Meet My New Dentist

dentistryI had some very awful experiences with dentists when I was a child. It started with the elderly guy who still used the same equipment he had started out with during World War I, including a hot drill which simultaneously burned out the decay and the nerve endings while scorching the sinuses — for what seemed like hours to my four-year-old mind. He also had an aversion to that new-fangled Novocaine stuff. (It was for sissies — which I was happy to be at that tender age. To this day, I still have no problem with being one.)

After one very bad session with him, we moved on to Torture Expert #2. This one didn’t like little girls who wanted their mommy in the room with them. So, when I continued to fuss, he slapped my face, then promised me more of the same if I didn’t quit crying. (His assistant did not intervene. I quit crying.)

After those two horrifying experiences, every time I went to the dentist for decades after, my stomach tied up in knots for days before the visit. I finally confessed my terror to one kind young doc, who assured me dentistry did not have to be painful anymore, and he wasn’t going to hurt me. He was true to his word, and the next thirty years went by without any further trauma — no more knots, and no more slaps.

Enter my new dentist. I didn’t ask for him. Let’s just say it was sort of an inheritance. We’ll call him Dr. Sadistic, because, you know, “The names have been changed to protect the guilty.” I mentioned to the hygienist that one of my wisdom teeth had been aching sometimes at night. So, she took an x-ray to look for an abscess or anything else abnormal. There was none to be seen. I was satisfied.

However, the clean x-ray was not good enough for the new dentist. He decided to do an “intense” test using extreme cold, to look for cracks. First, he wanted to test a “healthy” tooth and see how that one reacted. Then, he would do the same test on the “unhealthy” wisdom tooth and see how the two compared. I suspected what “intense” meant — PAIN. I should have said no on the spot, but my brain cells sometimes go into hibernation. It takes them a while to get it together. Often, it is too late to retreat by the time they accomplish ther mission.

So, he tested the molar next to the wisdom tooth in question. Now, I had not been entirely sure from the get-go which of those two teeth was the actual problem. But I neglected to mention that. He applied the cold what-ja-ma-thingy. I yelled,”YOWWW!!! We are not going to do any more of this, OK???!!!” (This is why they play music none too softly in the dentist’s office — to mask the sounds of agony in the next cubicle.)

He was disappointed that I refused to continue. Surprised, he queried after half a minute, “Is it still hurting? That’s unusually sensitive.” He had figured on six seconds. It still hurt minutes afterward, and in fact, when I left the office half an hour later, it still ached a little. The ache returned at suppertime, hours later.

Long after vacating the torture chamber, the brain cells began to hum along a little faster. “Wait a minute. He was looking for cracks in a wisdom tooth? Why? We’re not going to put a crown on it, and if it breaks or there is an abscess or decay, we’re going to pull it. And the x-ray found neither abscess nor decay, so why did we even do this? If it needs yanking, that will eventually become evident without this crazy test. … Wait another minute. Did I pay extra for this?”

I will be on my guard against Dr. Sadistic in the future. In fact, there may not be any future relationship at all.


Eat the Chicken, Leave the Drones.

Tonight we did the annual USPS letter carriers’ retirement banquet for the umpteenth time. We do it for the chicken, served gratis, compliments of the union. They would extract the union dues from our pension whether we ate the chicken or not, so we might as well eat it and enjoy.

The chicken is not really free. It bears the hefty price tag of enduring through speeches delivered by the union high command. Every year, the president of the National Association of Letter Carriers sends his regrets for not being able to be with us. (Yes, we know, Mr. President. You are way too busy and important to come to Wisconsin in March. I wouldn’t be here either, if I had a choice.) But we are still obligated to listen to a couple of other mucky-mucks who fly in for the chicken and to hear themselves talk.

Their orations do not vary much from year to year. We are indoctrinated for fifteen or twenty minutes about how the Postal Service is being torn limb from limb by the Republicans. In order to save the P. O. (and our pensions) from total destruction, all good letter carriers, active or retired, must vote for Democrats, because they, of course, love letter carriers, and will see to it that retirees never have to eat out of garbage cans or sleep under the bridge. And so it has gone for the past thirty-eight union dinners we have attended.

However, this year we broke from tradition. They brought in a guy who had missed his life calling. No doubt he had truly wanted to be a college professor, but had joined the Postal Service instead, so that he could partake of the annual chicken dinner. It was not a speech, but a lecture, complete with asking the class questions to keep us on our toes. I listened carefully, in case there would be a quiz at the end. Perhaps the top ten students would get to take a bag of chicken home with them.

Now, I did fairly well in high school. In fact, I graduated at the head of my class. But because I have a bit of a mule streak in me, and because I have been a nonconformist from the bassinet, I refused to go to college. I have done all right, I think, in educating myself without spending those additional four years being bored daily into a coma. At sixty-two years of age, I have no pleasure in attending lectures now, either. The chicken we had just downed was beginning to seem not worth its cost.

Our speaker enjoyed himself immensely. The longer he went on, the more animated he became. The arm-flapping was vaguely reminiscent of what those chickens we had eaten may have done before they had ended up in the broaster.

I seriously thought about pulling out a pen and decorating the tablecloth with stick figures carrying postal bags and macing snarling mongrels. But that would not have been kosher, so I restrained the impulse. The napkins had already been removed by the servers, so a little impromptu origami was also out of the question.

I glanced at the lady seated across from me. She mouthed, “Should we skip out of here and let our husbands find their own way home?” Still, we knew that would not be decent, since it’s an unwritten law of the union that you must pay for the chicken by listening to the speeches. If this man ever finished, there might be time for the four retirees we were there to honor to say their few words before the dining hall locked the doors for the night. Maybe, maybe not.

Our speaker finally asked if there were any questions, and I saw a hand shoot up. No! Please! How can you do this to us? He will go on for yet another hour if you give him the opportunity!

He smiled broadly. “Yes, sir! Your question?”

“Yer time’s up, buddy.”

Slightly abashed, Mr. Professor sat down hurriedly, and we all clapped enthusiastically.

And that is how we managed to get home before every bar in town closed for the night.

Ornesta Goes Naturopathic

Ornesta Fruggenbotham, my friend from Iron Ore, Michigan, called the other day.

“Well hey! How are you, Ornesta!”

“Down in the dumpsters, Sweetie.”


“Well no, but it could come to that. Morale and the tourism industry have tanked up here, since President Obama did that latest executive order against the fishing industry — no fishing within 100 miles of shore — which means no fishing at all on the Gitch.* Bud says we’d be halfway between here and Duluth before we could throw a line in the water, and he didn’t think it would be safe with the 10 h.p. motor and the dinghy anyway. I cooked up the last batch of perch yesterday. From now on, it’s Mrs. Paul’s — out of a box!”

“I’m so sorry to hear that!”

“Yeah, and it’s just going to contribute to the fish overpopulating — shore to shore fish, can’t even swim around, poor thingies — and then they’ll have to dump tons of antibiotics in the lake, just to keep ’em alive.”

“Oh, tell me about it! The Prez did one of those executive orders on us, too — designated our town a drug-free zone, and now you can’t even buy an aspirin. Had to get my latest bottle from Canada.”

“SPEAKING of which … I’ve gone natural.”

“Hmmm? Just how natural did you go?”

“I’m talking about health stuff, silly. Those pills the doctors give you these days are dan-ger-ous! Like that Cipro-something antibiotic. Did you ever read the side effects? ‘Could cause tendons to rupture in people over sixty.’ Scary! What’s wrong with these guys?”

“The docs can’t help it. Not too many antibiotics work anymore.”

“And why do you think that is? Because they are stuffing the cows and the chickens full of that dope, just so they can stand wall to wall without sneezing each other to death. And now they’re going to have to do the same to the fish in the Gitch!”

“So, what do you use instead of Cipro when you come down with something?”

“Lots of stuff. Cinnamon, turmeric, beet greens, garlic –“

“I tried the garlic thing once for an earache. Put a clove at the back of your jaw on each side, bite down, and hold it ten minutes. Thought I’d swallowed a flame thrower, and I smelled like the Godfather’s mom for a week.”

“Well, did it work?”

“Nah. But I didn’t have any post-nasal drip after that. … Cider vinegar works great for migraines, you know. I keep some in a nasal spray bottle, and –“

“I think I’ll stick with the my current migraine drug, thank you — even if the first side effect listed is, ‘May cause death by heart attack.’ So far, I’m good. But, tell me about the Cipro. I have nightmares all the time about rupturing tendons. What do you do instead?”

“Well, I’ve been having trouble working around that one. Somebody told me to eat raw cranberries. ‘Raw cranberries are good for whatever ails ya,’ she says. So, while I’m munching away, she says, ‘But the acid in them strips the enamel right off your teeth.’ Great! Didn’t plan on having to invest in dentures! Thanks for the advice, lady!

“So, I mushed ’em up in the blender and tried to pour ’em down my throat without touching the choppers. No dice. And I tried swallowing them whole, one by one. Just about needed the Heimlich maneuver. I finally poked them into a leftover piece of key lime pie, hoping the pie goop would coat the berries so my teeth wouldn’t notice them. And then I sucked down enough water to swamp a camel — to fluoridate my teeth.”

“That doesn’t sound very practical, Ornesta.”

“No, it wasn’t. But I think I’ve got the answer now — oregano.”

“Like you buy in the McCormick bottle?”

“Oh, no! It’s got to be this special kind that grows wild in the mountains somewhere along the Mediterranean. They go in there with llamas, and load ’em up, and —“

“Um, I don’t think they have llamas in the Mediterranean, Ornesta.”

“Well, whatever! I leave the details up to the experts. I don’t go pick the stuff myself!”

“Why am I envisioning Mrs. Olson in a Folgers commercial right now?”

“Not coffee. Oregano. Although I have fond memories of Mrs. Olson and Juan Valdez and the other coffee celebs — and the guy in the kola nut commercial, too.”

“How’s the oregano working?”

“I think it’s doing great! And I didn’t see anywhere on the Web where they mentioned ruptured tendons as a side effect — except maybe for the guys carrying the stuff down the mountain — if they slip. You know, I think I’m going to like this naturopathic stuff.”

“Beats being a psychopath, I guess.”

“You betcha, Sweetie!”

*Gitch — Lake Superior

Winter Fun in Wisconsin

Cheese-300pxRecently, someone from the deep South asked me, “So what do y’all do in Wisconsin in the winter?” I was surprised. I thought everyone knew what a blast Wisconsin is in January! We have phenomenally fun activities going on all the time here.

First, there are Packer games. The colder it is, the better the turnout. Wisconsinites take great pride in knowing how to dress for these events. Those cheesehead thingies everybody wears? Lined with head-warming uranium-enriched chemicals, this traditional Wisconsin headgear is  made from a secret recipe inspired during somebody’s hours of boredom while freezing in a tree stand, waiting for the legendary thirty-point buck to appear. Basement Packer chapels and decorating our living rooms in gold and green also keep us pretty busy.

People “up nort'” enjoy raking four-foot piles of snow off the roofs of their trailer homes several times during the season. It is great exercise, and although not as exciting, is more fun than having the roof collapse into the living room.

For those who are more inclined to sedentary entertainment, a quiet afternoon spent fuzz-balling your red union suit is guaranteed to enhance your serenity.

You no doubt have heard whispers about the Polar Bear Club. On January 1st, members congregate on the shores of Lake Michigan (or other suitable ponds), strip down to their thermal underwear, and go for a swim. I must explain that these are not sane Wisconsinites. Too much fuzz-balling of the red union suits can push people beyond serenity into hallucinogenic euphoria. I might add that the multitudes of people who come just to spectate suffer some noggin problems as well.

Reading seed catalogs from cover to cover multiple times is also a favorite activity. At the end of winter, Burpee has a contest exclusively for Wisconsinites: whoever sends in the most thumb-worn catalog with their order of $100.00 or more gets a plaque with a big pumpkin superimposed over the state capitol, which reads, “Home-grown Wisconsinite and proud of it!” It may not ever warm up enough to get a harvest out of those seeds finally planted midsummer, but dreaming is almost as good as achieving, right?

The men all grow bushes on their faces. Outsiders think it is in admiration for those Duck Dynasty fellers. Nope. Purely a Wisconsin thing, contrived for survival. The Louisiana guys just stole it.

And we shiver. This is a health bonus. It tones the muscles. The more sleek you want to be, the more you turn down the thermostat. There are no gym fees, you don’t have to leave home, and the added bonus is a lower fuel bill. It’s a no-brainer.

“Remembrance Parties” are a big trend right now. The idea is to gather a few intimate friends, slurp some spicy-hot chili together (in hopes of generating authentic perspiration), and swap memories of the previous summer. “Joe, do you remember when we wore short-sleeve T-shirts last July for a couple of days? Refresh my memory. What did that feel like?”

Some of us find enjoyment in traveling from park to park to watch the bubblers freeze over (probably referred to as water fountains where you come from). It’s not quite as much fun as watching the Polar Bear Club carry on, but it works in a pinch, if you’re going stir-crazy inside.

Contrary to rumors, we do not enjoy lemming races. That is strictly an event in Upper Michigan, which Wisconsin is unfortunately adjoined to — but we can’t do much about them.

Now for a cultural exchange — What do all yous guys do in the winter?

New Study Touts Bratwurst as Health Food


Brats and KrautA few years ago, we broke the story on bratwurst as the cure for swine flu.  Based on that find, the results of this latest study should not be a surprise — especially to lifetime residents of Wisconsin.  (We always said we were progressive!)

Right on time for Memorial Day festivities, a far-reaching clinical study just released by the prestigious Masbur Foundation has proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that eating bratwurst significantly increases life expectancy. The quantity providing optimum effectiveness is 69.7 lbs. per person annually, with larger quantities producing no additional benefits, but not posing any health risks, either. Apparently “too much of a good thing” only means … more enjoyment of a good thing.

In the study, which covered a dozen brands of bratwurst, consistent consumption of Johnsonville Brats seemed to provide the greatest benefits. Data analysts surmised that bratwurst-induced longevity might be connected to body-healing chemicals released through the taste buds, thereby explaining why Johnsonville had the edge on the other brands.

The study also suggests that generous doses of sauerkraut consumed in tandem with bratwurst helps the anti-aging process.

Bible Buddy and Me

BibleYou have not heard my Bible story yet, but you must. It is a saga of Bible bumps in the road and miraculous answers to prayer.

I grew up Lutheran, and traditionally the Aid Association for Lutherans provided Christmas gifts for the children of our  impoverished congregation. One year they gave us peanuts in the shell. (It was a lean year for them, too, I guess.) The next year a small plastic nativity scene appeared, which I still display every Christmas. But the best present of all came during my third grade year — an American Bible Society King James Version hardcover Bible.

I felt so grown up. My very own Bible! I read it  all the way up to the genealogies in 1 Chronicles, before sliding down the hill of despair back to Genesis. My methodical mind could not conceive of skipping over those “begats” and moving on. So, to this day, I have a better working knowledge of Genesis through 2 Kings than most of the rest of you — simply because I backslid through them so many times. I finally arrived at the epistles of the apostles about ten years into the adventure.

By the time I made it to the New Testament, that Bible was getting mighty precious. It went to school with me. (Those were the days before life imprisonment was imposed for bringing the forbidden book there.) For a brief time I hugged it to sleep every night — a little weird, I know, but Oral Roberts said he did it, and I figured if it worked for him, why not me?

That Bible lasted forty years. It had a few surgeries along the way.  My husband Paul is a Shoe Goo specialist. Other men do duct tape, but he has mastered Shoe Goo for whatever ails whatever. Our marriage has probably been held together with the Goo all these years, and I am just not aware of it — because he is such a master at applying it for that good-as-new look. But there are things even Shoe Goo cannot fix, and when pages began to wear through, and I was writing in words where the ink had departed from the paper, it was time to find a new Bible.

When you’ve had the same Bible for forty years, its quirks sort of work their way into your system. I wasn’t handy at knowing which book or chapter “Judge not that ye be not judged” was in, but I sure knew which column and how many lines down from the subheading it was.  And I didn’t want any talk about being “an hungred” or “shewing” anything. The American Bible Society had fixed those spelling thingies by the time my Bible was born, and I wasn’t about to go back to the original 1611 version. I prayed diligently for a Bible with the exact same inside text to still be available somewhere in the world, and then called the ABS with hope in my heart. They had no idea how to help me, since my Bible was pre-ISBN days. What they sent didn’t even come close.

Paul felt he needed to prepare me for the big let-down.  “Why don’t you just use that nice leather KJV I bought you?”

“It says ‘shew.’  I can’t abide ‘shew.’  It has doctrinal commentary and footnotes, which ABS Bibles avoid. I hate notes. They distract me.  And it’s a red-letter edition.  I don’t like that either.  Jesus talked like everyone else. He didn’t float around spewing red letters.”

He rolled his eyes and assured me there wasn’t a chance in the world that I would get a Bible even close to what I had, much less the spitting image. Oh, he of little faith!

Starting to feel slightly daunted, I took my decrepit Bible and daughter Beebee in hand and headed down to the local Christian bookstore. 

“Excuse me, Miss, but can you help me find a Bible? I want something similar to this.” 

The store clerk obliged me by showing me numerous KJVs — all with “shews” and red letters attached, not to mention the inevitable footnotes. After a good ten minutes of trying to please, she slipped off to do more important things with saner customers. But Beebee had been busy during the discussion, and this time the busyness paid off.

“Mom, look at this one. Doesn’t it look just like yours — maybe?” 

She handed me the Bible Amy Grant sang about in her classic, Fat Little Baby — the biggest King James you’ve ever seen. Its page 493 matched my page 493, subheadings and all. No red letters. No “shews.” Bonded leather. And 300 superfluous pages at the beginning, explaining African American historical relationships to the Word of God, complete with full color paintings and poetry from their artists. It was The African American Jubilee Edition, and it was God’s answer to my prayer. I don’t know why the clerk had missed it. Perhaps my rather light complexion just didn’t click with her.

Heart pounding with joy, I skipped to the checkout with my treasure, and proceeded to squeal, “Look what Jesus did for me! I can’t believe it! I needed a Bible exactly like my old one, and everybody said it couldn’t be found, and look! Here it is!”

The clerk had neither eyes to see nor ears to hear. She missed the miracle entirely. No doubt miracles are commonplace in Christian bookstores, and she’d already seen her share of them that day. “Fifty dollars, please,” was all I got in response.

I chortled all the way home. “Beebee, do you know how all this happened? The American Bible Society didn’t know what they were doing when they put The African American Jubilee Edition together.  They did it just for me. God knew I was going to pray for a Bible just like my old one, so He inspired the ABS mucky-mucks to think up a new edition. And then the janitor found the old print plates from forty years ago kicking around in the warehouse, and brought them to the CEO (kind of like in the days of Josiah, when they found the Scriptures that had been forgotten in the cluttered-up temple), and –“

Beebee couldn’t take it anymore.  “I know, Mum, I know.  We’re all happy Jesus heard your prayers. But the little song and dance you did back there in the bookstore was embarrassing!”

That was all about ten years ago. Last night the pages and cover of my beloved Jubilee Edition decided to part company. It must have had a heretofore undiscovered birth defect, no doubt due to being manufactured in China, unlike Bible #1. Dr. Paul pulled out his popsicle stick and Shoe Goo and did emergency surgery, and it is currently in ICU. 

Dr. Paul thinks we can expect a full recovery. But just in case, I did some online exploring and managed to find a revised, now-only-in-hardcover African American Jubilee Edition — still with page 493 identical to my page 493.  Its glorious 1440 pages will be in my mailbox in another week.

Of Migraines and Throat Scopes

I am currently under the influence, so we can’t be sure what will be said, but at least I am having fun. They told me not to drive or sign contracts after my throat scope, but nobody said a peep about writing blog posts.

The story started some weeks ago with a feisty migraine that did not make its usual concession to migraine medicine. Misery ensued, including a vomiting session, which is common for migraine sufferers. But unlike all the times before, chunks of blood came up with the stomach acid, which called for a trip to my doctor.

She was A-OK with me barfing up blood — said it was “just” an esophagus tear, probably nothing to be concerned about. But I have a knack for volunteering information that I should keep to myself. In answer to a routine question, I admitted that sometimes food feels like it gets stuck in my throat.

Doctors and tech support people from foreign countries are much alike. They listen for key phrases and then automatically respond to those, no matter what else you tell them. “Food stuck in throat,” is such a key phrase — and it brings dire possibilities to doctors’ minds. She didn’t hear anything after that, and began punching buttons to schedule a throat scope.

So, today was scope day. The prep was almost nonexistent — no breakfast and NO WATER for four hours ahead of the procedure. Simple enough — IF one does not wake up with a migraine. I was concerned that might happen. It did. The alarm went off two hours before the scope job, and Old Man Migraine had already made his appearance.

So I cheated. I took my first-line-of-defense drug, ibuprofen, downed with a tablespoon of the prohibited water. This was not the brightest move in the world. I should have immediately gone for the high-powered migraine stomper, but my thinking abilities at 5:00 a.m. are not the best. One-half hour later, Mr. Migraine was not only on my doorstep; he had broken and entered the house. So I debated cheating again with an additional tablespoon of the prohibited H2O for the sake of the big-gun drug … but didn’t.

I got to the scope place and explained that if the migraine really went south, I might throw up at an inopportune time, like while the scoping was in progress. (They probably have people retch all the time while they’re doing that, but are too delicate to tell on themselves.)

“Not to fear!” assured the RN. “The narcotics we’re going to pump you full of are gonna knock any pain you have into outer space. And if you start to feel sick, we’ll just put some nausea antidote in that silly little IV you’re wearing, too!”

Enter the scope doc, and I didn’t bother to mention barf concerns. But he wanted to know why, exactly, I was there. I told him about doctors and key words. (I left out the comparison to tech support people in foreign countries so as not to agitate him. He was going to be stuffing hardware down my throat, after all, and I wanted him to be feelin’ groovy while doing it.)

He decided that he was going to stretch my esophagus, in hopes that I would never get shredded wheat and other foodstuffs stuck again. (He said sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. If not, I would “just have to live with it.” I was perfectly happy living with it before now anyway.) He agreed with me that there was probably nothing wrong.

Seemingly nanoseconds later, everything was reported to be normal. But now my throat ached powerfully (from stretching it), and my head still hurt as much as ever. So much for narcotics that pack a whollop no migraine can withstand.

I popped the migraine dope which should have been ingested hours previously, along with a muffin and a glass of juice. They then wheeled me out to the car in a jellified state and shoveled me in. By this time, I highly suspected that they had not put any of that lovely nausea inhibitor in my IV.

We made a stop at the post office, and while my husband, a former postal employee, was inside swapping stories with his buddies (or whatever else he does over a couple of packages), I faced the grim reality that it had been entirely stupid not to bring an ice cream pail and a box of tissues along in the car. The major decision now became whether to open the door and discreetly release the goods right there in the parking lot next to the car, or head for the nearest snowbank and hope I wouldn’t woozily topple over trying to get there.

I opted for the snowbank, not wanting other postal patrons to step in decomposing muffin mingled with stomach acid. I made it, without any nose-dive mishaps. The process was not discreet, but at least I got ‘er done.

I was afraid hubby would absent-mindedly drive off without me. He came out, vaguely noticed something large was missing from the car, and scanned the landscape. I think he might have sauntered over to the snowbank and toddled me back to the car, but can’t remember for sure. I just know that I got home somehow and slept for hours before adventuring to tell the world about the experience.

Published in: on January 2, 2013 at 3:21 pm  Leave a Comment  
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An Open Letter to Mousedom

Photo0042PDear mice and other varmints:

I have tried my best to coexist peaceably, because I am by nature a gentle, amiable soul. I was happy to concede our entire garage to you, as long as you avoided crossing the borders into our house. But I have been pushed over the limit. “Peace in our time” was a pipe dream for Neville Chamberlain, and it’s not working for me, either.

I waffled for a season, telling myself that mice are really cute little warm and fuzzies (in their natural outside habitat). I used moderate control measures when a few of you took up residence among us. But the invasion and ensuing population explosion within our domicile have reached the intolerable point. Deportation has not worked. Neither has making a public example of some of your ring leaders been effectual. New masterminds continually rise to the top, and your family dynasty within our walls has been growing by alarming proportions.

My formal ultimatum is this: get out of my house by sundown or face all-out war.

I have done extensive research, and let me solemnly assure you that there is no pretty way for mice or any of their rodent relatives to meet their demise. The violent keep their kingdoms by force, and I am not above biological and chemical weapons. If I can find the WMDs that eluded George W. I will use them, too!

So, there you have it. I mean it. Now it is up to you to back down and scram. John Wayne and Chuck Norris look like Captain Kangaroo next to this mad mama.  So don’t mess with me anymore. Ya hear?

Published in: on October 25, 2012 at 2:43 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Ornesta Tells ‘Em Off!

I got a phone call from Ornesta Fruggenbotham the other day.  You might remember Ornesta.  She’s the lady from the U. P.* that has way more extreme things happen to her than I ever thought of having happen to me. 

“Well, helloooo, Ornesta!  I haven’t heard from you since you put me up in your ice shanty a couple of winters ago!  Have the bluebells peeked through the snow drifts up there yet?” 

“Yes, and the lemmings did their yearly stampede, too.  It was a sad sight.  I cried for a week.  Why haven’t you written any funny stuff lately to cheer me up on such occasions?”

“Well, I just haven’t felt … funny.  But let me guess.  You’re calling because you have a story, right?”

“Yes, I do!  And I was wondering if you could write it all up for me, and slap your style on it, so that you have to put that cute little disclaimer in there about how it’s my relatives and not yours.” 

“You know, Ornesta, I much prefer it straight from the caribou’s mouth.  How ’bout if I hook up the voice recorder, you just give me the scoop, and we’ll let ’em have it just as it happened?”

“OK.  You know that Craig’s List place on the World Wide Web?  Well, Bud discovered it, and I can’t get him to leave it alone.”

“Oh? What’s he buying, London Bridge?” 

“It’s what he’s selling.  You know how my mom always keeps food forever and then tries to pawn it off on us?”

“Yeah, like the bluegills she’d had in the freezer for fifteen years, and then she tried to make me eat them while I was living in the shanty — thought I’d like to do a backyard fish fry — in December.”

“And the frosting that was seven years past the expiration date.  Duncan Hines goo in a bucket.  Well, she gave me this jar of Sanka –“ 

“Sanka, as in instant decaf?  Official drink of the Apollo astronauts?”

“I think they drank Tang, but yeah.  Some people keep strawberry preserves.  My mom kept Sanka preserves.  Embalmed in its original jar, with the seal still unbroken.  Best used by March of 1969.  Well, Bud saw the possibilities, and posted it at Craig’s List in the ‘vintage’ category.” 

“It’s good he didn’t know about Craig’s List back in the day of the expired goo in a bucket, I guess.  But, I would imagine there is quite a market for a rare item like Sanka preserves, right?”

“Well, Bud thought it was worth a try.  Waxed paper straws are a hot item, so why not Sanka from the golden years?  So, while he was outside selling the family car, the phone rang — one of those ‘private name, private number’ calls.  Normally I wouldn’t have answered, but Mom’s doctor likes to call incognito like that, so I thought I’d better answer it, in case her intestines were flip-flopping again.  They always call me when that happens. 

“So this guy asks for Bud in a very pleasant, businessman kind of voice, and I said, ‘He’s outside selling the family buggy.  Can I take a message?’

“And he says, ‘Well, no, I was just curious to find out what kind of an idiot would try to sell a jar of Sanka on Craig’s List.’

“I have lived with Bud for close to thirty-five years, and I never noticed that he had any problems approaching that degree of distinction.  What do you think?”

“Well, he seemed pretty normal to me when I was up there.  Maybe a little jollier than anybody living that far north has a right to be in the middle of winter, but I would say his mental faculties seemed to be in order.”

“That’s what I thought!  And so I said, real polite and sober-like, ‘Well, if you’re going to insult him, I don’t see any reason to let you talk to him.’

“And he sasses back at me as pretty as you please, ‘Lady, I’m not only going to insult him.  I’m going to walk him up one side of the street and down the other, and –‘ 

“And that’s when I got mad, so I interrupted, ‘Sir, you know that family buggy that Bud’s selling outside?  Well, it was Teddy Roosevelt’s first Model T, with the original tires and everything — ALSO listed in the vintage department at Craig’s List.  We bought it from Teddy’s granddaughter.  And just to be nice, she threw in a jar of Teddy’s Sanka as part of the deal.’   

“By that time, I think I heard a little gurgling on the other end of the line, which I took as encouragement, since he hadn’t hung up yet, and I wasn’t anywhere near finished, ’cause I was plenty mad. 

“‘Do you know where that jar of Sanka has been, sir?  It rode up San Juan Hill with Teddy, tucked in his back pocket, because he didn’t ever want to be without his favorite blend, and it saved him from taking a bullet, which is why Bud mentioned in the ad that the label has a slight tear in it.  And if that ain’t vintage enough for you and Craig’s List, then I can’t help you!'”

“Um, and then what happened?”

“Not much.  I hung up to let him think about it, that’s all.”

“Ornesta, tell me the truth, now.  You don’t really own Teddy Roosevelt’s first Model T, do you?”

“No, and Teddy didn’t ride up San Juan Hill with a jar of Sanka in his pocket that was best used by March, 1969, either.  But we’ll just let Mr. Smarty-Pants that has nothing to do all day but call nice people up and insult them think whatever he pleases.  He’ll probably have to Google ‘Teddy Roosevelt + Sanka’ to find out for sure.”

*U. P. — Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

Journey to the Highlands

I don’t know what you did for Thanksgiving, but our family visited cool places, not counting the hotel we stayed in.  We have just returned from an exploration of life outside Wisconsin.  Wisconsin is unanimously viewed as being cold, while a few of us think it is cool, but not cool like where we have just been.

Many moons ago, our daughter and her family left their spacious wildlife-infested parsonage in Pittsburgh suburghia and relocated to a teeny-tiny apartment in Louisville.  They are there to plant a church.  Through years of large black snakes sunning themselves on the outside door frames of their house and tinier serpents infiltrating their basement, Susan prayed for the day when she could be surrounded by concrete.  Her prayers have been heard. 

We must start out right.  For the sake of educating America, we did not visit Loo-iss-vil, nor did we visit Loo–ee-vil.  It is Loo-uh-vul.  Say that three times.  Loo-uh-vul.  Now you know where we stayed.  I knew how to pronounce it long before going there, thanks to reading Ann Landers and Mark Twain in my younger years, but I listened carefully to the locals just to make sure I was getting it right.

Susan and her family reside on Bardstown Road, in the Highlands of Louisville.  It is a gathering knot of the culturally colorful, a haven where old hippies never die and younger ones currently live the lifestyle to one degree or another.  It is a place that confirmed I am fashionably valid — something I never suspected, but will now milk for all it is worth.

We spent an afternoon exploring the shops up and down Bardstown — many of them filled with semi-pricey vintage clothing.  Upscale, fashionably savvy people come in droves from other parts of Louisville to buy garments identical to some I currently have hanging in my closet.  Apparently, I am not a clueless fuddy-duddy after all.  I am chic and never knew it.  Next time you see me sashaying around in my hunter green Nehru jacket with the tapestry-covered buttons and the football player-size shoulder pads, remember what I have just said.  I am not an oddball; I am trendy and cool.  Now those of you who know me in real life will all wish you had not snickered, and you will be calling me for advice on how to morph yourselves into being cool, too. 

I now know how to pronounce hookah (who-kah, not hook-uh).   I knew what one does with a hookah from bygone days of reading The Count of Monte Cristo, but I did not yet have the correct pronunciation (unlike Loo-uh-vul).  There are hookah lounges on Bardstown, along with the Hubbly Bubbly Smoke Shop, which specializes in whatever you need to get your hookah experience going.  Susan and her family sometimes do second-hand hookah via the air vents from their downstairs neighbors’ apartment.  It makes their dog sneeze.  Susan assures me that not all hookah lovers smoke the substances that Monte Cristo’s heroine indulged in.  I am not entirely convinced, though.  Nothing like living the culture.

We scrounged the Peddler’s Mall for antique chairs at cheap prices for Susan and Chris’s church building.  If I were to move to the Highlands (which I will not, but it is a safe form of entertainment to imagine it), I would sell all the furniture I currently have and start fresh with the stuff from the Peddler’s Mall.  It would need to be fumigated or otherwise sanitized somehow, but it would be a fun, economical experiment. 

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