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But Where Are Their REAL Teeth?

tom hanks is beside himselfI know I’m not the only one nostalgic for them: people’s real teeth.

Just look at this tricky picture of Tom Hanks, both his younger and older selves,as if you could put your two selves side by side.

My heart just rose on seeing the teeth Tom once had before the installation of those bright-white piano keys he now has in his mouth. I look at the Tom Hanks on the right and think of when he was Josh in the unforgettable film Big. I loved the way you really could see the connection between the way he appeared bumming around with his suddenly much shorter buddy Billy and the way he appeared while trying to keep his head above water with that woman at work ) who had her eye on him.

I look at the Tom on right and think “I know him! Weren’t we kids together?” 

I feel that way about David Bowie too with the pointy little canines he used to have.

Now? Perfect teeth.

David Bowie older

Nice but what I love are images like this one. from a YouTube video of him singing with Bing Crosby in 1977. I love it partly because it’s a great duet but mostly because of the dear unreconstructed look of those teeth. 

There are more celebrity tooth jobs here if you’re curious but I think for myself I will just keep on enjoying images of these two guys as they look today, new teeth or not. They’re both fuller in  the face too which I like and more relaxed- looking too.

Fix what you need to fix to become self-forgetful I guess is the lesson here – and then move right on to thinking of others!

 
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Posted by on May 20, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

Pretty Funny, Mother Nature!

ice dam joke

Here it comes. Here comes the heat. Its return has me looking back to last November, when, in this space, I painted a picture of what most of us were doing just then in these northern climes: We were cleaning up the after the summer, that messy Mardi Gras blowout with all its glittery litter. I meant the berries and leaves and nuts all cast around on the ground.

I meant the cat’s cradle of spiderwebs stretching everywhere about.

I meant the ivy that every year climbs so high on one side of my old house that before the frost gets it, it will have sent its bright-green gobliny fingers right in past the supposed barrier of the combination screen-and-storm windows, things expressly designed to keep the ‘outside’ out.

But the darn pricey windows didn’t do that in the growing season, and for sure they didn’t do it in the season of frost.This year there was no keeping the outside out. It snowed and snowed and snowed, in case you’ve forgotten. and on a thousand YouTube channels you could see videos of people’s crazy guy-friends in their underpants jumping from their second story porches into the 12-foot drifts below. You could see young women doing it too: donning their bathing suits to land shrieking in that cotton candy spin of utter cold.You could even see these people helping their dogs make the leap down into all that white, where, if they were small enough, they would literally disappear from sight for a couple of seconds before leaping back into view, happily yapping.

You couldn’t look at these videos and you couldn’t not look. They were funny in a horrible sort of way I guess and maybe we all needed the laugh by January’s end.

Four weeks later though, nobody was laughing. People with cars parked on the street couldn’t even find them for all the snow. And then there were the ice dams.

We all had them on our roofs, concrete-hard icebergs that just would not melt. You could climb up there and hack away at them with pickaxes, even sledgehammers, and still they would not yield.

They were there and they stayed there, until, little by little, they moved inside. This means that their moisture slowly ‘wicked’ right into and through all our walls with that same slow but steady determination I see each year with the ivy that climbs in my windows. The wood trim of all our interiors first bloated with moisture and then wept, sending blackish tears streaming clear down to the floor. Wall coverings grew what look like maps of unknown continents. Apparently the wall behind my own bed had grown so spongy by the beginning of March that one day the picture on it fell to the floor. Not realizing what had happened, I tried driving in a fresh nail to hold it. Alas it was like trying to nail something into a bowl of oatmeal.

I look back now at what I wrote last November about the great mess summer makes behind and I have to laugh. That mess was nothing compared to the mess this past winter has left us. So all I can say now is Thank Heaven there are such things as window cleaner, scrub brushes, and sheet rock. And also, God, thank you for giving the world contractors and handymen (and may some of them soon start returning our calls!)

 
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Posted by on May 15, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

Ah the School Project!

School projectsjpgI love this time of year because it’s when the schoolchildren, working away at home, fashion maps, and hand puppets, and dioramas, then bring them in for all to see.

These events have many names, from ‘You Make It Day’ to ‘Night of a Thousand Projects.’

I remember one such night in my own kids’ lives. It had as its theme ‘Our Friends the Animals’, and for it my fourth grader painted the inside of a shoebox green for the African savanna, then drew a picture of a lion and glued it onto the cardboard. Done!

I remember another poor kid who used balloons to make a giant dolphin, which somehow got away from him, floated clear up to the ceiling, and spent the night bobbing aimlessly around the classroom. Another still carved a shark out of a blue sponge and set it to float in a tank full of Goldfish. Of course the crackers began instantly to first bloat and then disintegrate, so that by evening’s end she was sitting beside a tank of solid orange sludge in which her porous beast rested, leaning over on one flank.

But no school projects are more memorable to you than your own. I think of the one my best friend and I cooked up in Eighth Grade when, for Ancient History class, we decided to build an actual sphinx.

Mr. Sweeney had given us all a choice: We could either write a paper or make something. So hey, we figured: A session with two bags of potato chips and a six-pack of Pepsi and we’d wrap it up fast and score ourselves an A.

A day-and-a-half before it was due, we bought a 20-pound sack of plaster of Paris, added water and started molding. 

In four hours we had a set of haunches and two melting paws. Then we ran out of plaster.

But the next day we were back at it, fresh sack at the ready. This time we got some shoulders going, as well as a little pin head that looked so good we didn’t want to mess with it by trying to enlarge it.

That’s when we noticed the real problem: our sphinx was failing to harden. After each successive go-round, we would find its hips widening, its shoulders slipping down onto its belly, its small head getting smaller by the minute.

So … We got our grownups to drive us back to the store to buy still more materials.

We punched the whole thing down and started again, cutting back on the water, throwing dry plaster by the handful right onto the mound.

This time, the thing kept its shape, and by 8:00 the next morning it had finally dried. We nudged it onto a plywood platform and added some ‘scenery': a bag of kitty litter for sand and a small plastic palm tree with a monkey in its branches – and never mind that the monkey was wearing a plastic T-shirt and clutching a plastic cocktail.

It was way too heavy for us to lift so our folks had to work together to lug it in to school.

Mr. Sweeney took one look and smiled sadly like many a middle school teacher before him. He ended up giving us each a B-minus.

Ah well. We thought we could fool them all and still get the easy A. But it looks like the punching-down part is easy; it’s the building-up a good thing from scratch that takes the talent.

how did I get HERE?

 

 
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Posted by on May 7, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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This Old Thing?

my bangsI was giving a ride to a young friend the other day when he suddenly caught sight of himself in the passenger-side mirror. “Man, I just pray I never go bald!” he said. “I have such a weird-shaped head!”

“What are you talking about? You do not!“ I said back. But then instead of modeling a more self-accepting way, I went foolishly on. “I know what you mean though. I wear bangs because, well…. really I’m kind of homely and I always figure bangs might help.”

It was a pitiful exchange and one that had me thinking yet again that if we could only stop fretting about how we look, or how we come across, or what they’re thinking of us NOW, we‘d be so much more open to the present moment.

We’d be better able to notice things I mean: Like nature. Or other humans, who are just so funny and brave, and kind for the most part too – and what a shame to miss catching daily examples of all that. 

When you spend your time fixed on your own ‘image’ it’s like going to see some great movie but then missing all its bright beauty because you’ve spent the whole time in the theatre’s dim little bathroom critically regarding yourself in its dim little mirror. I mean, didn’t we all do enough of that in Seventh Grade?

It isn’t easy to be self-forgetful, God knows, especially in this Internet culture where everyone but your pet hamster maintains a carefully crafted public ‘profile.’ Then too there are those things your parents were always saying to you when you were young, like “Stop that awful slouching!” and “Get your hair out of your eyes, can’t you?”

When I was in high school, I was always pointing out the run in my stockings as if it had just then appeared, when in fact I knew very well it was there when I put the stockings on that morning. And what kind of strategy is that, pointing out your defects to others before they can point them out to you?

People do it though. Compliment a woman on her hair and half the time she’ll say “Oh it’s all crazy today!” Compliment her on her dress and she’ll call it ‘just an old thing.’

Men do it too. At one point in my career I was considering whether or not I should sign a deal with a literary agent I had been talking with for the better part of a year. I remember closing one jaunty exchange with him by saying, “Well, it would be great if we could work together. Among other things, I like your teeth.”

“My teeth?“ he cried with true alarm. “My teeth are the first thing I’m going to change when I’ve saved up enough money!”

Oops. I should have remembered then that passage from Alice in Wonderland that I’ve always been so struck by. It comes when Alice first meets the Mad Hatter before sitting down at his tea table.

“Your hair wants cutting,” he nervily remarks.

“It’s rude to make personal remarks,” she tartly replies.

And she’s right, our little fictional Alice. Just ask very tall people how they feel about hearing all those “How are the weather up there?” cracks.

No, we’d best not be talking about one another’s looks. Doing so just sends us all back to the sad little mirror in the movie theatre bathroom, there to miss, on the big screen just down the hall, that dazzling feature film called Life.

the mad hatter & alice

 

 
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Posted by on May 1, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Comfort in a Time of Pain?

On another note on this sad Morning After, how about some Kurt Vonnegut, who always spoke truth to power and who was present, a P.O.W., when the Allies firebombed the beautiful city of Dresden. 135,00 civilians died in this Medieval city was once called The Florence of the Elbe, making its fire-bombing the single most destructive act of the war, outranking even Hiroshima and Nagasaki. 

In this passage from his extended cry-for-peace novel Slaughterhouse Five, there is this vision witnessed by protagonist Billy Pilgrim who, having become ‘unstuck in time,’ is granted a sort of vision. This is what he ‘saw':

“American planes, full of holes and wounded men and corpses, took off backwards from an airfield in England. Over France, a few German fighter planes flew at them backwards, sucked bullets and shell fragments from some of the planes and crewmen. They did the same for wrecked American bombers on the ground, and those planes flew up backwards to join the formation.

The formation flew backwards over a German city that was in flames. The bombers opened their bomb bay doors, exerted a miraculous magnetism which shrunk the fires, gathered them into cylindrical steel containers, and lifted the containers into the bellies of the planes. The Germans below had miraculous devices of their own, which were long steel tubes. They used them to suck more fragments from the crewmen and every thing and every body was as good as new.

When the bombers got back to their base, the steel cylinders were taken from the racks and shipped back to the United States of America, where factories were operating night and day, dismantling the cylinders, separating the dangerous contents into minerals.

Touchingly, it was mainly women who did this work.

The minerals were then shipped to specialists in remote areas. It was their business to put them into the ground, to hide them cleverly, so they would never hurt anybody ever again.

Let’s do it: let’s re-bury it all, every accelerant to every weapon. And let’s also look inside our own hearts as well – for the accelerants not only of anger but also of our indifference to the suffering of others.

 

 
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Posted by on April 28, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

Forgetting It All

umI keep hearing ads for these brain training programs that are designed to ‘increase mental acuity by calculating baseline scores’ as they put it, but in my world a baseline score is what your doctor uses to measure the relative swiftness of your decline.

And yet, and yet:  If I don’t do these mental calisthenics, will I start losing it? Forget how to flush, or make change? Inadvertently turn into the funniest person standing in line… at the wake? 

I look at what’s out there and then I look at my life. I don’t do Lumosity. Or Sudoku. Or Words With Friends, which is basically just Scrabble over the Internet.  But the way I look at it, people old enough to worry about getting sharper are already less sharp. Just look up the statistics on how fast your synapses are firing now compared to how they fired when you were 12. You’re slower than you were and that’s a fact, so now you want to start measuring how much slower? You might as well make little marks on your kitchen wall the way people do with their growing children – only you’d be doing it so you could watch yourself shrink.

But back to mental acuity: When I was young, I could memorize anything, historical dates from the 1500s, the license plate numbers on my friends’ parents’ cars, the poems our teachers used to make us stand beside our desks to stammer out. Now all I have stored here in this head is a single credit card number, and even then I have to get a running start with, the way you do with the 23rd Psalm, say.

As for poetry, every time I try to recite those bits of verse from my schooldays sonnets, they all mysteriously become, three lines, in, “Whose Woods These Are I Think I Know,” but seriously: What are you gonna do?  Mark Twain famously wrote that when he was younger, he could remember anything, whether it happened or not.’ But as his faculties began decaying, as he put its, he got so he could only remember the latter. 

He could only remember what didn’t happen in other words.  If I get like this, I won’t be any kind of authority on the facts but hey, stick around anyway: It’s a good bet my stories will become a lot more entertaining. 

And now, this great clip from Men in Black, where the memory-erasing Neuralyzer is put to use… which leads me wonder: Have Agents J and K been around HERE lately?

 
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Posted by on April 20, 2015 in aging, humor

 

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Bon Appetit!

cow tongueSee what you think of these dishes, the recipes for which I found in a cookbook that has rested on my kitchen shelf for decades. A fat volume of brown and food-stained pages, it was passed down to my mother from her mother, who received it from her mother, born in the long-ago 1830s.

Here’s a recipe  that caught my eye right away:

“Wash a fresh tongue” it begins, and yes, I too thought “Gack! Whose tongue are we washing and for what purpose?”

But the recipe doesn’t say whose tongue. It just goes briskly on:

“Barely cover the tongue with water in a pot and until morning when you will put it in a kettle full of cold water, stand it over a very slow fire, and simmer it gently for four hours, until you can pierce it with a fork. Then, when it’s done, stand it to cool in the liquid in which it was boiled, peel off the skin starting at the tip,” and -boom! – “the tongue is ready to use.”

Ready to use HOW?” you might faintly wonder, as I did, the little hairs on the back of my neck stirring uneasily.

But back then people knew what a critters’ tongue was for: It was for dinner.

And you’ll admit it would make for some hearty eating, especially if it were a cow’s tongue which Google shows to be a good 18 inches in length.

Now a second recipe, for the delicacy known as Ox Cheek:

“Soak half an ox head – (yes, the whole head) for three hours and clean it well with plenty of water. After eight hours of cooking and four hours of chilling, remove the cake-fat and warm the head and the pieces in the soup, adding truffles and vegetables as desired.”

As a 21st century person I don’t know what cake-fat even is, unless it’s what shows up around your middle after pigging out on birthday dessert.

Finally why not try tripe, which Wikipedia defines in it its no-nonsense way as “a type of edible offal from the stomachs of various animals” and which the old cookbook says is “both delicious and easily digested.”

 For those of you who have never seen it, tripe resembles a white, rubbery open-celled sponge.

To prepare it, “scald the stomach in boiling water sufficient to loosen the inside coating. Wash and scrape it well through several boiling waters, then soak it in cold water overnight and in the morning, scrape it again until white and clean. “

Which leads you to queasily wonder what it looked like BEFORE you scraped it clean.

Yet who are we to pass judgment on foods with which most of us are unfamiliar? Who are we to shrink and quake at these details? For the farmer of the 1800s or any folks prosperous enough to buy their food at a market, meat was at the heart of every good meal. 

People enjoyed their meat dishes and would have seen no reason to practice denial about where it came from. We moderns are the ones practicing denial.

 Styrofoam trays and plastic wrap help us do this but make no mistake: a living creature died so we could sit down to this roast, this burger, this chop. Let’s at least always stop and offer up that pre-meal prayer of thanks.

 
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Posted by on April 16, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Flaming Honesty

By James Christopher Darling

Something Like a Storybook

This is where Morgan Bradham shares.

Days Like What

There are 24hrs in a day, here are mine.

Storyshucker

A blog full of humorous and poignant observations.

The Freelance Retort

Because one minute you're a baby and the next you're getting the senior discount - and there's no reversing direction!

uppervalleygirl

Another Good Day in Rural America . . . . . . . © 2012, 2013, 2014 Ann Aikens ~ all rights reserved

Eating The Week

Week-size morsels of the stuff we eat

Flaming Honesty

By James Christopher Darling

Something Like a Storybook

This is where Morgan Bradham shares.

Days Like What

There are 24hrs in a day, here are mine.

Storyshucker

A blog full of humorous and poignant observations.

The Freelance Retort

Because one minute you're a baby and the next you're getting the senior discount - and there's no reversing direction!

uppervalleygirl

Another Good Day in Rural America . . . . . . . © 2012, 2013, 2014 Ann Aikens ~ all rights reserved

Eating The Week

Week-size morsels of the stuff we eat

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