, even if you think you are going to explode; especially if you think you are going to explode…and you will not mention your impending explosion under any circumstances, lest you die. 13.No matter how good dessert is, you will not eat dessert from someone else’s plate nor lick your plate nor say, GIMME MORE CAKE, nor do anything to humiliate and mortify your parents, lest you die.

Friday, September 21, 2012


I went to my urologist today. I took Ann Tyler's "Beginning Good-bye" and finished it in the waiting room and the exam room waiting for the doctor. I recommend it highly--or anything by Ann Tyler, the girl's a writing machine. In between the waiting room and the exam room, I peed in a cup and talked to the nurse, asking her how my PSA was. She wasn't supposed to tell me but because I am so disarming and charming, she did. It was so low it couldn't be measured. I was thrilled! That meant, I imagined that I wouldn't get an injection of Luprin--a drug I was on for over a year before last March. I haven't had it since then and my PSA actually went down! The doctor came in. We shake hands a lot. We shake hands when he comes in and when we leave and then again at the desk after making my next appointment. It's not bad because his hands are small and soft. The urologist who removed my prostrate 8 years ago had hands like an NFL linebacker. Since these are people who stick their fingers up your butt, small hands are a plus.... He told me that--after 8 years and after surgery and radiation (that messed up my bladder quite a bit)and hormone treatment, I was "essentially cured". I'd come back every six months for a year and then every year for a while, but what I heard him saying was that finally, finally I could say I was a cancer survivor! Praise the Lord and pass me another glass of wine! I told him in the last six months that I realized how lethargic Luprin had made me. He smiled, "well yes," he said, "I hear that a lot." So, I didn't go to them gym today as celebration. My seldom going to the gym over the year before the last six months (when I've gone 5 or 6 times a week) was due to the drug. I just didn't realize it until now. And the 15 pounds I gained and the occasional sweating spells and the lack of energy--all that was Luprin related, but I didn't realize it because in a year you can get used to how you feel and think it is normal, I guess. (He was so pleased with my progress that he didn't even put his finger up my butt. I had a cover story that I needed to have a bowel movement and a finger up my butt would be a problem, but I didn't need it. Truth is, whenever I think a doctor is going to stick his finger up my butt, I need to poop. That's just me and don't know if it is generally true....Women might be interested in this: whenever a doctor sticks his or her finger up your butt--I've had both male and female urologists--they invariable, like a knee-jerk reflex--say "sorry". My inclination, when they say 'sorry' is to say--though I've only said it once to my GP who've I had for a quarter of a century--"how was it for you? Want a cigarette?") I'm so happy about all this I could weep for joy...Probably, I'll get hit by a bread truck crossing the street next week....

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

My plans as a ghost....

I was out on the back porch smoking a cigarette when I looked inside and watched Bern come into the kitchen and take a fish oil pill and get a Klondike ice cream sandwich out of the freezer. As she left the kitchen, she saw me and gave that little side-ways wave we both know how to give because we grew up in southern West Virginia where people wave like they're gently swatting away a gnat--which they probably were--West Virginia having invented multi-tasking....

But before she waved, I watched her unawares for a minute or so.

(Before I go further, I should address the cigarette I was smoking with the porch light off while I watched Bern. I get so much grief and abuse from non-smokers about my smoking, you wouldn't believe it....Though you probably would if you are a judgmental and arrogant non-smoker who gives grief and abuse to smokers you know.

I was getting my teeth cleaned Tuesday afternoon and the dental hygienist asked me if I smoked. That was a rhetorical question, I imagine, since she could surely tell from the stains of my front teeth that I did smoke. God bless her, she didn't abuse me and give me grief. We had established already that she was a member of St. John's Episcopal Church in North Haven and I was an Episcopal priest so we had a modicum of politeness and mutual respect established. However, some of the most vicious grief-givers and abusers of me are Episcopalians who don't smoke. Perhaps it gives them some degree of self-righteousness to talk trash to a priest...I don't know.

After a lot of probing and rinsing, the dental hygienist asked me, politely and with respect, if I'd ever stopped smoking. I told her yes and that there have been long years, a decade once, when I didn't smoke.

"Oh," she said, "but you always went back."

"I always went back several times," I told her, "but the last time I went back was a conscious decision."

She was interested in this conversation and didn't stick anything in my mouth.

"A conscious decision?" she asked.

"Yes," I told her. "I'm a priest and I must, by my call, stand with 'the oppressed' and smokers are the most oppressed people in our society...."

She took that in. "You're kidding....." she said.

"I'm kidding...." I said.

"But not completely...." she added.

"You got it" I said. "Smokers are, in general, a lot less judgmental of  choices than non-smokers and especially 'ex-smokers'.

All those time I was an ex-smoker, I was abusive and grief-giving to the lower species around me who smoked.

I stand...and smoke...with the Oppressed....)

All of which was a smoker's rant of an aside. What I started writing about was watching Bern take a fish oil pill and get an ice cream sandwich out of the freezer before you noticed me smoking and watching her from the dark back porch.

My plans as a ghost lie in that direction--being able to watch the people that I love, unawares that they are being watched, do ordinary things.

I've never been enamored by the traditional views of heaven. Being in a place with streets of gold, being weighed down by wings, singing the "Santus" for all eternity. I want to be a ghost and visit those I love and watch them go about their lives--my daughter and my son and my granddaughters, but most of all, most, most of all, to watch Bern once I am dead--watch her take a drink of water and swallow a her look in the freezer for something to eat, watch her reading a book, watch her dressing for a trip to the grocery store, watching her shopping, watching her with my daughter and son and granddaughters do ordinary thing, watching her laugh and be joyful and weep and be sad--perhaps because I am gone--and then remember what she has to do and going to do it. That would be heaven to me: standing on a darkened porch, watching the ordinary moments of life of those I love. I can't imagine an 'after life' better than that... Unless it would include a cigarette or five while I was watching...and a glass or six of wine as well....

squirrels can swim

I was walking the dog down the Canal, swollen by last night's rain, and heard a splash like a rock had gone into the water.

I looked over and watched a drenched squirrel swim to the bank and, with what was probably my projection, climb up in the branch he had obviously fallen from with a great deal of embarrassment.

Well, of course I don't know for sure that squirrels can be embarrassed. (I said that was a projection....) But then, I didn't know squirrels could swim and obviously this one could. So who am I (who didn't know squirrels could swim, to say if they can be embarrassed? And how much other stuff don't I know about squirrels?

Can they add or subtract? Feel empathy, like for a member of their species that slips and falls in a canal? Do they remember which of the other squirrels is their mother or second-cousin? I know they can find the nuts they hide in the fall when winter is fierce. I also know that they've been able, on numerous occasions, to get into our attic and scuttle around over our heads. But what is poetry to a squirrel? What is passion? What is hope about?

I actually think of them as the rodent equivelant of pigeons. I tried to pay off a golden tail hawk we see out back from time to time to leave the bunnies be and come rid us of squirrels. He wouldn't accept my offer, being a hawk, which, whatever else I don't know about those birds, I know they don't use money. (Neither do squirrels, so far as I know....)

I really abhor squirrels and have often thought of getting an air-rifle to b-b them when they're digging up bulbs in our back yard or dropping their poo on our sidewalk or trying to get into our attic.

But, finally, my non-violent instinct overcame by irrational hatred of squirrels and I simply throw sea shells, which we have buckets of since Bern picks them up every September on Oak Island, at them.

But I must admit, seeing that one swim out of the canal and be embarrassed (if, indeed, he was capable of that emotion) made me rethink my relationship with sciuridae, which I found on Wickapedia is the scientific name for squirrels. Having to run around with 'sciuridae' as your scientific name is enough to make even a committed squirrel hater like me have some sympathy for them.

Specially when they fall into a canal....How embarrassing is that for a climbing rodent?

Monday, September 17, 2012

What I F-ing Hate!!!

So, I sign out to my blog this evening and--WHAT THE HELL?--someone, who knows who, decided to change the way it looks when I sign on to my blog.

I can't even explain how distressed and upset I am about it all! My screen looks nothing like it did the last time I signed on. I have more frigging options about what to do that I want! What I want is to 'publish' or not. That's all. Don't give me 'save' and 'preview' and 'link' and 'compose' and 'insert image' and 'insert a video' and 'insert a jump break' (what the hell is a "jump break" and why would I ever, even if I lived forever, want to 'insert' one when all I want to do is type and then 'publish'.

Bern and I often discuss that we might have to, someday, have a smart phone. Her theory is that checks and cash will cease to exist and the only way to pay someone for anything is with a smart phone. I scoff and laugh, but then they changed--without asking--my blog page and I wrote a thing about my glasses just to see if I COULD publish it without screwing up. And though I think I did, I still feel violated and abused that my blog page got all complicated without my permission, no one ever asked me.

I stay with AOL though everyone hates it, because it seems not to change as much or as fast as everything else on line. But even that is not safe. I am constantly asked whether I want to change my 'background' even though I don't give a fig about the background in any way, shape or form. All I care about is the 'foreground' where I surf the web and send and receive emails. Could I find an web service that would stay forever the same because that's all I want--what I know and am familiar with and trust....

Which brings me to our kitchen. Bern wants to 'redo' our kitchen. Now, granted, the dishwasher doesn't really work and several of the cabinet doors are held shut with rubber bands since the magnets have somehow stopped working and the water drips from the faucet all the time no matter what we do (short of calling a plumber!). I'm fine with the kitchen. It what I know and understand and am familiar with and trust and know how to work around.

Of course I'm the one who told our daughter Mimi years ago to stand on the rubber mat I put in the basement in front of the clothes dryer so she wouldn't be shocked when touching it.

She said to me, "Baba, get a new dryer!" (She calls me 'Baba' from time to time and I love that and it made me realize how right she was.

Bern wanted to talk about her ideas about the kitchen. I told her the absolute truth: "Darlin'," I said, "I'll be happy when you are happy." So, we're going to do it though it gives me the hebbie-jebbies to think things are going to change....

Besides, we've had the roof replaced and the house painted this year and, along with that, I'll be able to deduct the cost of the kitchen 'redo' from our income taxes next year because, as an Episcopal priest, I don't pay taxes on any 'housing expenses'. I deduct toilet paper and paper towels, which most people can't.

I'll get used to the new kitchen and used to the new form of my blog. I can adjust and move on, after all--even though I don't want to.

And if Romney/Ryan get elected they'll go after my housing allowance deduction since only clergy have it and no clergy are rich. No longer can I deduct garbage bags and dishwashing soap as God intended me to.

But that would be a 'change' I'm not sure I could endure--Romney as president.

However, I don't want to get into politics. I just want my blog to look the way it did a few days ago.

I'm going to try to send you this now, if I can manage it.....

The glasses that work

About 8 months ago, I got new glasses.

Let me tell you right now that I never felt confident about my choice when the doctor said, "This one...or this one?" Not once. Not ever.

So, I got these new glasses (did I tell you this before? I'm feeling like I did. If I did, well....I'm getting old and forget all sorts of stuff....) and after a few weeks, misplaced them. They were these cool clear frames, which was probably why I didn't find them, they were clear and I couldn't see them....who knows?

So I got my old glasses out, which are black frames with clear semi-circles under the lenses. Very Retro. Lots of people several decades younger than me told me they liked them or thought they were either "cool' or 'boss', neither of which terms I trust to mean what they meant to me decades ago.

So the truth is, I see better for 6 months now out of my 'old glasses' than my new ones. I just tried again, looking at the screen with my new glasses for a line and then my old ones--which are much 'cooler' and much more 'boss' anyway.

Which goes to show you, when you make a choice that is so close it doesn't deserved to be made, more often than not, you'll choose wrongly.

Ponder that, just as a rule of life, for a while.


Friday, September 14, 2012

Happy, happy birthday babies...

Today Morgan and Emma turned 6.

We were there in NY University hospital when they were born. Mrs. Chen, their maternal grandmother was there too. Cathy, Morgan and Emma's mother, had been on the 'multiple birth floor' of the hospital for a couple of weeks because the doctors knew the twins would be early and they wanted them to be 'later' early.

Some wonderful nurse called us and let us know that she'd stop on our floor and we could see them for a moment before they went to the post natal care floor. She pulled two baby carts out of the elevator and Mrs. Chen and Bern and I saw them, all wrapped up and with little hats on. They were so tiny--Emma 4 pounds 12 ounces and Morgan 4/8. Little bundles of miracles. We were with Josh and Cathy the next day in the hospital room and got to hold the little beings. Since both our children were born roughly twice as big and Morgan and Emma, it was like holding a fragile porcelain figurine of a baby when we held them.

But they went home 'on time' and today they turned 6.

Emma is several inches taller than Morgan. Both are skinny and lithe. Emma has her mom's black hair and Morgan has Bradley brown hair. Emma has Caucasian features and Morgan looks a slight more Asian. They are both brilliant and wondrous and beyond amazing.

We love them so.

I hope and pray I'll see them graduate from High School. That would mean a great deal to me.

I love them so. Flesh of my Flesh, once removed.

Happy, Happy birthday Morgan and Emma. Be well and stay well.

I adore you....

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

cat food thief

OK, for several months I have often found the little plate we give Luke, our cat, his wet food on, on the floor of the kitchen. I just assumed he knocked it off. But then I started finding it in the living room and on the rug beside the fireplace in our kitchen--much to far to 'knock' it.

Then on Monday, I came downstairs to see Bela, our dog, carrying the little plate in his teeth.

I was so stunned I just watched as he dropped it on the floor and licked it.

Since then he's been carrying the plate further and further from the little table where Lukie eats.

Seems he likes to clean up what Luke leaves on his plate.

I should be severe with him, but it was so cute to see him carrying the little square plate in his teeth I haven't yet disciplined him...

Monday, September 10, 2012

home again, home again....

We're back from vacation on Oak Island, North Carolina.

Seems we missed the humidity in New England. Every day on the beach was 85 with a 20-25 mile an hour breeze off the ocean and no clouds in sight. The wind keeps it cool and keeps the bugs inland. Truly great weather as it always seems to be on Oak Island in September--except when a hurricane comes....

Since four of the six people who go each year to Oak Island were born in West Virginia (Bern, daughter Mimi, friend John and me) we fly the West Virginia state flag from the deck of the house. To further explain the wind, the flag is flat out blowing the whole time we're there. WV was born on June 20, 1863, which means next June 20 will be the 150th birthday of my home state. I'm planning either a big party or a bus trip to Charleston (anyone interested in 3 days and 2 nights in the state capitol for the festivities?

The Latin motto of the state is on a ribbon on the flag: Montani semper Liberi--"Mountaineers are always free". There's a woodcutter in buckskin holding an ax and a coal miner with a helmet that looks like a WWI doughboy helmet, holding a pick ax. Really a nice flag. the whole thing is circled with rhododendron--the state flower.

We stay in Frank's Folly. It is a great house. There are 6 bedrooms and 3 1/2 baths, two flat screen TVs and the best equipped beach house kitchen I've ever stayed in. And remember, We've gone to Oak Island for 33 of the last 39 years--so I know something about the quality of the stuff in a kitchen...There is everything you'd have in your kitchen and of very high quality. Since one of the things we do at the beach is cook a lot, that's a big plus. This year we had grouper, shrimp, crab, red snapper and several other things from the local sea. Tim and Mimi bought a grill, which we left and did remarkable things on it two different nights. Food is a big part of our Oak Island life.

Well, there's Bern and me. And Mimi and Tim (loves of our hearts) and two great friends, John and Sherry. Sherry's husband Jack would make it complete but he is the head of a child care center and can't leave New Haven in September, when we always go. I've known John since the late 60's and have spent as much time with him as with any other friend. (I never realized that until this moment!) We met Sherry in 1980 when we moved to New Haven and Bern has been in 'Group'--a woman's group with no particular agenda and never more than six members--for at least 30 years. Tim and Mimi went to Bennington College at the same time and were friends, but it was only when they both were in NYC a few years later that they became a couple. And have been for, I don't know 7-10 years. I asked Tim this trip if I could refer to him as my "son-in-law" when I talk about him to other people. He said that was fine since he called Bern and me 'the in-laws' already. We love him like a rock. The thing that makes this all work is that the six of us could probably live together all the time (with Jack who would make it even better). We just 'get along' in lots of unspoken ways. We're all left-wing politically, which helps. We all read a great deal and like to talk about what we read. We all love to cook and eat (except for John, he just loves to eat enough to make up for not cooking!). And, all of us, in our own way, are really funny. (I don't mean 'odd', though that applies as well, but 'humorous' and ironic and droll. We laugh more than we eat or read or sleep when we're on Oak Island--which, I submit, makes life worth living in a remarkable way. People who laugh a lot live together in peace....

More later about the trip....

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About Me

some ponderings by an aging white man who is an Episcopal priest in Connecticut. Now retired but still working and still wondering what it all means...all of it.